I would drive down a road, see a house, stop my car and hope that someone would open their door. I hadn’t planned what I would say. I began by explaining that I was teaching photography in the local elementary school, that I came from the North, and would like to take their photo. I didn’t really know why.
Corine McClary, Kingstree, South Carolina, 1974
As my work has evolved, it’s rarely been focused on portraits. Portraits usually aren’t an expression of a sustained relationship. I often find them to be awkward and tense encounters.
Ben Gibbs, South Carolina, 1974
Mary Childress. South Carolina, 1974
These photographs come from a time when tenderness was still possible. We could see each other, if only for a moment. Each exchange led me to make a picture and when I returned home I sent every family a print in the form of an enlarged postcard. That process was most important to me.
Kids and house. Salters, South Carolina, 1974
Twins. Vossburg, Mississippi, 1974
They had welcomed me to trespass. The postcard was simply a gesture to acknowledge that crossing we shared. I wonder now how their lives have evolved. Looking back at myself as a young white woman making this work leads me to rethink my own connection to the history of the South, which I knew so little about then.
Myra Tate, age 13, Greeneville, South Carolina, 1974
Now, from a distance of more than 40 years, there are so many more questions that I wish I had asked, but maybe didn’t feel that I could.
- Susan Meiselas, May 2018
Chunky. Mississippi, 1974