“Thinking about the Truesdells” — a photo-narrative by Charles Ingham

July 1st, 2019

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“Thinking about the Truesdells” .2018

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From the series Pastoral Scenes of the Gallant South
Archival inkjet print, 4½ x 6½ inches, framed to 14 x 14 inches

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“Thinking about the Truesdells,” comes from a seven-work series entitled Pastoral Scenes from the Gallant South (from Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”).

Harriet and Thomas Truesdell were abolitionists and conductors on the Underground Railroad, using tunnels beneath their house at 227 Duffield Street in downtown Brooklyn. Most recently the home of community organizer and activist Joy Chantel (until her death in 2014), the modest two-story house still stands, albeit recently abandoned and surrounded by the development of high-rise luxury hotels and condominiums, the subject of a continuing struggle between preservationists and the city.

Other subjects in this series, all of which will be published on Jerry Jazz Musician, include the legendary blues artist Robert Johnson (click here to view), the educator and investigative journalist Ida B. Wells (click here to view) the Memphis photographer and preacher L. O. Taylor, Homer Plessy, (click here to view) and Booker T. Washington. The artist also takes the series “up South” to Brooklyn, focusing on the Truesdells (as featured in this post), husband-and-wife conductors on the Underground Railroad in New York, and the contemporary African-American photographer Nona Faustine.  He also pays homage to Charlie Parker’s New York in “Thinking About Charlie Parker” (click here to view).

The series comes out of a road trip through the South that the artist took in 2018. The pieces can be interpreted as a form of self-portrait, of the artist paying homage in his own way to an individual, and of the place which that person occupied and continues to occupy. This is the South that the photographer Sally Mann describes as “a place extravagant in its beauty, reckless in its fecundity, terrible in its indifference, and dark with memories.”

Ingham’s photo-narratives explore invented spaces, alternative histories, and visual fictions, sometimes incorporating altered, appropriated images. In some pieces, images alone form a narrative; a horizontal row of five to seven photographs creates a “cinematic” form. In others, words and images create a dynamic interplay, and in the fotonovela series, the photographs move closer to a traditional illustrative function for the text. None of these interchanges between image and text are straightforward, however. Placing verbal and visual elements together immediately creates a tension for the viewer that they want to find/interpret in order to “explain” the narrative of the piece; thus, the artist expects viewers to find a unique narrative of their own in the work.
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“Thinking About Robert Johnson”

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“Thinking About Ida B. Wells”

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“Thinking About Homer Plessy”

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Click here to view “Thinking About Charlie Parker”

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Click here to view “Me, Thinking About Rev. L.O. Taylor”

 

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photo by Jacqueline Ramirez

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Born and educated in England, Charles Ingham moved to California in 1982. He has always been interested in hybrid forms and the intersection of literature and the visual arts, his photography often seeking to transgress the traditional boundaries separating the verbal and the visual.

Ingham lives in San Diego and shows his work at Distinction Gallery in Escondido. His work may also be found at his website: charlesingham.com

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