atlanta

John McWilliams

High Museum of Art

John McWilliams, one of the leading photographers of the Southern landscape, has organized this exhibition entitled “Land of Deepest Shade” around a series of apocalyptic quotations from an 1844 shape-note hymnal entitled The Sacred Harp. At the entrance to the gallery the artist presents a quotation from Charles Wesley’s and A. Davidson’s Idumea: “A land of deepest shade, / Unpierced by human thought, / The dreary regions of the dead, / Where all things are forgot.” In the South as represented by McWilliams, however, things are not so much forgotten as ignored. The subject of most of the works is the waste and death at the borderline between rural poverty and urban growth.

The strength of these unpeopled landscapes lies in metaphor rather than narrative and when narrative intrudes, as in a 1978 series on Georgia’s Reidsville State Prison, or the grouping of two young white girls and an

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