August 3rd, 2010 / 12:09 pm

The Language of Summer: A Photo Journey


I’ve just been road-tripping and hiking for a week around parts of the South I somehow missed as a kid growing up…in the freaking South. I was struck by the shards of interesting (inter-sting) language I came across. There was the odd sign that read “Paches” instead of “Peaches,” and the randomly hyphenated “To-day” along winding country roads, but also the above wonderfully descriptive posterĀ  from Yee-Haw Industries in Knoxville, TN (and also online here). They have great stuff, and their shop is 90% letterpress studio with only a storefront sliver of retail space.

2. The Knoxville Museum of Art had a fabulous exhibition called Vision, Language, and Influence: Photographs of the South by Baldwin Lee, Walker Evans, and Eudora Welty. Great stuff. Some photos from the now-closed exhibition are here. I didn’t know Welty was also a photographer, but I discovered in her photos a wonderful sense of composition, a writerly eye, if you will, creating character and mood and narrative in one shot. The dean of the library I work in uses the phrase One Stop Shopping. I like that for the feeling of completeness I get from her photos.

Here’s one that I loved:

3. Have you ever been to Gatlinburg, TN? What a redneck Disney World. Some t-shirts from a storefront in Gatlinburg:

One of the powers of language isĀ  its ability to make nonsense sound like truth.

At the Gatlinburg museum of Christ (Yes, I went there. I don’t yet know why), the stories of Jesus’ life are portrayed by life-size mannequins, including a hippie-trucker Jesus, Linda-Blair-as-Mary-Magdalene, and Satan-as-Everyman.

After a narrated story of Christ’s 40 days in the desert, a voice explains over the loudspeaker that the museum portrays Satan as “normal” because many times evil looks normal. I don’t know–if you saw this dude camping out in a cave in the desert, would he look normal to you?

In the last scene, like the ultimate acid trip, Jesus ascends to heaven in utero:

Wasn’t it Tim O’Brien who said that fiction is the lie that helps us understand the truth? What exactly is the truth here?

4. And finally, books I bought at Montford Books & More in Asheville, NC. Great shop. Free coffee and wi-fi.

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