Lucinda Bunnen

Lucinda Bunnen (b. 1930, Katonah, New York)

Lucinda Bunnen is an Atlanta-based photographer. She became a photographer in middle age and has been shooting in the United States and abroad for several decades. Bunnen is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Nexus Award (2016) and the Georgia Governor’s Award in the Arts (1986). Her photographs appear in major public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. She also is a prominent patron of photography who started collecting in the 1970s when photography’s status as fine art was still controversial. In 1973 she and other photographers founded Nexus, now the Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center, which began exhibiting the work of emerging photographers. Her generous donation also established the renowned Bunnen Collection of Photography at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

Bunnen enjoys traveling around the South looking both for things out of the ordinary and that seem to be very typical of the region. Her photographs in Southbound reflect both types of subjects. For example, Pines (2014), presents a scene characteristic of the Southern landscape: pine trees beautifully lit by the morning light. The tree trunks vary in tone depending on whether they are in shadow or in light, and they are framed by the green growth all around them. 

Bunnen also has an eye for the extraordinary. In Dixie Dogs (2014), a pair of dogs behind a fence stare at the camera while guarding a yard filled with junk, including a large sign reading “Dixie” in red scroll. The term Dixie generally refers to the Southern states that seceded from the Union during the Civil War, and thus it carries with it an association with the Confederacy. The image uses this out-of-the-ordinary symbol to point to tensions that remain in Southern culture today. To some viewers, the sign may seem completely benign and even somewhat charmingly Southern. To others, it may appear hostile, offensive, and even threatening. In Bunnen’s photograph, Dixie is kept behind a tall fence guarded by two imposing dogs—illustrating a cultural dichotomy that animates the tensions on both sides of the heritage debate. 

In Pink Porch (2015), Bunnen seems to find elements of the typical and the remarkable together. It depicts a rundown trailer home in the South, which is not an unusual subject in and of itself; however, the work captures something surprising about the style of the trailer. Its owner has painted it a shade of bubblegum pink, making it both delightful and somewhat absurd. A pink leopard-print beach towel is also draped across the porch, suggesting that the trailer’s owner favors the flashy, feminine color. Two doormats decorated with coffee cups are hanging nearby, suggesting the owner’s appreciation of a leisurely cup of coffee. These indulgences contrast with the dilapidated trailer and the obvious financial struggles of its owner—the address is marked simply with paint beside the door, and the window air-conditioning unit is held up by a makeshift support of cinder blocks and books. Bunnen’s work thus celebrates both the mundane and the marvelous. 

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