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You're Not from Around Here: Photographs of East Tennessee by Mike Smith

Mike Smith

2004

Center for American Places & Columbia College, 2004. With an introduction by Robert Sobieszek.

In trying to gain entry to the interior, private world of Southern Appalachia virtually forgotten by the rest of America, photographer Mike Smith would often hear, upon knocking at a door, "You're not from around here." Despite his "outsider" status, Smith, through these beautiful photographs, allows a rare and intimate glimpse of this unique region of America.


With You're Not From Around Here, Smith joins the ranks of those renowned artists who chronicled the American South, including Walker Evans, William Eggleston, William Christenberry, and Eudora Welty, investigating the Southern landscape and unraveling its complexities. Arriving in East Tennessee in 1981 to teach, Smith has spent the past twenty-three years exploring the delicate nuances of life and land that define Southern Appalachia.

Following in the footsteps of its photographic forebears, You're Not From Around Here injects a new voice into the canon that is direct, complex, and mature. Smith found his subjects interspersed throughout his surroundings--the houses, barns, pastures, and fences of the old family farms, and the folks who inhabited them--and then eased his way past the initial barrier of unfamiliarity to create a unique visual study of a vanishing piece of American geography and culture. Smith's enduring images evoke a wide range of powerful emotions, from humor to grief, and reveal the reality behind the stereotypes of rural Southern life.

 

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