southXeast Exhibition Proposal 

WHAT HAS BEEN WILL BE AGAIN


Between 2010-2013 I served as a White House Photo Editor in the Obama White House. On my last day on the job, the president invited me into the Oval Office for a farewell meeting. He asked what was coming up next, and I told him about the vintage RV waiting for me back home in Alabama and how I planned to crisscross the state and make photographs. He loved the idea – in fact he began finishing my sentences as I told him my plan. “...And you’re going to drive around Alabama!?!” he asked, “...and you’re going to take pictures!?!” For a moment I thought he just might walk out of the Oval and come along with me. But before I ever got home to Alabama, the RV blew up—explosive flames, fire department—complete and utter meltdown.

While the journey I’d hope to take in the RV wouldn’t initially come to fruition, my departure from the White House still marks the embarkation of my artistic journey—a journey that has led me to building creative, collaborative partnerships across my home state while building a photographic practice that critically explores Southern identity, marginalized communities, and the history of place through social science, literary, and historical research methodologies.

Alabama has known a deep and complex history. From Native American genocide to slavery and secession, and from the fight for civil rights to the championing of MAGA ideology, the national history written on, in, and by the people and landscapes of Alabama reveal problematic patterns at the nexus of our larger American identity. Now in a time of pandemic, protest, and political polarization, What Has Been Will Be Again has sought to make good on the plan I shared with President Obama: to journey across Alabama and make photographs of the place I call home, but to do so through a lens that confronts generational racial, ecological, and economic injustices.

Social isolation is both a phrase and experience that has defined the COVID-19 pandemic, and What Has Been Will Be Again expressly evokes the alienation that has characterized the moment. Yet the work features sites for which isolation and violence is nothing new—places where extracted labor and environmental exploitation have exacted heavy tolls over generations. Such isolation is less accidental or temporal, and more a product of decades of willful neglect by a mainstream America only now starting to visualize what—and who—has been pushed out of our collective frame of vision.

Begun in Fall 2020, What Has Been Will Be Again has led me across each of Alabama’s 67 counties, tracing colonial routes including the Old Federal Road and Hernando de Soto’s 1540 expedition and traveling the Trail of Tears and final passage of the slave ship, Clotilda. The resulting pictures speak to the forced marginalization of African-Americans, Indigenous people, and members of the LGBTQ+ population across Alabama’s past (and present). Accompanied by historicizing captions, the images at once mirror and challenge the silence of historical narratives that, for so long, have failed to speak the names, dates, and places where such violence occurred. Using a Southern Gothic visual sensibility to articulate very real social isolation, What Has Been... simultaneously reveals connections between Alabama’s centuries-long past, its present-day issues, and illustrates the perpetuated use of segregation and sequestration in service of the white supremacist myths of American exceptionalism.

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Project Info

What Has Been Will Be Again was initiated by a Do Good Fund residency project and is made with support from a 2020 Magnum Foundation U.S. Dispatches grant, a 1492/1619 American Aftermaths Grant, and Columbus State University. Additional support was provided by the Alabama State Council on the Arts, Coleman Center for the Arts, and Wiregrass Museum of Art.

Recent solo exhibitions of What Has Been Will Be Again have been hosted by The Do Good Fund Gallery, Columbus, Ga., and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Ala., with upcoming exhibitions at Auburn University at Montgomery in fall 2022, and the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture in spring 2023. Project images have been selected for the Center for Photography at Woodstock’s highly competitive annual exhibtion, Photo Now, and the Wiregrass Museum of Art’s B22: Wiregrass Biennial.

What Has Been Will Be Again has been published by UVA’s Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR) with a forward by New Yorker/Vogue writer Alexis Okeowo; the University of Mississippi’s Study the South Journal; and shared online by the Magnum Foundation, Lenscratch, PHMuseum, and booooooom.

The project was awareded the Reviewers Choice Award at the Social Documentary Network’s Second Annual SDN Online Documentary Portfolio Review, received the Society for Photographic Education South Central 2021 Conference Award, and was recognized in the 2021 PhotoLucida Critical Mass Top 50.

