‘Jack Carnell’s images in True Places are so intimate, so intensely expressive and emotional, that a viewer might fail to notice the absence of people. Here, instead, are the tools we use to orient ourselves and our days, the signs, arrows, scales, directions, filing cabinets and drawers, the wires connecting everything to everything. How fanatically we interact with our small territories. How busy we are, running our tiny worlds, before we disappear altogether.’ (2017) – Wendy Brenner
Fall Line Press has just released a new monograph of photographs by Jack Carnell. The book, aptly titled, True Places is a collection of well-seen details, small moments, and well, true places seen in the American South. Created in 2005, from the perspective of a Northerner delighting in the unique Southern intricacies and quirks that make up small town and suburban living, the book includes 51 color images and 3 essays, by Spence Kass, Nataniel Popkin and Wendy Brenner.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Jack Carnell received his BFA degree in photography from the University of New Mexico and in 1976, Carnell received an MFA degree in photography from The Tyler School of Art, Temple University. In 1980 he received a NEA grant for emerging photographers and in 1988 a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.
Carnell’s work is in the collections of several national museums, and he is currently an associate professor at Jefferson, teaching in the School of Architecture and the built environment.
Finding True Places
My first visit to Georgia in 1986 was a short one. I came to photograph the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, and I was promised a pass by a delegate from Pennsylvania. On the first night of the convention I was given what was obviously a counterfeit delegate pass. During Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey’s address to the convention, security personnel rounded-up all the “guests” with fake credentials and showed them to the door. I was one of them.
Nineteen years later, I returned to Georgia, and this time my stay was lengthy and “legit.” My girlfriend Carol, a textile designer, had taken a full–time position with a large carpet manufacturer. I helped Carol move to Cartersville and over the next 10 years returned to visit during summers and over winter breaks from my university teaching job in Philadelphia. The work in this book grew out those experiences visiting Carol and exploring the South at lengthy intervals and a leisurely pace. The sequencing of the photographs recreates my experience of traveling along these small roads. As a born and bred Northerner I was captivated by the small places of the South; it appeared as though I was visiting a different and foreign land. I was reminded of the Walker Evans’s photos from the 1930s and the William Faulkner novels I had read in college. I liked the South, and I felt a rapport with it, enjoying the people that I met and the places I visited. And I came to feel the same way about small towns everywhere, increasing my meanderings closer to my northern home as time allowed.
In Georgia I set out on day trips traveling between county seats. Once the center of commerce, government, industry, and entertainment county seats have been replaced by strip malls, interstate highways, exit businesses, and the internet. This book is an attempt to create a lyrical document that captures what remains of the prominent and notable nature of the small places in between county seats. These are the places that seemed to resonate for me in a way that is difficult to say in words, but hopefully they can be seen and felt as “true” through my pictures. – Jack Carnell
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