Traveling through the South, it’s hard not to notice the state-sanctioned historical markers. It seems everywhere there are plaques declaring a story honored and a site “sacred”. But mostly, these signs point to a past war and white men.
Across the landscape the public acknowledgment of a partial and particular story confirms that an uncomfortable hierarchy continues in the “New South”. The South hosts over 13,000 Civil War memorials. While these histories are important, they often drown out “other” histories also anchored to the same land. In fact, the installation of many of these memorials correlate with periods of tense race relations. The first Confederate memorials were installed during the “Jim Crow” era and another wave of memorial initiation occurred during the Civil Rights movement. Erection of Civil War memorials has represented a recurring resistance to non-male, non-Christian, and non-white communities. I use such markers as the impetus for identifying and collecting other histories occurring at the same site. Each photographic work serves as memorial to stories of women, children, non-Christians, and People of Color to reveal the richness and complexity of our Southern heritage.
In re-telling the history of place, these tributes represent expansive memories, myths, and meanings. To gather such histories, I source archives, local bars, Facebook groups and neighborhood organizations. I also stand around a lot and talk to people. After compiling a more inclusive history of place, I create corresponding tributes using images gathered from research as well as a variety of found objects and foliage from the site itself. Our city landscape is built up as much from strata of memory as from layers of rock. But more than sentimental ethnography, my work recognizes what has long been denied. I mine stories buried by a privileged version of truth and find that these are indeed the sites of honorable battle – but battles fought long after 1861.