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Biography

Jared Ragland (MFA, Tulane University) is a fine art and documentary photographer and former White House photo editor. Utilizing a range of photographic tactics his visual practice critically confronts issues of identity, marginalization, and history of place through social science, literary, and historical research methodologies.

Jared is the photo editor of National Geographic Books’ The President’s Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office, and he has worked on assignment for NGOs in the Balkans, the former Soviet Bloc, East Africa, and Haiti. In 2015, Jared was named one of TIME magazine’s “Instagram Photographers to Follow in All 50 States.” He is a 2020 Magnum Foundation grantee, 2020-21 Do Good Fund Artist-in-Residence, 2021 Photolucida Critical Mass Top 50 artist, and 2022 Aftermath Project Finalist.

Jared’s work has been exhibited internationally, with recent shows at The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (Montgomery, Ala.), The Do Good Fund (Columbus, Ga.), The Front (New Orleans, La.), Candela Books + Gallery (Richmond, Va.), Birmingham Museum of Art SHIFT space (Birmingham, Ala.), The National Geographic Society (Washington, D.C.), and the Royal Geographic Society (London, UK). His photographs have been featured by The New Yorker, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair Italia, and The Oxford American, and his visual ethnographic research has been published in more than a dozen social science textbooks and high-impact journals. His first film, Some Million Miles, (co-directed with Adam Forrester) received the Reel South Short Award at the 2019 Sidewalk Film Festival and is currently distributed by PBS.

During his tenure at the White House with the Bush (43) and Obama Administrations, Jared edited and designed photo books for the President, curated photographic exhibitions in the West Wing of the White House, and was part of the editing team responsible for the release of the iconic photographs of President Obama in the Situation Room during the raid on Osama bin Laden.

Download CV: Ragland-CV.pdf

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Installation

Most images feature longform caption texts which may be presented as either tombstone-style labels or in a printed gallery guide. Exhibition layout can occur as a single, horizontal line of pictures or in salon style. Select images can also be presented as mural-size photo-tex adhesive prints.

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Press Clips

What Has Been Will Be Again. VQR. Featuring text by Alexis Okeowo of Vogue/The New Yorker:
https://www.vqronline.org/photography/2021/03/what-has-been-will-be-again

Jared Ragland: What Has Been Will Be Again. Lenscratch. Interview with Daniel George:
http://lenscratch.com/2021/09/jared-ragland-what-has-been-will-be-again/

What Has Been Will Be Again: Photographic Meditations on Social Isolation in Alabama. Study the South journal. Featuring text by Catherine Wilkins, Ph.D:
https://southernstudies.olemiss.edu/study-the-south/what-has-been-will-be-again/

BOOOOOOOM.COM:
https://www.booooooom.com/2020/12/03/what-has-been-will-be-again-by-photographer-jared-ragland/

The Do Good Fund Collection:
https://thedogoodfund.org/jared-ragland


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Select Works


Spring Hill, Barbour County, Ala. Michael Farmer, 57, fashions a scarecrow next to his garden on Election Day.
Michael Farmer’s family has lived in Spring Hill for generations, where the predominantly Black community has faced a history of racial violence and voter disenfranchisement. On November 3, 1874 a white mob attacked the Spring Hill polling station, destroying the ballot box, burning the ballots, and murdering the election supervisor’s son. Farmer is a lifelong Democrat and military veteran who served two tours overseas in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. When asked what he hoped might come from the 2020 presidential election, Farmer said, “I hope the young folks might think about what their ancestors came through to get where we are.”

Archival Pigment Print
Image: 2020 / Printed: 2022
21 x 24.5 inches
Edition of 10
Signed, dated, and numbered on verso



Childersburg, Talladega County, Ala. Sunshine turns soil in the Commons Community Workshop garden.
As a response to recent national division and the COVID-19 pandemic, Sunshine and her husband Rusty recently bought a home in Childersburg and created The Commons Community Workshop. Through their Fearless Communities Initiative they are building a community garden in a donated downtown lot, hosting trade days, and fostering relationships with their neighbors as a means of “celebrating solidarity and strength.” The couple invited me to find them on Facebook where Sunny posts Initiative announcements, vocalizes her opposition to mask wearing and vaccines, and shares her beliefs about global child sex trafficking networks, the threat of Marxism, and the coming of the end times.

