Phyllis Dooney: CENTER’S 1st Place Editor’s Choice Award
Congratulations to Phyllis Dooney for her 1st Place win in CENTER’s Editor’s Choice Awards for her Project, Moonflowers. Juror Alice Gabriner, International Photo Editor of TIME magazine shared this statement:
I was immediately intrigued by the first picture in Phyllis Dooney’s project Moonflowers, about a gay woman in the Mississippi Delta. Over three years, Dooney documented Halea Brown and her family in an attempt to portray larger issues that affect American families. Poignant and emotional, I believe this work has the potential to deepen beyond its current scope. And with this prize, I hope Dooney will be inspired to continue to build on what she has already created.
Like many artists, documentarians, and historians, I’m looking for the American Family as it exists right now—because the family tells secrets about the country. The Mississippi Delta is a ripe locus due to the area’s economic, racial, and geopolitical history. I met Halea Brown in a Greenville karaoke bar; she’s outspokenly gay (a courageous act, I thought, in the Bible Belt), talented, charismatic, and generous. Through her, I spent the last three years documenting the entire Brown family. They are moonflowers: souls who bloom in the shadows.The Browns are talented in music and athletics; they’re survivors; they project a life for themselves beyond Greenville, beyond poor, and beyond ordinary. But a vacuum is created between those positives and these negatives: addiction (crystal methamphetamine and even love, for example), domestic abuse, indictments, and educational underachievement. A single mother with seven children, Damian lives on disability like her father did, contracting herself to a system in complex and compromising ways.
My strategy is to focus on daily lives and avoid sensationalism, to crystallize the essence of the subject’s mood, self-talk, and personality. The truth in any moment is located in a gesture or expression.
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