SOUTHERN RITES visits Montgomery County, Ga., one year after the town merged its racially segregated proms, and during a historic election campaign that may lead to its first African-American sheriff. Acclaimed photographer Gillian Laub, whose photos first brought the area unwanted notoriety, documents the repercussions when a white town resident is charged with the murder of a young black man. The case divides locals along well-worn racial lines, and the ensuing plea bargain and sentencing uncover complex truths and produce emotional revelations. This timely film debuts the week of the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision 61 years ago. Executive produced by John Legend, Troy Carter and Mike Jackson; written and produced by Josh Alexander.
Gillian Laub has spent the last two decades investigating political conflicts, exploring family relationships, and challenging assumptions about cultural identity. Her work frequently addresses the experiences of adolescents and young adults in transition who struggle to understand their present moment and collective past. In Southern Rites, Laub engages her skills as a photographer, filmmaker, storyteller, and visual activist to examine the realities of racism and raise questions that are simultaneously painful and essential to understanding the American consciousness. Southern Rites, an exhibition organized by The International Center of Photography in New York, is now available for booking and will be touring through 2023. If you are interested in finding out about availability or to reserve a slot on the tour, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 212.857.9738.
OVERVIEW: Southern Rites is an original and provocative twelve-year visual study of one community’s struggle to confront longstanding issues of race and equality. In May 2009, The New York Times Magazine published a photo-essay by Gillian Laub entitled, “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 and led the community to finally integrate. One year later, there was newfound hope—a historic campaign to elect the county’s first African American sheriff, yet the murder of a young black man—portrayed in Laub’s earlier prom series—by a white town patriarch, reopened old wounds. Through her intimate portraits and first-hand testimony, Laub reveals in vivid color the horror and humanity of these complex, intertwined narratives. The photographer’s inimitable sensibility—it is the essence and emotional truth of the singular person in front of her lens that matters most—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.
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