8/24/2008 - Encounters: Photographs By Kathryn Tucker Windham - The Birmingham News
Kathryn Tucker Windham's wit, insight revealed in photos
Wisdom has many faces. The photographs of Kathryn Tucker Windham reflect a folksy wisdom in the studies she captures on film.
For those who saw Windham's recent exhibition at the Birmingham
Museum of Art, this gallery show is something of a reprise. But it is
also an expansion on her gentle insights of life in the Deep South.
These visual essays span more than 60 years of observing family,
friends, neighbors and occasionally strangers who move through her
She began her career as a picture taker
with an original Brownie camera. Young Kathryn received her first
camera as a promotional gift from the fledgling Kodak company, which
was trying to give everyone the picture-taking bug. The success of that
effort is a matter of record to be found in every attic, basement and
storage room containing photo albums of long forgotten ancestors.
Windham's photographs are a constant tug of the memory. We see old men
just sitting, silent as the concrete bench and table they occupy.
Ladies with rakes and brooms clean the grounds of a small cemetery.
Windham captures the lazy-day pastimes of a group of men playing
dominoes on C.C. Bess' general store porch and a family picnic on the
grassy bank of a river. A pair of ancient Civil War veterans and "Uncle
Hiram Davis," a wonderful study of an old man born a slave and whose
memory is as tattered as his clothes, serve as reminiscences.
It became a quiet passion that companioned the photographer's unique
literary skills. Windham wrote for a small-town newspaper and graduated
to writing delightful ghost stories and becoming a much sought-after
speaker. Her keen insights, wit and ability to shape words into
memorable experiences find an honest extension in the visual essays
found in her photography.
For those who missed her recent BMA show, and those who are devoted
admirers of her writings and photography, and above all, those who have
not yet fallen under the spell of her homily and magical insights, this
is a show to see.
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