PhotoNOLA: Brandon Thibodeaux
For the next few weeks, I will be sharing work that seen at PhotoNOLA….
Brandon Thibodeaux‘s evocative and beautifully executed work was awarded 2nd place in the PhotoNOLA portfolio review awards. Brandon is one of those old souls in a young self, brought up in the slower paced town of Beaumont, Texas, which straddles the worlds of the bayou and Texas proper. It’s a town that also raised Keith Carter — both photographers have that toned down cadence to their speech, a natural graciousness to their demeanor, and an eye for small moments. There is a earnest truthfulness to Brandon’s photographs, a deep seeing that only comes from a person with clarity of vision and heart.
Brandon’s photo career began at a small daily newspaper down in southeast Texas while studying photography at Lamar University. He now resides in Dallas, where he freelances for clients like Forbes, MSNBC.com, Newsweek, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, among others. When he’s not doing that he’s likely found running the back roads of the South with a twin lens over his shoulder. He is a member of the photography collective MJR, based in New York City. In 2009 he became a member of the Getty Reportage Emerging Talent. In 2012 his work in the Mississippi Delta received CENTER’s Review Santa Fe Award, and was selected for the Magenta Foundation’s Flash Forward 2012. The Oxford American listed him in the 100 Under 100, New Superstars of Southern Art 2012.
When Morning Comes is a reflection of life in the Mississippi Delta. I first traveled to the region in the summer of 2009 because I needed to breathe after my own troubled times. I was in search of something stronger than myself and attended its churches not to photograph but to cry and be redeemed and to just be a part of the place. I was there to listen as I prayed for a revelation.
Over the past three years I have witnessed signs of strength against struggle, humility amidst pride, and a promise for deliverance in the lives that I’ve come to know here. This is a land stigmatized by poverty beneath a long shadow of racism. I do not wish to overlook this fact but rather look between it for evidence of the tender and yet unwavering human spirit that resides within its fabric.
I photograph in five communities that span roughly 15 square miles of the northern Mississippi Delta. Villages with names like Alligator, and Bo Bo, as well as the country’s oldest completely African American city, Mound Bayou, where in 1910, a New York Times headline once declared, “no white man can own a square foot of land.”
In what began as a journey for personal exploration is found a narrative of another man’s faith, identity, and perseverance. I see the strength of a single man while acknowledging the machine that replaced thousands, the flight of childhood innocence grounded by the scar of life hard lived, a living room altar to a symbolic president and a toppled white king in a conquered game of chess.
While this work makes specific reference to the rural black experience, I am reminded with every visit that these themes of faith, identity, and perseverance are common to us all. These are the traits of strong men. And maybe that is the lesson I was looking for all along.