Reliable Untruths

I grew up in Havana, FL, a small town just south of the Florida-Georgia line.  Both of my images address nuances  of my childhood.

1. Cotton Picking Scene

Havana is still very segregated.  When it was time for my mother and the other children of her generation to attend school, their parents (my grandparents and great aunts/uncles) built a private school presumably to “protect” their children from integration.  While the people of Havana are friendly, loving, and non-violent, the roots of prejudice and racism run quiet and deep throughout the town.

I grew up under the watchful eye of Willy (I never knew his last name), a black man and labourer who helped my grandmother maintain a beautiful garden and pool.  He called me “Snook” (I never knew why) until I was old enough to become “Miss Danielle”.  The way I was treated as a child and then a young lady by the black community, I might as well have been Miss Scarlett O’Hara.  This relationship has always deeply disturbed me.  Willy passed away a few years ago, and it has caused me to reflect on this uncomfortable part of my relationship with my hometown.

Much in the way Southern Gothic literature exposed the decay that accompanied the American South’s resistance to change, I offer this image:

Cotton Picking Scene

This image may prompt the viewer to ask a number of questions:
Who is the man? What is he carrying?  Did he dig the grave? Is he a murderer?  Is the man a cotton picker?  Is he black or white or neither?  Is that a body bag?  Is there a body in it?  If so, what is its race?

I would be very interested to hear your own narratives for this image.  I hope you will share some of these stories (or just more questions) in the comments.

I intend for this image to slow down and draw in the viewer.  This is not a shock and awe forgery or a laugh out loud juxtaposition.  It’s like a Rorschach blot for racial issues and is meant to spark dialogue.  I intend for it to feel very real.  To this purpose I emulated the high contrast, blurred look of photographs contemporary with slave labor in cotton fields.

2.  I Grew Up Here

After reading the article about Google Street View Photography, I was tempted to make some Google Street View Manipulations.  I took a Street View photo of my grandma’s house and added bits and pieces from my childhood and our very important “hanging of the garlands” ritual.  I have uploaded it to Google Maps so that it will be available for viewing alongside the original image, but it takes awhile for it to be approved.

I intended to share with Google Street View users who happen upon this house (its next to library, so who knows…it could happen!) my personal experience of it.  I was somewhat disappointed when I saw the house on Street View because I knew there was so much more to it.  So, like a child draws a picture of their family to explain it to an outsider, I manipulated the photo to share my home.  I also meant to stir up some family communication and questions about the house and our traditions.  I enjoy the juxtaposition of the old traditions (and OLD house…it recently had its 100th birthday!) with the modern Street View shot.  I shared this image with my family via Facebook and received the following comments:
“Hey… the address is wrong, and it looks like the garland is photo shopped. Whats with the sidewalk chalk art? There’s no Christmas wreath on the door. and No ladder to get down.. WHat is going on with this pic? The garland just begins and ends with no garland attached on the roof. And if they are putting it up, we usually start from the left side and work to the right side. If it is coming down, the garland is not stewn on the ground. Also, no boxes or wheelbarrow. I know how this happens”

“Is it morning time? Is the sun coming up in the east?”  (We hang the garland after Thanksgiving lunch…in the afternoon.)

“Your Mama Too(my grandmother)is tricky, she knew the Google Street View car was coming and made your brother put up the Christmas decorations in May! lol”(This observant viewer noted the Google copyright date!)

And my favorite:
“Did google photoshop it??”

I Grew Up Here 


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