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The Visual South, Part II: Photography Is Like Chicken

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The current issue of Oxford American magazine, known as "the Southern magazine of good writing," is nicknamed the "Visual South Issue." In its 100 under 100 list, the magazine identifies "the most talented and thrilling up-and-coming artists in the South." This week, we'll take a look at five of the photographers on that list.

Frank Hamrick controls the means of production: He shoots film. He develops it. He makes his own paper and prints. He works in series, and literally sews it all together in limited edition books. All by hand. There's an intense thoughtfulness, deliberateness and slowness to his work that you just don't see too often these days.

"Letter Never Sent" is Hamrick's most recent hand-bound series. "The viewer has an intimate relationship with the book by holding it, feeling its textures and turning its pages, instead of just standing across the room staring at it," he says. i i

"Letter Never Sent" is Hamrick's most recent hand-bound series. "The viewer has an intimate relationship with the book by holding it, feeling its textures and turning its pages, instead of just standing across the room staring at it," he says. Frank Hamrick hide caption

itoggle caption Frank Hamrick
"Letter Never Sent" is Hamrick's most recent hand-bound series. "The viewer has an intimate relationship with the book by holding it, feeling its textures and turning its pages, instead of just standing across the room staring at it," he says.

"Letter Never Sent" is Hamrick's most recent hand-bound series. "The viewer has an intimate relationship with the book by holding it, feeling its textures and turning its pages, instead of just standing across the room staring at it," he says.

Frank Hamrick

I mean, in response to a few casual questions, he sent me a four-page meditation. And I read every word of it.

"Chicken is chicken," he says, "but we all realize its taste will be affected by whether we fry it, broil it, bake it, grill it or microwave it."

Like most photographers, Hamrick has digital cameras — even an iPhone. But the chicken analogy is one way to explain why he mostly uses a large, clunky camera. Perhaps the equivalent of a long marinade and slow roast. (Not necessarily better than a quick fry, but certainly more complex.)

Hamrick was born and raised in Georgia, and is now an assistant professor at Louisiana Tech University. He has spent most of his life in the south, with brief interludes in New Mexico, where he received his M.F.A., and in Italy, where he taught a course. His photos are often about his immediate surroundings: family, friends, home, his garden.

  • Hand-Me-Down Ruby Slippers: Hamrick's "Letter Never Sent" series is a short, abstract story of nine images bound in a handmade book.
    Hide caption
    Hand-Me-Down Ruby Slippers: Hamrick's "Letter Never Sent" series is a short, abstract story of nine images bound in a handmade book.
    Frank Hamrick, from the series "Letter Never Sent"
  • Bird Skull: "Some of the photographs in this book were made in Georgia and Louisiana," Hamrick says. But most were made in Florida, where he helped a friend develop film that her father had used but never processed.
    Hide caption
    Bird Skull: "Some of the photographs in this book were made in Georgia and Louisiana," Hamrick says. But most were made in Florida, where he helped a friend develop film that her father had used but never processed.
    Frank Hamrick, from the series "Letter Never Sent"
  • Snake No. 7: "For a while, there was always a snake sunning on the dock steps at my grandmother's house," he says. "This image was made on Thanksgiving Day.
    Hide caption
    Snake No. 7: "For a while, there was always a snake sunning on the dock steps at my grandmother's house," he says. "This image was made on Thanksgiving Day.
    Frank Hamrick, from the series "Letter Never Sent"
  • Fox Bones: The title of the series, Hamrick explains, is derived from a conversation — in which he and his friend "both realized we had letters we had written but never mailed — and in general the title alludes to all things started but never completed."
    Hide caption
    Fox Bones: The title of the series, Hamrick explains, is derived from a conversation — in which he and his friend "both realized we had letters we had written but never mailed — and in general the title alludes to all things started but never completed."
    Frank Hamrick, from the series "Letter Never Sent"
  • Raccoon Eating Watermelon: "It is good if a photograph can tell me a story, but not the whole story, similar to the way a person tells a joke or a mystery."
    Hide caption
    Raccoon Eating Watermelon: "It is good if a photograph can tell me a story, but not the whole story, similar to the way a person tells a joke or a mystery."
    Frank Hamrick, from the series "Letter Never Sent"
  • Charlotte's Chair: "Images like this one are open to interpretation," Hamrick says.
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    Charlotte's Chair: "Images like this one are open to interpretation," Hamrick says.
    Frank Hamrick, from the series "Letter Never Sent"
  • From The Water
    Hide caption
    From The Water
    Frank Hamrick, from the series "Letter Never Sent"
  • Hair
    Frank Hamrick, from the series "Letter Never Sent"
  • Haircut: "I like using personal events to make photographs that viewers can relate to."
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    Haircut: "I like using personal events to make photographs that viewers can relate to."
    Frank Hamrick, from the series "Letter Never Sent"

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"Leaving the South for a while to live in different places helped me better understand who I am as a person and what it means to be from the South," he says.

"Although," he continues, "I am not sure what being labeled a 'Southern artist' tells anyone, other than the fact that I am from and live in the South. [It] can generate more questions than answers."

Clothesline, from Hamrick's series "Hideaway" — which is the name his father gave to their Georgia home.

Clothesline, from Hamrick's series "Hideaway" — which is the name his father gave to their Georgia home. Frank Hamrick hide caption

itoggle caption Frank Hamrick
Mawmaw's Hands (left) and Copeland's Loose Tooth from the series "Hideaway." i i

Mawmaw's Hands (left) and Copeland's Loose Tooth from the series "Hideaway." Frank Hamrick hide caption

itoggle caption Frank Hamrick
Mawmaw's Hands (left) and Copeland's Loose Tooth from the series "Hideaway."

Mawmaw's Hands (left) and Copeland's Loose Tooth from the series "Hideaway."

Frank Hamrick

But he's clearly OK with ambiguity. I mean, look at the photos. What do you get out of them?

"My photographs are not necessarily created to illustrate or provide answers," Hamrick says.

"If anything, I would like for my images to generate more questions. I do not see them as endpoints, but rather starting places where I give viewers ideas to ponder and allow room for their imagination to create the rest of the story."

Hamrick was nominated for the the magazine's list by Jim Sherraden of the famous Nashville letterpress studio Hatch Show Print — where Hamrick spent a few weeks in 2007. That's another thing Hamrick does: his own letterpress printing. That's the gravy on the chicken.

See more on his website.

(See Part I: Unseen Scenes Of Guantanamo)

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