Nicholas Widener was raised in Georgia, south of Atlanta. He is currently pursuing his MFA in photography at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. His work focuses on his, and every native Southerner’s, connection to the landscape of the South. By using his family’s genealogy, he investigates this connection by tracing it back to his ancestors’ origins. He also teaches journalism and video production and coaches cross country and track at a college preparatory school in Atlanta.
“The first thing Scout does in her narration in To Kill a Mockingbird is to trace her lineage. She understands that she needs to delve deep into her genealogy, take ‘a broad view of the thing’ and grant historical happenings the right to happen because, without them, she wouldn’t be here. As Southerners, Scout and I share this same curious ambivalence, and we are both on the same quest for genealogical vindication.
In the 1820s my ancestors, stricken with a case of ‘Alabama Fever’, migrated to the Black Belt of Alabama from the Carolinas. My ancestors owned slaves, picked and bailed cotton, fought in the Civil War and lived through the Great Depression. After the collapse of the economy and the devastation of the cotton crop by the Boll Weevil, the region experienced an irreversible decline. During the Great Depression, My grandfather was born in my great-great-grandparents’ house; he is the last of my ancestors to be born in the Black Belt. Since he left Alabama, there has been a pilgrimage to the land of our ancestors – like a rite of passage. The land they laid claim to serves as a reminder of the contentious humility of their lives. Using archive letters and photographs to inform me and enhance my work, I reconstruct a connection to the land of my ancestors and all of its inheritance. This is my visual genealogy.”
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All images copyright Nicholas Widener.