David Hill Gallery is proud to present A Southern Portrait 1983-1989 dedicated to the work of photographer Baldwin Lee, opening in March 2023. An exceptional series of portraits capturing life in the Southern States of America during the 1980s, this is the first solo exhibition of Lee’s work outside of the United States with many of the photographs previously unseen.
In 1983, photographer Baldwin Lee left his home in Knoxville, Tennessee, and set off on a road trip through the American South. He did not know what his subject would be. “I had no agenda, no plan,” he told The New Yorker. “I photographed everything: landscapes, architecture, close-ups, still lifes, night pictures, people, old, young, white, black, poor, rich. I just wanted to see.” During the trip he found himself drawn to photographing Black Americans at home, at work and at play, in the street and amid nature. Over the next seven years, he made numerous road trips to the South to continue his work. He returned with images so poignant and piercing, the Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired his photographs.
‘Baldwin Lee is one of those artists who teach us to see’ New York Times
The images by Lee, a first-generation Chinese American now 71 years old, show an intimate portrayal of daily life in the American South that is considered among the most remarkable in the last half century. Most of the work has not been on public view before 2022. His compelling depictions of childhood pleasures, the working life of adults, the bonds among families and communities reveal the artist’s unique commitment to picturing life in America. Along the way, however, he became attuned to the colossal racial injustice still rampant in the American South and photographed Black Southerners living their everyday lives against the background of poverty.
Nearly 40 years after Lee’s initial 2,000-mile road trip, his work is finally being seen. First shown at Howard Greenberg in New York in September 2022, then Joseph Bellows in California a couple of months later and now at David Hill Gallery, London.
BALDWIN LEE (b. 1951) is a Tennessee-based photographer and former university professor of photography. He studied with Minor White at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and received a Bachelor of Science in 1972. At Yale University, he studied with Walker Evans and was given the opportunity to print Evans’s photographs. Lee received a Master of Fine Arts in 1975. After teaching photography at Yale and the Massachusetts College of Art, he inaugurated the photography program in 1982 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he was a professor for over three decades.
His work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Knoxville Museum of Art; The Art Museum, University of Kentucky, Lexington; Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, Atlanta; and Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans. In New York, his photographs are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Morgan Library and Museum, and Museum of the City of New York. His work is also in the collections of National Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington, D.C.; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor; and University of Kentucky Art Museum, Lexington. He has been honoured with fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation in 1984 and the National Endowment for the Arts in 1984 and 1990.
DAVID HILL GALLERY shows established and lesser-known photographers, with an emphasis on previously unshown work. Exhibitions include the first solo show outside of West Africa of Sanlé Sory’s vibrant portraiture. Mario Carnicelli’s sharply observed mid-1960s American street photography also debuted at the gallery, along with Hunter Barnes’ extraordinary work documenting the over-looked margins of American society. Previous shows include Burt Glinn's coverage of the Cuban Revolution, Bill Bernstein’s Disco series, and Ben Hassett’s large-format portraits of Los Angeles via its liquor stores.
David Hill Gallery, 345 Ladbroke Grove, London W10 6HA