Eudora Welty’s Photographic Gaze

» May 17th, 2020

Two portraits; two men. Both are from 1930s Mississippi. The men are situated together, photos 22 and 23, both from Eudora Welty’s only published book of photographs, simply titled Photographs. If you could put a frame around both images it would be the Jim Crow South.

The image to the left [below] is of an older, stout black man with a white moustache that droops around his mouth. He sits on a bench in a cluttered work yard in Grenada County. It looks to be the end of the workday. A small chicken darts past his left knee. Two large melons rest at his right, almost out of the frame. The man’s posture shifts, leans back, and his expression, assured but quizzical, darts over his left shoulder, as if responding to a call from elsewhere. His right hand relaxes. His left hand, in motion, blurs with movement. His eyes are dark and deep set. He answers to others. But he knows who he is.

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