Kristine Potter Reflects on Murder Ballads and the Southern Gothic Landscape

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© Kristine Potter© Kristine Potter

© Kristine Potter© Kristine Potter

© Kristine Potter© Kristine Potter

© Kristine Potter© Kristine Potter

© Kristine Potter© Kristine Potter

© Kristine Potter© Kristine Potter

© Kristine Potter© Kristine Potter

© Kristine Potter© Kristine Potter

© Kristine Potter© Kristine Potter

© Kristine Potter© Kristine Potter

© Kristine Potter© Kristine Potter

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Dark Waters, Kristine Potter’s second monograph, continues her engagement with the American landscape as a palimpsest for cultural ideologies. In this dark and brooding series, Potter reflects on the Southern Gothic landscape as evoked in the popular imagination of “murder ballads” from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Her seductive, richly detailed black-and-white images channel the setting and characters of these songs, capturing the landscape of the American South, and creating a series of evocative portraits that stand in for the oft-unnamed women at the center of their stories. In the American murder ballad, which has taken on cult appeal and continue to be rerecorded even to this day, the riverscape is frequently the stage of crimes as described in their lyrics. Places like Murder Creek, Bloody Fork, and Deadman’s Pond are haunted by both the victim and perpetrator of violence in the world Potter conjures, reflecting the casual and popular glamorization of violence against women that remains prevalent in today’s cultural landscape. As Potter notes, “I see a through line of violent exhibitionism from those early murder ballads, to the Wild West shows, to the contemporary landscape of cinema and television. Culturally, we seem to require it.” Dark Waters both evokes and exorcises the sense of threat and foreboding that women often grapple with as they move through the world. Author Rebecca Bengal contributes an evocative short story that underscores the sense of anxiety and foreboding that Potter infuses into each of her images; a deliciously compelling, if chilling, combination.

Dark Waters is copublished by Aperture with Images Vevey and The Momentary

Kristine Potter was featured in the Summer, 2020 issue of Juxtapoz.

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