For over twenty years, Atlanta’s High Museum of Art has commissioned photographers, both established and emerging, to create work inspired by the rich cultural melange that is our American South. In 2010, Shane Lavalette, just 23 at the time, was invited to participate alongside the renowned photographers Martin Parr and Kael Alford.
Drawing upon the region’s musical history, specifically finding inspiration in old-time, blues, and gospel, Lavalette abstractly explored how music is capable of playing a role in regional oral history, exploring the relationship between music and the place where it is created and played. Picturing the South and many of its images became part of Lavalette’s larger project-turned-monograph, One Sun, One Shadow, released in 2016. Lavalette writes, “I hadn’t previously traveled through the Southern states, so my idea of what the South was like was generally informed by films I had seen, the history of photography, and music. I quickly realized that I would have to find an entry point, and music felt like the most interesting and open-ended in terms of its relationship with the static image.” Lavalette received a BFA from Tufts University in partnership with The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and is the founding publisher/editor of Lavalette, “an independent imprint for photography,” and the director of the photography non-profit Light Work. —Austin McManus
An excerpt from the forward of One Sun, One Shadow:
"Shane Lavalette is the latest inheritor of photography’s devotion to the lyric potential of the barely occurring. A northerner, commissioned by a great southern museum, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta (with a big new wing of its own), to make a project about the South, Lavalette took as his point of entry the vernacular music of the region. It makes sense. Mark Twain was so moved by the sounds of southern voices and he wrote in Life on the Mississippi that “A Southerner talks music,” and the oral is the South’s profoundest point of access. American music comes from the South. Blues, jazz, country, rock ’n’ roll, you know the story. From Stephen Foster to Sly Stone, the South is our musical source and subject." - Tim Davis