3/15/2009 - Terra Incognito, Vestiges Of Grandeur: Photographs by Richard Sexton - The Birmingham News

Terra Incognito, Vestiges Of Grandeur. Photographs by Richard Sexton

A highly successful photographer for commercial enterprises, Richard Sexton creates these two sets of photographic prints as a labor of love for a part of America that is inexorably changing. One group concentrates on the natural land and seascapes of the Gulf Coast. The other deals with abandoned structures along Louisiana's River Road. He has an unerring eye for natural transformations and fading worlds.

Since Sexton obviously cannot order nature to behave in certain ways, he has the patience to wait for those moments when earth, sea and sky converge into startling and beautiful compositions. He captures the majestic roll of the quiet sea as its gentle surf laps at the sand under dark and heavy clouds.

He wanders about the landscape of heavy old oak trees with low-hanging limbs extended, dripping with Spanish moss that drapes like ancient lace on the arms of a southern belle. An old oak shows part of its root structure in a tumbling mass of searching, knotted tendrils.

One of the most dramatic studies is an almost symmetrical column that begins with sand and builds to a mound crowned with seagrass. From a low perspective, a large white puff of a cloud rises against an otherwise clear sky. It is elegant and breathtaking.

Anyone who has driven along the low marshes of the Southern coast can identify with the image of a few dying and dead spindly trees rising from marsh grass. With "Vestiges of Grandeur," Sexton concentrates on the interiors of abandoned and decaying antebellum plantation houses. He captures the eerie elegance of graceful, circular staircases and faded rooms, where the remains of fireplaces and barren windows allow a soft light to etch memories on the torn and faded wallpapers. There is a unique beauty to the water-blotched walls that approximate the look of ancient frescoes. Now only our eyes, and perhaps a few ghosts, drift through the dilapidated rooms, sagging doors and empty windows.

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