Archival Pigment Print
Image: 2020 / Printed: 2022
21 x 24.5 inches
Edition of 10
Signed, dated, and numbered on verso



Talladega County, Ala. Ruins of Mt. Ida Plantation.
Destroyed by fire in 1956, the 1840 Greek Revival-style antebellum mansion was built for Walker Reynolds, who owned some 13,000 acres of land and several hundred enslaved persons. The plantation–located near the site of Abihka, once one of four mother towns of the Muscogee Creek confederacy–was reportedly a location for the 1915 white-supremacist film, Birth of a Nation.

Archival Pigment Print
Image: 2020 / Printed: 2022
21 x 24.5 inches
Edition of 10
Signed, dated, and numbered on verso



Manitou Cave, at the former Cherokee town of Willstown (now Ft. Payne), DeKalb County, Ala.
Inside Manitou, traces of human activity date back 10,000 years. The cave includes sacred inscriptions written in Cherokee syllabary, which was invented by Sequoyah while he lived in Willstown in the early 1800s. After the Cherokee removal the cave was used as a Confederate encampment and saltpeter mine; by the end of the 19th century industrialists mined the cave for iron ore; in the 1920s it was converted into a tourist destination where flappers danced the Charleston in a “ballroom” that featured a wooden dance floor and electric lights; and during the Cold War it was outfitted as a nuclear fallout shelter. Through the mid 20th century the site operated as a roadside attraction but closed after the interstate drew traffic away from Ft. Payne. After decades of neglect the cave is now the focus of grassroots historical and environmental protection directed by Manitou Cave of Alabama, with a mission to “respect, protect, preserve” the cave’s unique geology, diverse biology, and rich history.

Archival Pigment Print
Image: 2022 / Printed: 2022
21 x 24.5 inches, or printed as 30 x 35 inch photo-tex mural
Edition of 10
Signed, dated, and numbered on verso



Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa County, Ala. Glitter scattered on ruins of the former Alabama state capitol building.
Yoholo-Micco, chieftan of the Upper Creek town of Eufala, is said to have addressed the Alabama Legislature in 1836 at the state capital in Tuscaloosa before departing the ancestral Muscogee homelands on the Trail of Tears. Yoholo-Micco’s actual words are unknown, but the white, colonial writers of history have painted the Creek leader as one who accepted indigenous removal with an air of romantic resignation, going so far as to contrive his final words in a way to whitewash the genocide that had taken place over 300+ years’ time. Yoholo-Micco’s apocryphal address––which has been reproduced in Alabama history books and grade school curriculum for decades––reads, in part: “I come here, brothers, to see the great house of Alabama and the men who make laws and say farewell in brotherly kindness before I go to the far west, where my people are now going. In time gone by I have thought that the white men wanted to bring burden and ache of heart among my people in driving them from their homes and yoking them with laws they do not understand. But I have now become satisfied that they are not unfriendly toward us, but that they wish us well.”

Archival Pigment Print
Image: 2021 / Printed: 2022
21 x 24.5 inches
Edition of 10
Signed, dated, and numbered on verso



Sumter County, Ala.
In 1978, a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc. purchased a landfill permit for a 300-acre tract of land just north of York, Ala. in a community where 90% of residents are Black. Since then, the company has expanded the site to 2,700 acres, creating the largest hazardous waste landfill in the United States directly over the Eutaw Aquifer, which supplies water to a large part of Alabama. Nearly 40% of the toxic waste disposed of nationwide between 1984-87 under the federal Superfund removal program ended up at the landfill. One of its original owners, James Parsons, is the son-in-law of former governor George Wallace. The political connections enabled the company to obtain the necessary permits from the Health Department to operate the dump.

Archival Pigment Print
Image: 2021 / Printed: 2022
21 x 24.5 inches
Edition of 10
Signed, dated, and numbered on verso



Evergreen, Conecuh County, Ala. Antoine.

