Gillian Laub: Southern Rites, Benrubi Gallery, New York

Award-winning photographer Gillian Laub, one of today’s most daring practitioners, previously exhibited at Benrubi with Common Ground, exploring the relationship between Israeli Jews, Arabs and Palestinians; this next exhibition again looks at racial tensions that have existed for generations.

A poignant, sensitive exhibition, Southern Rites takes visitors to Mt. Vernon, Georgia, a still-segregated community – with even celebrations such as proms and homecomings divided by race. In fact, in 2009 it was Laub’s photojournalism that led to national outrage and therefore the community to integrate the proms.

Laub has then continued to follow the turbulent aftermath of these changes, which have sometimes been welcomed and at others – namely the murder of a young black man by an elderly white town resident – rejected. Laub’s works include intimate portraits, first-hand recollections and video installations, detailing the community’s complex histories, conflicting views and intertwining narratives.

Her works remain studies of individuals, depicting their courage in times of suffering and eventual redemption in a town caught between eras; asking whether the next generation can finally free their community from its outdated and discriminatory values.

The exhibition coincides with the world premiere of Southern Rites, a documentary directed by Laub and executive produced by musician John Legend, which will be broadcast on HBO.

Gillian Laub: Southern Rites, until 27 June, Benrubi, 2, 521 W 26th St, New York, NY 10001.

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1. Gillian Laub, Amber and Reggie, 2011. Archival pigment ink prints. Courtesy of Benrubi.