Arts & Humanities Campus News

What is “southern photography”?

Andrea Morales (b. 1984), “Southern Heritage Classic Parade,” 2017. Inkjet print, 14 1/2 × 21 3/4 inches. The Do Good Fund, Inc., 2020–34. (Photo by Andrea Morales)

The Georgia Museum of Art tries to answer in a new exhibition

Founded in 2012 in Columbus, Georgia, by Alan Rothschild Jr. (UGA JD ’85), the Do Good Fund has built a museum-quality collection of photography that charts a visual narrative of the ever-changing American South from the 1950s to the present. The collection includes images by more than 25 Guggenheim Fellows, five Magnum Photographers and two Henri Cartier-Bresson Award winners as well as prints by lesser-known or emerging photographers from the region.

On view from Oct. 8 through Jan. 8 at the Georgia Museum of Art, which organized the show, “Reckonings and Reconstructions: Southern Photography from the Do Good Fund” is the first large-scale survey of the fund’s remarkable and sweeping collection.

The exhibition highlights a wide-ranging group of photographers—diverse in gender, race, ethnicity and region—and features 125 photographs by 73 artists, including Gordon Parks, Sheila Pree Bright, Mark Steinmetz, Michael Stipe and William Christenberry. It asks key questions that identify and complicate conventional ideas of an “American South” and “southern photography.”

Themes of land, labor, law and protest, food, ritual and kinship link disparate works in the fund’s collection. Together they capture southern history, culture and identity in all their complexity and contradictions. In so doing, they resist notions of the South as a retrograde region and instead present the enigmatic, “ever-changing” qualities of the place and its people: a region where despair and hope, terror and beauty, pain and joy, and indignity and dignity commingle; a place seeking reconciliation and restoration, captured by photographers with an ethical vision for a “Better South.”

Jeffrey Richmond-Moll, the museum’s curator of American art, who organized the exhibition, said, “Athens, Georgia, has long been known as a music town, but it is also a prolific community of photographers, from the artists who continue to call this place home to the ones who have honed their craft here as students at the University of Georgia. For this reason, we are also excited to include a gallery highlighting the role Athens plays in the history of southern photography while the show is on view at the Georgia Museum of Art. These works show Athens as a center of gravity for alternative culture and as a microcosm for the changing American South that the rest of the exhibition presents to its viewers.”

“Reckonings and Reconstructions” will be accompanied by the first comprehensive catalog of the Do Good Fund’s photographic holdings, co-published by the museum and the University of Georgia Press. The exhibition and catalog are generously sponsored by the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, the Furthermore Foundation, the Bradley Hale Fund for Southern Studies at the University of Georgia Press, the W. Newton Morris Charitable Foundation Fund and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art.

The exhibition will travel to the Chrysler Museum of Art from Aug. 11, 2023, through Jan. 7, 2024; the Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, from Feb. 8 through May 18, 2024; and the Figge Art Museum from June 15 through Sept. 8, 2024.

Associated events at the Georgia Museum of Art include:

  • A reception on Oct. 21 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. hosted by the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art with light refreshments, door prizes and more; $15 Friends of the Museum; $10 Friend + Annual Fund Members (Supporter level); free for Friend + Annual Fund Members (Reciprocal level and above); register at
  • Reckonings and Reconstructions: Southern Photography’s Past and Futures, a day-long event on Oct. 22 organized by the museum, the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts and the University of Georgia Press, with discussion panels and afternoon and evening events focusing on the rich history of music and alternative culture in Athens; collaborations with the Bitter Southerner and The Humid, an ambitious photography incubator and education space in Athens with a global reach; and opportunities for community building around savory southern food (free, but registration is required; more information at
  • A homeschool day on Nov. 4 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with Art Cart activities and a hands-on art-making project
  • A Toddler Tuesday on Nov. 8 at 10 a.m. (for ages 18 months to 3 years; free but register by emailing
  • A Family Day on Nov. 12 from 10 a.m. to noon as part of UGA’s Spotlight on the Arts Family Day
  • A Student Night on Nov. 17 from 6:30-8:30 p.m., organized by the Georgia Museum of Art Student Association with music, fun and themed activities
  • And a live recording of art critic Tyler Green’s podcast “Modern Art Notes” at the museum on Dec. 1 at 5:30 p.m.

Events are free and open to the public unless otherwise indicated. Family Day is sponsored by Lucy and Buddy Allen and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art. Student Night is sponsored by the UGA Parents Leadership Council.