Benrubi Gallery, in collaboration with the International Center of Photography, is pleased to announce Southern Rites, the new exhibition from award-winning photographer Gillian Laub, whose previous exhibition at the gallery, Common Ground, dealt with the relationship between Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians. With Southern Rites, she again takes on a story steeped in generations-long tensions, and tells it with power, sensitivity and enduring poignancy.
Southern Rites is a provocative twelve-year visual study of one community’s struggle to confront longstanding issues of race and equality. In 2002, Laub was invited to Mt. Vernon, Georgia, to photograph its segregated homecoming celebrations. She kept returning to the community and in 2009, The New York Times Magazine published a photo-essay by Laub titled, “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 that, remarkably, led the community to finally integrate the proms.
Laub continued to travel to Mt. Vernon to document the aftermath, which was welcomed in some circles and decried in others. In 2011, amid newfound hope, the murder of a young black man (portrayed in Laub’s earlier prom series) by an older white town resident reopened old wounds. Through her intimate portraits, first-hand testimony, and video installation, Laub reveals in vivid color the horror and humanity of these complex, intertwined narratives.
The photographer’s inimitable sensibility 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. Laub’s photographs capture a world caught between eras and values with extraordinary candor and immediacy— and ultimately ask whether a new generation can finally unshackle themselves from an uncomfortable past and make a different future.
The Benrubi exhibition coincides with the world broadcast premiere of Southern Rites on HBO, a documentary directed by Laub herself, and executive produced by acclaimed musician John Legend. Film, book, and exhibition constitute a major cultural and artistic achievement by one of the most daring, wide-ranging photographers at work today.
Laub’s work has been widely collected and exhibited, including at the International Center of Photography, New York, NY, the Museum of Fine Art, Houston, TX, the Terrana Collection, Boston, MA, the Jewish Museum, New York, NY, the Brooklyn Museum, New York, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., among others. In 2014, she was the recipient of the Individual Photographer’s Fellowship awarded by the Aaron Siskind Foundation. She regularly photographs for Time and the New York Times Magazine, among many other publications.