The heart of Dixie: Photographs from the Deep South capture the spirit of culture torn between pride and shame
Photographer Tamara Reynolds was born and bred in the Deep South, but has always been conflicted about coming from that part of the country so rich in painful contradictions.
In 2011, she set out on a journey of self-discovery to explore her ambivalent feelings toward Dixie, resulting in the Southern Route photo project.
A lifelong resident of Tennessee, Reynolds, 53, has spent the past two years exploring back roads and small towns throughout Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and her own home state.
Reynolds sought to capture the everyday struggles, joy and pain of people who call South their home, while offering an unflinching look at vestiges of segregation, disenfranchisement and inequity.
'In so doing, I found I could appreciate my home despite its failings,' Reynolds wrote in her artist statement.
The photographer's striking images do not shy away from the deep divisions that still exist in the Southern culture - a confusing mix of regional pride and shame.
The pictures in Southern Route are slices of life featuring blacks and whites, poverty-stricken towns, stark rural landscapes and visual representations of stubborn Southern pride, like the Confederate flag boldly displayed in Danton, Georgia.
One of Reynolds’ stated goals in launching the project has been to fight back against offensive stereotypes of Southern as hillbillies, racists and religious fanatics, which have long been perpetuated in films, books and the media.
'Although there is evidence of it, I have also learned that there is a restrained dignity, a generous affection, a trusting nature, and a loyalty to family that Southerners possess intrinsically,' she wrote.
Portrait of Dixie: Photographer Tamara Reynolds set out on a journey to explore her complex feelings towards the South
Road trip: A lifelong resident of Tennessee, Reynolds has spent the past two years exploring back roads and small towns, like Farragut, Alabama, where she photographed this father with his step-daughter
Goal: Reynolds sought to capture the everyday lives of people who lives below the Mason-Dixon line
Local flavor: In Huntsville, Alabama, Reynolds captured two black cooks and a white waitress hard at work at Ol' Heidelberg Restaurant
On the move: The artist explored rural roads, which took her to places like Clarksdale, Mississippi
Social commentary: The pictures in Southern Route featur both African Amerians and whites
Breaking stereotypes: The project aims to fight back against offensive stereotypes of Southern as hillbillies, racists and religious fanatics
Hard day's work: Reynolds photographed this man sweeping the floor at the Avon cotton gin in Cleveland, Mississippi
Blight: Reynlods spotted this defunct Pumping to Please gas station along Route 98 in Mississippi with a sign offering hungry travelers soul food
Seedy side: An old-school jute joint in Clarksdale, Mississippi, with crude murals of strippers and pool hustlers
Desolate: This stark picture shows a freshly plowed corn filed in Kentucky
Burning bright: The Southern Route photo project consists of portraits as well as landscapes, like this image of a cotton field ablaze before planting season
Southern paradox: A Confederate flag on Route 60 in Danton, Georgia, serves a reminder of the deep chasms that still exist in the culture of the region
Simple pleasures: A young girl on a tire swing outside her home along Highway 70 in East Tennessee
Regional character: Reynolds said that she has learned through her travels that Southerners naturally possess a restrained dignity, a generous affection, a trusting nature, and a loyalty to family
Soul searching: Reynolds offers an unflinching look at vestiges of segregation, disenfranchisement and inequity
Man's best friend: Dogs trials for hunting canines in LaVergne, Tennessee
Nature: A goat in feasting on kudzu plants near Granny Squirrl on Highway 19 in North Carolina