Southern Realism

Earlier this week I had to opportunity to visit The PDNB (Photographs Do Not Bend) gallery in Dallas, Texas. I was pleased to see a lot of great photography including a beautiful exhibit called “True South” a group exhibition that I immediately connected with our readings from this class. The collection is a variety of photographs taken by fourteen different photographers. The photographs date from as far back as 1942 to the most recent photograph taken in 2014. The exhibition captures real life in the south, specifically the struggles of African Americans, country folk and even an inside look at the Ellis County Prison ward here in Texas.

12274_DannyLyon_1stdibds_lDanny Lyon, Heat Exhaustion, Ellis Unit, Texas, 1967-1969, Gelatin Silver Print

While walking along the walls of the exhibit I thought of Zora Neal Hurston’s ” What It Means To Be Colored Me” Zora speaks of her hometown as a little girl before she moved away and suddenly was labeled ” A little colored girl” I got a sense of home when looking at these images, the artist collectively captured genuine moments of family life but I noticed many of them painted the reality of racism and segregation as well.

11181_EarlieHudnall_LowRes_g5i31Earlie Hundall, Three Generations, 3rd Ward, Houston, Tx, 1997, Gelatin Silver Print

The image above reminding me of Zora when she spoke of the excitement she felt when the northerners would come through town. ” The Northerners were something else again, They were peered at cautiously from behind curtains by the timid. The more venturesome would come out on the porch and watch them go past. The front porch might not seem like a daring place for the rest of the town, but it was a gallery seat for me.” In addition to these findings, there was also a sense of pride you get from the subjects in the images. Much like the sense of pride, Zora felt to be colored. She states that she is not tragically colored, there is no sense of sorrow within her and that there is always someone trying to remind her she comes from slaves but it does not matter to her. “I have no race. I am me.”

1876MotherSons_highresEarlie Hundall, Mother With Sons, 3rd Ward, Houston, TX, 1997, Gelatin Silver Print.

It was a pleasure to view the south in a way that is far removed from the south as I know it today. To see the pain, the joy, the content with life even within the most undesirable circumstances. I highly recommend the PDNB Gallery if you ever find yourself in Dallas. Some of the photographs from this exhibit can be found here.


Works Cited:

Hurston, Zora Neal.” How It Feels To Be Colored Me.” The Norton Anthology. Eighth ed. Vol. D. New York: Norton. n.d. 538-541. Print.


One comment

  1. What a neat place! It is really neat to see history that is so close to home. Sometimes I feel like I get caught up in looking at what happened in other states and forget to look back at our own. Great connections between the exhibit pieces and the class readings. I would agree that we often do not think back on how things were in Texas not too terribly long ago. Overall, I think schools in Texas do a pretty good job of teaching Texas history in its entirety, but I think they could go more in depth in some areas such as the more recent history.


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