In the Shadow of Southern Trees

In the Shadow of Southern Trees—which takes it’s name from a line in the Evie Shockley poem Where You are Planted—is a series that branched out from another project, Queering the Southern States. QTSS is a more generalized photo series that explores queer identity and the impact of place and community, namely the Deep South of the United States. In the Shadow of Southern Trees narrows that focus to examine specifically those Southern queers who identify as female, and their unique struggles and experiences within that space, especially for those who are masculine-of-center, women of color, and trans women. I’m interested in learning the ways in which a queer woman’s life in the South might be different from that of the men in the LGBT community. How do we communicate differently? How does the world around us treat us differently, for better or worse? Where do we fit into the overall landscape of queer people in the South? How are we making the most of our lives in rural areas that might not always know what to make of us; how do we show our strength and determination to be honest in spite of our fears? How are we growing and changing in the ways that we advocate for ourselves in these divided and difficult days of Trump’s America?

As with Queering the Southern States, this project examines the role played by place in a person’s daily life, namely the area that is known as the Bible Belt—and it’s called that for good reason. Religious fundamentalism is a big part of life in the South, and the Church is not always especially welcoming to queer folks. For those who feel cast aside from members of the Church, there is sometimes a surprising contradiction; there is a very tightly-knit sense of community that inhabitants of rural towns experience their whole lives. When the Church rejects us, it’s our friends and family rejecting us. But many times, due to the familiarity common in such small communities, we are surprised to find that they don’t always reject us. Sometimes they embrace us, because they have spent their lives knowing us. Sometimes we find change happening in our small communities, and we hold on tightly to the hope that we will continue to be loved and accepted by the people we’ve grown up with. Much like QTSS, I use large and medium format film cameras to capture the majority of these images, as I love the slow, methodical process of film, and the way it allows me to form a connection with the subject, which is the most important part of this series for me as an artist.

Here in these early days of this project, which began in the Summer of 2019, it shares several images with Queering the Southern States, although as time goes on and I create more photos with the intention of focusing on women, they will begin to diverge more and more.