Anderson Scott received his MFA in photography from Yale University in New Haven. He practices law in Atlanta as he works on various long-term photographic projects. Scott’s work can be found in collections such as the International Center of Photography, New York; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.
Several of Scott’s photographs in Southbound are drawn from his Confederates series, about the culture of Confederate reenactments, published by Columbia College Chicago Press in the monograph Whistling Dixie in 2012. Others are from his Nuwaubia portfolio, made when he was able to gain access to the Nuwaubian compound, Tama-Re, shortly after the collapse of that religious cult. The remainder of Scott’s Southbound photographs comprises interiors that are not part of any particular series.
Those interiors, from Georgia and Alabama, are startling formal compositions in which incipient decay belies former grandeur, as we see in an image titled Graniteville, Georgia (2013), which captures a stage set with sofa and drapes. Sparkling streamers are strewn on the floor and folding chairs are still arrayed carefully in the auditorium. A closer look reveals that the sofa is in need of repair, in keeping with the plaster falling off the walls and the damaged floorboards. Such visual tensions are everywhere in Scott’s images.
Rebuffed in his efforts to make photographs in the Nuwaubian headquarters in rural Putnam County, Georgia, while the membership was active, Scott finally visited the compound after the cult collapsed in the early 2000s. His photograph titled Near Eatonton, Georgia (2009) showcases the group’s fascination with Egypt, visible in the decor as well as the architecture at the site and synonymous for some African Americans with the biblical story of the Jews’ liberation from bondage. Scott’s photograph grounds the esoteric in the materiality of our existence, however, as seen in an exit sign clearly marked over a door and a urinal visible through a doorway. The elaborate wall decorations feature hieroglyphs, seemingly in relief, as well as scarabs, multihued ibises, and Africans in procession, one of whom is playing a harp. On an opposing wall the goddess Bastet is depicted carrying an electric guitar.
Many of Scott’s images are imbued with a sense of time passing and of ways in which some people attempt to hold on to the past. In Aiken, South Carolina (2007), a young African American reenactor poses as an enslaved girl whose hands appear to be busy with her labors, whereas the gloved hands of her white counterpart—sitting behind but decidedly above her—remain crossed in her lap. The Confederate flag that dominates the photograph, an image from the Battle of Aiken reenactment, and the expressions on the faces of the two women eloquently reflect tensions over race and public commemoration in today’s South. The white woman seems jaded, and her thousand-yard stare, is fixed, if at all, on something far outside the frame. The enslaved girl commandeers the image, however. Her wise, patient regard, framed by her pigtails tied up in white bows, reassures the viewer that this too shall pass, while chiding us that it nonetheless continues to be “the problem we all live with,” fifty-four years after Rockwell’s famous 1964 painting of the same name about the civil rights movement. Scott’s photographs illuminate tensions between old and new in the region that are intrinsic to understanding the New South.