Elliott Hall at Tennessee State University through July 24
WORDS Megan Kelley
Documenting Nashville Streets pulls together images from four Nashville-based photographers. Carlton Wilkinson, Duan Davis, Keep3, and LeXander Bryant handpick images from their personal perspectives documenting the faces of Nashville.
Commonly, the photographers play the line between life and lifestyle, each navigating concepts of social image and personal identity. Bryant’s photography puts the everyday subject into bold presentations that evoke magazine covers and double-page spreads, while still capturing unconcealed smiles and unprotected expressions. This honesty is key to the image.
“You see their vibe and you make it larger than life,” Duan Davis notes. Whether taking advantage of natural light filtered through alley windows or pausing powerful moments in black and white, Davis’s work is versatile and unflinching, using his encyclopedic knowledge of Nashville to ground his subjects in spaces that allow their inner selves to speak. “In this world of images, so much of a photograph’s power can get washed out. You have to tap into how they see and use that to show them who they are.” He attributes his success to his ability to see through to the subject’s core, away from the mask. “Achieving vibe is about taking away all the filters. It’s about making [your subject] natural through finding the vulnerable moments.”
“When you are behind the camera, it allows you to observe life even more fully, to gain insight,” explains Keep3, whose work blends lifestyle framing straight from Nashville’s glossy rise to “It City” with a more candid, personal approach that centers in the side streets of its everyday life. “In the streets you see people express themselves. It’s a raw, unfiltered place that shows who they are, in the moment—no fear, no posturing, just expressions.” He describes the candid documentary work as existing at the borders: “Streets form crossings of right and wrong in society. They are where people go to protest, to stand back, to stand out, to just be. If you just pay attention, you will meet everyone at the intersection.”
Wilkinson, a noted photographer with over twenty-five years behind the lens, agrees. “It’s about being present for the scene.” Though technical approaches and compositional structures guide his eye, Wilkinson’s images capture painterly approaches to light, letting the medium of camera be articulated as he documents the relationship of the figures to their environments. “You allow yourself—and your subjects—to enjoy the aesthetic, the creative expression of people coming to enjoy the street life.” He describes it as seeing history as it happens.
“We exist to pay attention to the reasons these things happen,” Keep3 states. Together, the four photographers preserve these moments, uncovering their catalysts. “I use my camera to bring these reasons forth.”
Documenting Nashville Streets is on view through July 24 at the Hiram van Gordon Memorial Gallery, located within Elliott Hall at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, with an opening reception June 8 from 4 to 6 p.m. For more information, contact Courtney Adair Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.