Jo A Baldwin, PhD is pastor of the AME Church in Kosciusko, Miss. (By Betty Press)

Photojournalist’s works on display at JCJC

Gallery talk on Mississippi-centered photos set for Tuesday on campus

By Teresa McCreery

JCJC Media Relations

A unique depiction of Mississippi’s unusually named towns and festivals are captured by the former African photojournalist Betty Press and are now on display through October at Jones County Junior College’s Eula Bass Lewis art gallery.

Betty Pres

Her distinctive perspective is revealed through black-and-white photography in an exhibit titled, “Finding Mississippi.” The public is invited to view her show and can meet her during the “Gallery Talk” on Tuesday at 1 p.m. Both events are free at the JCJC art gallery.

After traveling the world with her husband and as a photojournalist, Press made Hattiesburg her home. Realizing she has a unique perspective on the South, she documented the Southern black-and-white experience through her work. In her exhibit, “Finding Mississippi,” the trained photographer takes an unusual approach to her photography by using vintage cameras and black-and-white film. She also drifts away from her belief, “photographs should be perfectly sharp, in focus and well exposed.”

“Having experienced more of life, this seems less important … I choose black-and-white film to use with plastic and old cameras such as the Holga, twin lens reflex and later a vintage Hasselblad, to capture evidence of the past with cameras used in the past.  The resulting imperfections and soft focus serve as metaphors for how landscape, race and religion have played a part in the complicated history of Mississippi and still affect lives today,” said Press.

She also explained the process documenting the Southern black-and-white experience as being “so intertwined, it keeps the South a unique region in our country.” Her biography further explains her approach in creating this exhibit as sharing her exploration and personal journey through life via photography as a way to help her better understand the past and present. Press said she hopes the images will reveal more of Mississippi in time.

Some of her honors include having her photos of Mississippi added to the collections of the Mississippi Museum of Art and The Do Good Fund (Southern Photography Initiative). In 2012, the Mississippi Institute of Arts & Letters selected her work for a statewide award in photography. Furthermore, the photojournalist has also published an award-winning photobook about the African people and culture titled “I Am Because We Are: African Wisdom in Image and Proverb.” Additionally, Press is represented by Panos Pictures, London; International Visions, Washington, D.C.; Fischer Galleries, Jackson; Oddfellows Gallery, Hattiesburg; and One Off Contemporary Art Gallery, Nairobi, Kenya.

For more information about the JCJC art show or to arrange a visit to the gallery, contact the gallery office at 601-477-4148. The Eula Bass Lewis Art Gallery is open Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., and Friday from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.

The gallery is closed for lunch daily from 11:30 until noon. For more information about the JCJC Fine Arts Department, see the JCJC Fine Arts Facebook page at JCJCFineArts.