Archival Pigment Print
Image: 2021 / Printed: 2022
15 x 17.5 inches
Edition of 1o
Signed, dated, and numbered on verso



Jacksonville, Calhoun County, Ala. Taxidermy tableaux.

Archival Pigment Print
Image: 2020 / Printed: 2022
15 x 17.5 inches
Edition of 10
Signed, dated, and numbered on verso



Irondale, Jefferson County, Ala. Blake.

Archival Pigment Print
Image: 2020 / Printed: 2022
21 x 24.5 inches
Edition of 10
Signed, dated, and numbered on verso



Fort Deposit, Lowndes County, Ala. Ben.

Archival Pigment Print
Image: 2021 / Printed: 2022
7.75 x 9 inches
Edition of 10
Signed, dated, and numbered on verso



Black Oak, DeKalb Co., Ala. Along the Trail of Tears.  

Archival Pigment Print
Image: 2021 / Printed: 2022
24.5 x 21 inches, or printed as 60 x 70 inch photo-tex mural
Edition of 10
Signed, dated, and numbered on verso



Gadsden, Etowah County, Ala. Locust Street bridge, site of the lynching of Bunk Richardson.
In July 1905, four Black men––Jack Hunter, Vance Garner, Will Johnson, and Bunk Richardson––were arrested for the murder of a white woman in Gadsden. Although Richardson was innocent, a mob forced its way into the Etowah County jail where he was being held, beat him, and lynched him from the train trestle over the Coosa River. No one was ever held accountable for the lynching.

Archival Pigment Print
Image: 2020 / Printed: 2022
21 x 24.5 inches
Edition of 10
Signed, dated, and numbered on verso



Near Stewart, Hale County, Ala. Christenberry Home Place.

Archival Pigment Print
Image: 2021 / Printed: 2022
21 x 24.5 inches
Edition of 10
Signed, dated, and numbered on verso



Mobile River, Ala. Site of the submerged wreck of the Clotilda, the last known U.S. slave ship to bring captives from Africa to the United States. 2022.
Between 1855-1856 wealthy Mobile shipyard owner Timothy Meaher built the Clotilda, an 86 foot-long two-masted schooner originally designed for the lumber trade. While the 1807 Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves had been law for more than 50 years, Meaher made a wager that he could successfully smuggle enslaved people into the US using the ship. Captained by William Foster, the Clotilda made its way to West Africa in spring of 1860, and on on May 15, 125 prisoners of the King of Dahomey (now Benin) were purchased at the port of Whydah. One hundred ten people were boarded onto the vessel, where they were chained together in a cramped cargo hold for the 45-day voyage. They were allowed on deck only once a week. By early July, the Clotilda arrived in Mobile Bay, where it was towed under the cover of night up the Spanish River to Twelve Mile Island. The captives were then transferred to a steamboat and Foster burned the Clotilda before scuttling it in a ship graveyard along the river’s edge, just yards offshore from Meaher’s property. The trafficked people were mostly distributed to the financial backers of the Clotilda venture, with Timothy Meaher retaining 30 captives on his property north of Mobile. Meaher regularly bragged about his crime, and the ship’s arrival was an open secret in Mobile. In 1861, the federal government prosecuted Meaher and Foster for illegal slave importation, but the case was dismissed for lack of evidence from the ship or its manifest. Following emancipation, many of the formerly enslaved people returned to land owned by Meaher on the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, just a short distance away from the Clotilda resting place. There they founded the independent community of Africatown and maintained use of the Yoruba language and cultural traditions into the 1950s. The town thrived for decades but declined after the closure of several major local industries and development of interstate overpasses and bridges which physically divided the neighborhood. Today, some 100 descendants of the survivors of the Clotilda still live in Africatown, where the community has sought recognition of their historic town sight while fighting significant ecological and economic hurdles.

Archival Pigment Print
Image: 2022 / Printed: 2022
21 x 24.5 inches, or printed as 30 x 35 inch photo-tex mural
Edition of 10
Signed, dated, and numbered on verso

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Thank you.