272 pp., 10.25 x 10.25, 201 duotones
Documentary Arts and Culture, Published in association with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
Paul Kwilecki and Four Decades of Photographs from Decatur County, Georgia
Though artistic and ambitious, Paul Kwilecki (1928-2009) chose to remain in Bainbridge, Georgia, the small Decatur County town where he was born, raised, and ran the family's hardware store. He had always been interested in photography and taught himself how to use a camera. Over four decades, he documented life in his community, making hundreds of masterful and intimate black-and-white prints.
Kwilecki developed his visual ideas in series of photographs of high school proms, prison hog killings, shade-tree tobacco farming, factory work, church life, the courthouse. He also wrote eloquently about the people and places he so poignantly depicted, and in this book his unique knowledge is powerfully articulated in more than 200 photographs and selected prose.
Paul Kwilecki worked alone, his correspondence with important photographers his only link to the larger art world. Despite this isolation, Kwilecki's work became widely known. "Decatur County is home," he said, "and I know it from my special warp, having been both nourished and wounded by it."
“This impressive career-spanning collection of over 200 black-and-white photos . . . includes generous excerpts from Kwilecki’s thoughtful writing. . . . He gives dignity and grace to the predominantly working-class community.”
"One of the best and most important books to come from the South, ever."
--Clyde Edgerton, Garden & Gun
"Remarkable. . . . [Kwilecki's] extraordinary gifts are given an overdue viewing here. . . . Containing abundant memorable images by what can justifiably be called an undiscovered master, interspersed with his own eloquent writing, this is an irresistible book. Kwilecki was a picture maker who compelled his viewers to know whom he knew, and succeeded at it. A gift to all lovers of great photography, this book deserves a place in most if not all collections."
--Library Journal starred review
"I rearrange sacred furniture. Because my brain, not my camera, is my instrument, beauty isn't enough. I'm looking at subject, not at the surface of the print, though I'm grateful when the surface turns out to be beautiful."
"As full of riches as Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, Kwilecki's sustained portrayal of Decatur County is an American classic."
--Alec Soth, photographer and author of From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America
"A masterful visual drama of life in the South. Gesture is critical to Kwilecki's eye, revealing his love for humanity."
--Deborah Willis, author of Posing Beauty and Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers
© 2012 The University of North Carolina Press
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