Southern Rites
Project info

Southern Rites is an original and provocative twelve-year visual study of one community’s struggle to confront longstanding issues of race and equality. In May 2009, The New York Times Magazine published a photo-essay by Gillian Laub entitled, “A Prom Divided,” which documented Georgia’s Montgomery County High School’s racially segregated homecoming and prom rituals. Laub’s photographs ignited a firestorm of national outrage and led the community to finally integrate. One year later, there was newfound hope—a historic campaign to elect the county’s first African American sheriff, yet the murder of a young black man—portrayed in Laub’s earlier prom series—by a white town patriarch, reopened old wounds. Through her intimate portraits and first-hand testimony, Laub reveals in vivid color the horror and humanity of these complex, intertwined narratives. The photographer’s inimitable sensibility—it is the essence and emotional truth of the singular person in front of her lens that matters most—ensures that, however elevated the ideas and themes may be, her pictures remain studies of individuals; a chronicle of their courage in the face of injustice, of their suffering and redemption, possessing an unsettling power.