Deep South portrayed in photographs

By Maria-Jose Subiria


Through images of an array of people and objects, the culture of the Deep South is depicted in a series of photographs now on display in the atrium of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

In an exhibit entitled "Landscape/Portrait," 30 photographs by Athens, Ga.-based photographer, Carl Martin, will be displayed until April 21, Martin said.

Brent Frank, of Athens, was at the airport recently, studying a photograph that captured two African-American girls with their arms around each other's shoulders. The girls are standing in a grassy field, in front of a brick building.

"I love it. It's got a little touch of Athens right here," Frank said, while pointing at the picture.

Martin said the 30 photographs -- which include one taken in New York City, but most snapped around the Atlanta and Athens areas -- are just a few pieces from two collections of his photography, "Photographs 1986-2007," and "Men of Georgia, 1994." The collections are composed of a total of roughly 100 photos.

"I love that. It is so great," said Martin, about exhibiting his photography at Hartsfield-Jackson. "Just the number of people to expose your work to."

He said he was attracted to the authenticity that he found in small towns in the South, and that he enjoyed capturing and delivering it through his images.

"Martin's photographs of Southern people and places tell universal stories," said Katherine Marbury, manager of the Airport Art Program at Hartsfield-Jackson. "Viewers may recognize their own hometowns, regardless of their region or country of residence."

The images demonstrate the culture of a variety of Southerners, Martin said. The people of the small-town South are less concerned with the latest fashion trends and "hip" dialogue of the day, he added.

Martin said that while he was photographing individuals living and working in small, Southern towns, the older generation impressed him the most.

According to Martin, the older people seemed to have pressed a pause button, and continued to embrace the sense of style and culture of their time.

"Photography itself, it's just an odd thing ... it's just a moment," Martin said. "I think the biggest challenge is having to work with the existence of reality, as sort of an expression."

Martin said that in some small towns he visited, time seemed to have stood still.

"Just the way it looks," he said. "It looks like the '80s never happened. It looks like it looked 100 years ago ... it is just extraordinary visuals."

Martin said capturing Southerners and their lifestyle was never a part of his career plan, but happened by chance.

He explained that when he moved to Athens, in 1990, it was natural for him to take pictures of his surroundings.

"It's not something that I was really interested in, it is something that is very specific to our culture," he said.

Martin said he can relate to the individuals he captured with his camera, because he grew up in Athens, Ala., a city now of about 19,000 residents, 15 miles from the Tennessee state line.

"I grew up in Alabama, in a small town ... trying to make sense of the world," he added.

In 1977, Martin attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he studied political science for one year, he said.

Martin said he always had a passion for photography and left school. He later enrolled in a photography workshop, in Maine, where he said he learned more about the craft.

He said he moved to New York City and attended the School of Visual Arts, where he obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography, in 1982.

"I don't know if I have a particular message on a conscious level," Martin said of his photography. "It is just more, hopefully, there is a kind of a great joy and celebration looking at the photographs."