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The Cruel Radiance of the Obvious

An article from Southern Cultures 17:2, The Photography Issue

By Tom Rankin

Approx. ,

  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-8242-9
    Published: June 2011

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This introductory essay uses William Eggleston as the point of entry to preview the entire photography issue and includes striking photographs from Ansel Adams, Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Susan Harbage Page—as well as exploring the stunning work of Paul Kwilecki. "Photography in its finest and most decisive moments is about those tired or ignored or unseen parts of our lives, the mundane and worn paths that sit before us so firmly that we cease to notice. It is, we might say, about rebuilding our sight in the face of blindness, of recovering our collective vision." This article appears in the Summer 2011 issue of Southern Cultures: The Photography Issue.

About the Author

Tom Rankin has been documenting and interpreting American culture for nearly twenty years as photographer, filmmaker, and folklorist. He is Associate Professor of the Practice of Art and director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. His books include Sacred Space: Photographs from the Mississippi Delta (1993), which received the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Photography, 'Deaf Maggie Lee Sayre': Photographs of a River Life (1995), Faulkner's World: The Photographs of Martin J. Dain (1997), and Local Heroes Changing America: Indivisible (2000).
For more information about Tom Rankin, visit the Author Page.


“The rich array of photographs and graphics, and the sincere and effective attempt at readerly appeal, go well beyond what is attempted by most… Southern Cultures is truly impressive.”--The Council of Editors of Learned Journals