Robbins’ Miss. Delta photos in NOPA exhibit for PhotoNOLA

“The Skinning House,” Kathleen Robbins

In connection with PhotoNOLA 2012, New Orleans’ annual festival of photography, the NOPA gallery will host an exhibit of work by Alliance member Kathleen Robbins, winner of the PhotoNOLA 2011 Review Prize.

The exhibit, “Kathleen Robbins: Into the Flatlands, will feature work of Robbins’ that focuses on the Mississippi Delta, a culturally rich section of alluvial plain between Memphis, Tenn. and Vicksburg, Miss. The region is where she grew up, and where her family has lived for generations.

The exhibit will run from Thursday, Nov. 29, the opening date of PhotoNOLA, through Sunday, Jan 27, 2013. An opening reception is set for Saturday, Dec. 1, from 6 to 9 p.m.

Winners of the PhotoNOLA review prize are selected by reviewers taking part in the annual PhotoNOLA Portfolio Review. At the end of this event, each reviewer is asked to select three favorites from reviewed work, and the photographer with the most “favorite” mentions wins. The prize includes a solo exhibit at the NOPA gallery for December of the next year, as well as a cash award of $1,000 and the opportunity to produce 50 copies of their own book through the Blurb self-publishing service.

Robbins’ statement on the series is printed below:
In the fall of 2001, I relocated from New Mexico to the Mississippi Delta to live on my family’s farm, Belle Chase. I ate from my great-grandmother’s china, drank form her crystal and slept in her bed. At dusk I rocked on the porch and watched the blackbirds descend on the canebrake planted by my great-grandfather. Living on the farm I existed in a strange continuum. My family’s history and their connection to this place were markedly present in my everyday experience.

From “Into the Flatland”

I left the family farm in 2003 to take a teaching position at the University of South Carolina. “Into the Flatland” explores familial obligation and our conflicted relationship with “home.” The photographs in this series were made during regular trips home to visit family over a period of several years. I chose to leave the Mississippi Delta for many of the same reasons anyone ever chooses to leave a rural area. This is land that my family has inhabited for generations, and I am pulled to this place in a way that I am not able to fully articulate. It is not my nostalgia alone that creates this longing; it is that of my mother and my mother’s mother. 

From “Into the Flatland.”

Robbins is director of the photography program at the University of South Carolina. You can see more of her work at her photography website.

Meanwhile, other prize winners from last year’s portfolio review will have work featured in connection with PhotoNOLA 2012. Among them are second-place winner Sarah Cusimano Miles, who will have work showing at the Martine Chaisson Gallery and Priya Kambli, who will have work featured at the Contemporary Arts Center.

PhotoNOLA is an annual celebration of photography in New Orleans, coordinated by  the New Orleans Photo Alliance in partnership with galleries, museums  and photographers citywide.

The NOPA gallery is located at 1114 St. Mary Street. It is open Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 4 p.m. and by appointment.

Images: Selections from “Into the Flatland,” by Kathleen Robbins.