A reception in the International Arts Center formally opened an exhibit focusing on the people and landscapes of Alabama’s Black Belt.
“Promise of Living/The Tender Land” is a collection of photographs by Jerry Siegel that spans two decades of art that depicts life and landscapes of the Black Belt regions of the South.
Siegel is a Selma native who has lived in the area for most of his life. Even though he currently resides in Atlanta, he always tells people that Selma is his home.
“There is really not an inspiration,” Siegel said regarding his photos. “It’s just a love of taking photos and spending time in the Black Belt where I grew up.”
Some might say that his work is empowering while others say his work is thought-provoking. Others who attended the reception noticed a whimsical nature that was exclusively southern.
“I think it’s the quirkiness and the reality that it portrays,” reception attendee Janice Prescott said. “Right now, I’m looking at a row of mailboxes, there’s about 12 of them, and who lives where there are 12 rural mailboxes?”
No matter what your point of view is, Siegel intentionally left it up to the viewers for interpretation.
“I don’t really put titles on my images because I want people to respond to them in their own way,” Siegel said. “I give them very descriptive titles because I don’t want my feelings about an image to influence somebody’s (interpretation).”
The exhibit is made up of two parts to make a whole. The Promise of Living is referring to the people from the South while the Tender Land is referring to the landscape.
“I think I’m sort of an introvert in a lot of respects,” Siegel said. “But when I get around people, I start talking to them.”
“I find out who they are and just connect them. I drive out in Perry County, and I see the cotton and it reminds me of certain memories from my childhood.”
Siegel’s work can be interpreted as a love letter to where he grew up or a window that shows you that even the most mundane parts of life are beautiful. His work will be on display until April 2.