A visual journey collecting people, place and thing, South Eastern Conferenced is the longstanding project photographer Glynnis McDaris has worked on since 2003. A contemplative nod to the South where she was born, McDaris collects bits and pieces of Memphis, Mississippi, and Louisiana, putting together a body of work rich with memory, nostalgia and nature. We recently asked her about what continues to inspire the work.
South Eastearn Conferenced is an ongoing body of work made in Memphis, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Can you tell us a little about the project?
“This project is an ongoing autobiography of my trips back to the area (where I grew up and still spend time). It’s a distillation of experiences through abstract, landscape, and figurative imagery. Several projects have come out of this larger body of work, so in some ways this series has become a visual journal that functions as a resource for me, something I return to for inspiration.”
What’s your connection to the southern region of the U.S.?
“I grew up in the south, and my family is southern. So, my visual language was saturated by southern culture at a young age. While I don’t always explore southern subject matter in a literal way, I often find myself making work that is informed by experiences or memories of where I grew up. I think most artists are compelled to pull from their background to one extent or another.”
You have reoccurring themes of water, wind, and sky, can you speak to that? What draws you to those themes in this body of work?
“Water is a touchstone in my work. Many of the images in the series were made in places along the Mississippi River or waters near or in the Gulf. Whether apparent or simply referenced, the presence of water (especially the Mississippi River) shapes the visual landscape and culture to a large extent. The fluidity and impermanence of the terrain, wind, and sky have always intrigued me. Man made environments are inspiring especially as they converge with the natural world.”
Are your photographs specific to a group of people or individuals, or do they generally reference the culture in this part of the country?
“I’ve had a longstanding interest in portraying people through their objects and environments—still lifes or locations as portraits of someone. Frequently, objects speak to a specific area of the country, for example, hunting dogs may be seen to be representative of the South. That said, it’s always interesting when isolated objects or distinctive surroundings aren’t clearly indicative of a specific place or locale. Mystery interests me immensely—mystery of light, focus, ambiance, texture, and place – so I am less drawn to precise definitions of place, people, or objects as subjects. I purposely leave ample room in my work for people to comprehend from their point of view.”