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Sunday, September 8, 2013

"BluesLand" photography exhibit to run through Bridging the Blues at the Delta State University Archives and Museum

Club Ebony, Indianola, Mississippi, 2009 by Easton Selby

Last week the Delta State University Archives & Museum in Cleveland, Mississippi, opened its first exhibit of the fall, titled "BluesLand" and featuring the photographs of Delta State University alumna Easton Selby, who gave a talk about his work. The exhibit runs through Nov. 8 and is free and open to the public. The Archives & Museum is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m-5 p.m. and on weekends by appointment. For more information on the University Archives and Museum, contact archives@deltastate.edu or 662-846-4780. Selby will return to campus later in the semester to present a follow-up program and the public is invited to attend.

The selected images are a portion of a larger body of work entitled "Photographic Interpretations: The Culture & Geography of the Delta Blues," a collaborative documentary between Selby, photographers Armon Mean and Josh Vincent and historian Dr. John Strait of Sam Houston State University. This collaboration examines the forgotten aspects of the blues—the people and the landscape that inspired the music. Selby's website is here.

Over a span of three years, Selby visited not only the Mississippi Delta but also the deltas of Arkansas and Louisiana. Always seeking to know “why” and trying to answer that question through the images he shoots, Easton developed this exhibit to explore the land and the culture that is the Mississippi Delta and that which gave forth many of our Delta Blues artists. Questions he examined included: Why was the Mississippi Delta ground zero for so many artists? What role does the geography of this land play in history of blues music evolution? And, finally, why did it take this native Mississippian so long to see this aspect of our state’s history?

As Selby himself says, "If you know a name, if you know a song, then how can a person truly understand, at the core, something that's as gut wrenching as the Mississippi Delta blues without living the life of a person from the land of the blues?"

During the gallery talk, Selby interacted with the guests, answered questions and introduced Vincent, who works at Mississippi Delta Community College. A special addition to the evening's event was Strait and his class from Sam Houston State University. The students were eager to learn from Selby's experiences and share their own. Strait's teaching encourages his students to learn from the environment, which results in his classes making trips to the Delta.

Go here to learn more about John Strait’s work, which influenced Easton Selby’s photography.

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