Mark Steinmetz

09.05.2012 in01:07 in Documentary, Kids -->


In Mark Steinmetz’s photographs, young women stretch out on automobile hoods and brocade sofas, lost in thought. Old black men wear resigned expressions and baseball caps that say: “Been there.” Hitchhikers peer into the rolled-down windows of stopped cars, looking more vulnerable than menacing.
For nearly 20 years, the Athens photographer has quietly prowled the South, from Knoxville to Atlanta, capturing moments that seem ordinary at first, but slowly open to reveal a complex inner landscape of feeling and emotion.
Influenced by Americans Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand (whom he met as a student in the ’80s) and French masters Atget and Cartier-Bresson, Steinmetz is a rare practitioner of the lost art of black-and-white camera work. An artist of rigor, discipline, craft and consistency, he roams the streets for his material, develops the film in his dark room and pulls his striking silver-gelatin prints by hand. His work is in the collections of America’s most important museums (the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago). It has been published in a highly regarded trilogy of books from Nazraeli Press (“South Central,” “South East” and “Greater Atlanta”). But until just recently, the shy, 40-something, Yale-educated artist who came South to teach at the University of Tennessee and the University of Georgia hasn’t generated much of a buzz locally.
“He was right under my nose. He was 40 minutes away in Athens,” says Julian Cox, the High Museum curator of photography, “and I didn’t know what he was doing.”