In 2010, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, which for decades has been the leading art museum in the South, commissioned Lavalette to produce a new collection of photographs for their „Picturing the South“ series, which includes past artists Sally Mann, Emmet Gowin, Richard Misrach, Dawoud Bey, Alex Webb and Alec Soth.
When I began my project, […] I set out not to create any documentary about Southern Music but something more distinctly lyrical, inspired by the music.
In particular, I’m interested in how the music is shaped by the landscape of the region as well as how our understanding of the landscape is shaped by the music.“ – Shane Lavalette, interview with Kate Levy, Daylight Magazine
Having grown up in the Northeast, it was primarily through traditional music – old time, blues, gospel, etc. – that Shane had formed a relationship with the South. With that in mind, the region’s rich musical history became the natural entry point for his work. Moved by the themes and stories past down in songs, he let the music itself carry the pictures.
Two years later, with the project now complete, Shane has begun working on a mock-up of a book which he believes is the ideal venue for this body of work.
The funding of the photobook on Kickstarter has already been successful, but Shane is still grateful for any further support you can offer, in order to improve the overall quality of the book, expand the options for printing and binding, as well as help cover distribution costs.
Have a look at the fantastic rewards – there are still 57 hours left to back his project!
Excerpt from the essay Tongue After Tongue by Tim Davis, Photographer and Professor of Photography at Bard College:
„This is a project about a project. Lavalette is accruing meaning about southern music by eschewing information. He moves through those “minor genres” —portraits, landscapes, agricultural scenes, still lives—content to let the project as a whole gather significances along the way rather than laying out a thesis and filling in bullet points. The pictures in Lee Friedlander’s Jazz People of New Orleans are about music not because they have musicians in them, but because they are formally polyrhythmic and alive. Shane Lavalette’s are visually straightforward, obsessively clear and devoted to the metaphysical idea that direct observation can be beamed through a lens to a viewer. They are quiet pictures that, together, build to a boisterous whole. They speak from the endlessly renewed place of the photographic expeditioner who loves the world and knows it’s a well that never runs dry.“
Picturing the South – Photographs by Shane Lavalette, Martin Parr and Kael Alford (76 prints in all) – is on view at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA, from June 9 through September 2, 2012.
Shane Lavalette (b. 1987, Burlington, VT) is an American photographer currently living in Upstate New York. He received his BFA from Tufts University in partnership with The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Lavalette’s photographs have been shown widely, including exhibitions at the High Museum of Art, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, Aperture Gallery, Montserrat College of Art, The Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard University, The Center for Photography at Woodstock, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Musée de l’Elysée, among others.
His editorial work has been published in various magazines, including The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Vice Magazine, The Wire, Pig Magazine, CODE and SLASH.
To see more of Shane’s work, please visit
All images © Shane Lavalette / courtesy of High Museum of Art, Atlanta