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“It is still said around here that the house is haunted.
At the house there lived seven women, all maiden sisters.
One of them was a witch.
On full moon nights, the ladies in their white garments would fly from the balcony to the leafy branches of the chestnut across the street. From there they would seduce men who passed by.
In the House of the Seven Women, chatting, getting to know what it was like before me, listening and imagining, was as important as the act of photographing.
I started by doing some portraits of people. They interested me because they have always lived here and are attached to land just like trees. They speak about time, about their memories; their losses … many of them already dress in black.
This series gives an account of a persistent return to the same place, so as to scrutinize its differences (the slow deactivation of agricultural practices, the gradual transformation of the territory, aging…), in spite of listening to the same owl, to the same fox, to the same stories.
Same as in legend, perhaps the magic and appalling features, this cyclical experience, were my greatest wound: night, fumes, corpses, moon, ruin, sounds.
A place of affections, after all I was also born here.”
In the Beira-Alta region of Portugal, where Tito Mouraz was born and brought up, there is a house that is said to be haunted by the ghosts of seven women, all maiden sisters. One of them was a witch. On nights of the full moon, the women, in their white gowns, would fly from their balcony over to the leafy branches of the chestnut across the street. From there they would seduce men who passed by.
One cannot help but imagine these women with their siren songs, their efforts to lure men toward the house, all in an effort to do what? Do them harm? Enchant them? Seduce them? Regardless, Mouraz’s surreal, dreamlike images take us to a world of mystery and visual metaphors for the world that surrounded him in his youth, and are re-explored in his repeated trips to photograph the same area and people.
Mouraz explores the myth of this place through raw, moody black and white images that capture the sense of the night, the fumes, the moon, the sounds of the trees. It is an environment where the past resonates deeply and within which the people portrayed seem attached, like trees, to the land in which they they live. Beira-Alta shaped Mouraz as a child and through his persistent return he searches out the slow changes of time through the gradual aging and transformation of a landscape.
Tito Mouraz is a gallery represented photographer in Portugal and France. He has exhibited internationally in Europe and has work in a number of public and private collections. To view more work by Tito Mouraz, visit his website at http://titomouraz.com/
Mark Speltz presents an overview of the civil rights era of the latter 20th century through photographs and contextual history of the socio-political environment of the United States He has utilized historical photographs from the J.Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. For this powerful and compelling volume, Speltz carefully selected one hundred photographs, some never-before-seen or published, taken between 1938 and 1975 in more than twenty-five cities in the Northeast, Midwest and Western United States by photojournalists, artists, and activists that include Bob Adelman, Ruth-Marion Baruch, Charles Brittin, Diana Davies, Jack Delano, Leonard Freed, Don Hogan Charles, Gordon Parks, Art Shay, Morgan and Marvin Smith, and Maria Varela.
There are thoughtful and informed writings at the beginning of the book by Timothy Potts, Director at The J. Paul Getty Museum, and in the preface by Deborah Willis, the chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Speltz’s curated collection of photographs offer a broader and more complex view of the American civil rights movement than is usually presented by the media. Hand-in hand with iconic and lesser known images of the Civil Rights movement of the mid-twentieth century, Speltz presents passages of text to frame and inform the reader of the socio-political environment at the time. It surprises me that so many people born in the late 20th century to early 21st century are unaware of the history that directly affected the two generations before them. Without hitting you over the head or preaching to the reader about the history of the civil rights movement and the current environment of race relations in the United States, North of Dixie pulls from a great archive of historic photography and combines it with pertinent text to inform the reader. The end result is a cross between your favorite textbook, the one you’ve kept all these years, and a photo book you page through to soak up great photography.
In the book’s epilogue, Speltz connects earlier photographs of the civil rights movement with the cell phone imagery that documents the black struggle of today. He writes:
“Their recurring themes should remind us that racism and concerted efforts to roll back hard-won civil rights gains persist. The ongoing and constantly evolving struggle against police brutality and militarism, entrenched poverty, institutionalized racism, and everyday micro aggressions suggests that photographs will continue to play a crucial role in documenting the struggle and advancing the much-needed dialogue around it.”
A poignant comparison is presented in the introduction by placing two images on the same page; a photograph of a protester in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 is paired with a photo of a boy in Newark, New Jersey in 1967 (not shown here). There is 47 years difference between those images, two different centuries apart, and yet very little, if no, change in the way people of color are being discriminated against but still show strength and courage in the face of moments of chaos and flared emotions.
There is a passage from 1961 by James Baldwin in the preface that addresses the theme of “what kind of country” would a first “Negro” president be president of? This idea weighed on me throughout reading and looking at this book. But North of Dixie does a wonderful job of presenting images and background information that perhaps many readers did not already know. Powerful historic images of fire hoses and german shepherds in Alabama, and lunch counter sit-ins by the freedom riders are some of the best known photographs in the world, period. Those iconic images were also on my mind as I looked at the photographs in this book. But the overall feeling I got from North of Dixie is a combination of disappointment mixed with hope. A black man has served as a two-term president. People of color have held some of the highest offices in the government – yet the nation has not seen many issues of race and inequality disappear in the everyday lives of many Americans.
Yet there is hope. It is my personal hope that people of different races, color or creed will see there is far more to be gained in life by working together and accepting each other for who we are. North of Dixie brings to light numerous lesser-known images and illuminates the story of the civil rights movement in the American North and West. The book reveals the power of photography to preserve historical memory, impact social consciousness, and stimulate critical dialogue among everyone interested in social justice, human rights, American history, the African American civil rights movement, Black studies, and photojournalism. And hopefully, by better understanding the failures of our past we can avoid the pitfalls of repeating it. North of Dixie certainly goes a long way to guide the way.
Mark Speltz is an author and historian who writes about civil rights photography, vernacular architecture, and Wisconsin culture and history. He is currently a senior historian at American Girl in Madison, Wisconsin.
Deborah Willis is chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She has been the recipient of Guggenheim, Fletcher, and MacArthur fellowships and was named one of the “100 Most Important People in Photography” by American Photography magazine.
North of Dixie: Civil Rights Photography Beyond the South
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-60606-505-1 160 pages 8 3/4 x 9 3/4 inches 100 b&w illustrations $35.00 US | £20 | €33 Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum
Photo credit (top): CHARLES BRITTIN, NEAR LOS ANGELES, CA, 1963. Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute. Activists picketing at a demonstration for housing equality while uniformed American Nazi Party members counterprotest in the background with signs displaying anti-integration slogans and racist epithets.
This is an edited version of the review published in F-Stop Magazine, December, 2016