CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 9/22/2022
On view now at Howard Greenberg Gallery, 'Baldwin Lee' is a revelation
"Charleston, South Carolina" (1984) is reproduced from Baldwin Lee. Edited by photographer-publisher Barney Kulok of Hunters Point Press, this gorgeous monograph collects 88 black-and-white images from Lee's archive of more than 10,000 negatives, all made between 1983 and 1989, when Lee, a first-generation Chinese-American, began traveling through the South with his 4x5 camera in hand. In an interview with Jessica Bell Brown, Lee says, "A lot of the interior photographs show what it is that everybody surrounds themselves with, regardless of their economic circumstances. When Walker Evans photographed inside a sharecropper’s home, one of his favorite places to photograph was the living room. On the mantle there would always be certain personal objects, and above the mantle there would always be an image—and likely the image was a calendar. When I taught, I would always compare one of those sharecropper interiors with a photograph that Evans made in his friend Muriel Draper’s apartment in New York City. It was the aftermath of a party, and in the foreground was a table with white tablecloths and a million abandoned glasses and empty bottles; behind the table was a carved marble fireplace and there was a felt hat on the mantle and then above, where a picture would have been hung, there was a dead skull of a deer or a cow, or something. This was an artsy person who could afford to have original artwork on her wall, but because she was a bohemian, she decided to put this up as a statement to her otherwise well-to-do friends. My point is that regardless of what your station in life is, no matter what you have as money, the notion of what you pick for that place where you spend the most amount of time, that gives you the most comfort, security, and peace—everybody does the same thing, except if you are poor, you have what you can afford. It’s not about the difference between rich and poor, it’s really about the similarity, that for whatever reason we all want to surround ourselves with something whose symbolic significance allows us to feel that it is home."