Image Above: ©Gillian Laub (Julie and Bubba, 2002) Courtesy of Benrubi Gallery.
Benrubi Gallery, in collaboration with the International Center of Photography, presented Southern Rites, the new exhibition from award-winning photographer Gillian Laub, whose previous exhibition at the gallery, Common Ground, dealt with the relationship between Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians. With Southern Rites, she again takes on a story steeped in generations-long tensions, and tells it with power, sensitivity and enduring poignancy.
©Gillian Laub (Angel outside the black prom, 2009) Courtesy of Benrubi Gallery
©Gillian Laub (Amber and Reggie, 2011) Courtesy of Benrubi Gallery.
Southern Rites is a provocative twelve-year visual study of one community’s struggle to confront longstanding issues of race and equality. In 2002, Laub was invited to Mt. Vernon, Georgia, to photograph its segregated homecoming celebrations. She kept returning to the community and in 2009, The New York Times Magazine published a photo-essay by Laub titled, “A Prom Divided,” which documented Georgia’s Montgomery County High School’s racially segregated prom rituals. Laub’s photographs ignited a firestorm of national outrage that, remarkably, led the community to finally integrate the proms.
©Gillian Laub (Shelby on her Grandmother's car, 2008) Courtesy of Benrubi Gallery.
©Gillian Laub (Left: Qu'an and Brooke, 2012; Right: Keyontae, 2011) Courtesy of Benrubi Gallery
The photographer’s inimitable sensibility ensures that, however elevated the ideas and themes may be, her pictures remain studies of individuals; a chronicle of their courage in the face of injustice, of their suffering and redemption, possessing an unsettling power. Laub’s photographs capture a world caught between eras and values with extraordinary candor and immediacy— and ultimately ask whether a new generation can finally unshackle themselves from an uncomfortable past and make a different future.
©Gillian Laub (The Prom Prince and Princess dancing at the integrated prom, 2011) Courtesy of Benrubi Gallery.
©Gillian Laub (The Prom King and Queen, dancing at the black prom, 2009) Courtesy of Benrubi Gallery.
The Benrubi exhibition coincides with the world broadcast premiere of Southern Rites on HBO, a documentary directed by Laub herself, and executive produced by acclaimed musician John Legend. Film, book, and exhibition constitute a major cultural and artistic achievement by one of the most daring, wide-ranging photographers at work today.
All Opening Images ©Kadeem Lewis-Riley