July 13, 2012
Kael Alford, adjunct assistant professor and 2012-13 visiting artist in photography in the Division of Art at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, has been named the winner of the 2012 Michael P. Smith Fund For Documentary Photography Award. The $5,000 award is presented annually by the New Orleans Photo Alliance to a Gulf Coast photographer whose work “combines artistic excellence and a sustained commitment to a long-term cultural documentary project.”
Alford’s award will support her current work focusing on a remote community in the disappearing wetlands of Louisiana’s coast, where her grandmother was born and which is home to the Native American communities of which Alford is a descendant. She is conducting a multi-year documentary project to record the rapidly vanishing cultural and physical landscape of the region, which has been damaged by gas and oil extraction and battered by storms and spills. Alford has just released a photo book of her project, Bottom of da Boot, published by Fall Line Press in Atlanta, Ga.; a number of the photos are currently featured in an exhibition at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, along with the works of two other contemporary photographers. Isle de Jean Charles and Pointe-aux-Chenes, Louisiana – two real-world communities featured in Alford’s work – also provided the set that inspired Beasts of the Southern Wild, a feature film directed by Benh Zeitlin that was filmed on location and won top honors at Cannes and Sundance this year. Alford’s book and exhibit reveal the circumstances that have ushered these communities to the brink of extinction.
Jurors for the award included Brett Abbott, curator of photography at the High Museum of Art; Glenn Ruga, director of the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University and of the SocialDocumentary.net website; Paul Moakley, photo editor of TIME magazine; and Ellen Fleurov, director of the Silver Center for Photography in Pittsburgh, Pa....