Michael P. Smith Fund For Documentary Photography 2014 Grantee Brandon Thibodeaux When Morning Comes

Juror's Statement

A number of strong projects applying for this grant focused on place, especially America’s rural south, from Texas to Louisiana, a region that appears often in popular culture with increasing frequency, often reduced to stock visual signifiers, in shows like “True Detective” (the art direction of which was inspired by photographer Richard Misrach’s work on Louisiana’s “cancer alley.”)

Brandon Thibodeaux’s “When Morning Comes,” immediately places us in Mississippi. His lead image features the tricky-to-spell state name tattooed across a man’s muscular back. Thibodeaux tells us that he embarked on this series in 2009, after suffering a personal trauma. He left his home in Texas and began visiting towns in the Delta, with names like Bo-Bo and Alligator, as well as the country’s oldest completely African-America city. While more or less a traditional documentary project, photographed in square format, in a rich black and white, the project avoids clichés of depicting poverty, and relies on a strong sense of atmosphere, suggestion, and sometimes elliptical narrative.

There is a quietness to the work from which it derives its strength. Religious symbolism threads the project: a modest church’s facade at night is illuminated by a street lamp; light cascades through cloud cover onto the Mississippi; light, almost magically, illuminates the beads adorning a young girl’s braids. The project alludes to past history and fraught racial politics that continue to mark the region, but mostly illuminates closely observed rhythms of daily life, community, and pride of place.

Michael Famighetti
Editor of Aperture magazine

Congratulations to all of the Finalists in the 2014 Michael P. Smith Fund For Documentary Photography

Thibodeaux's Project Proposal

All images © Brandon Thibodeaux