Nothing speaks to life in the Deep South like the institutions work, worship and community. And few have captured images of those aspects of life with the clarity of Bainbridge photographer Paul Kwilecki.
An exhibition of photography by Kwilecki (1928-2009) was on view in the East Galley of the Albany Museum of Art from March 4-June 26, 2021.
Work, Worship and Community: Paul Kwilecki, represents a selection of documentary photographs taken throughout a lifetime in South Georgia,” AMA Guest Curator Didi Dunphy said. “Looking for the core of what it is to be human, through love, toil, hope and despair, cruel poverty to an overpowering vitality, Kwilecki captures the essential nature of ourselves and place. Images of laborers, churchgoers, some enjoying leisure and neighbors, Kwilecki shows us a grave reminder of the socio-political gap in rural and small-town Georgia and those who live and work in the region.”
The exhibition was made possible by The Do Good Fund, a Columbus, Ga.-based public charity with a photography collection that represents “a visual narrative of the ever-changing South,” Dunphy said.
Kwilecki was dedicated to photographing his hometown and surrounding Decatur County. Shooting 35mm film, he captured small-town life with images of Black agricultural workers, working-class individuals, cafés, courthouses, grocery stores, cemeteries and churches. His first book, Understandings: Photographs of Decatur County, Georgia, was published in 1981, followed by Lowly Wise, Book One: Scenes of Religion in and Around Decatur County, Georgia in 1992. One Place: Paul Kwilecki and Four Decades of Photographs from Decatur County, Georgia, edited by Tom Rankin and Iris Tillman Hill, was published posthumously in 2013. His work has been exhibited nationally, and a large archive of his photos and writings are held in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University, according to The Do Good Fund.
The Do Good Fund, founded in 2012, has built a museum-quality collection of photographs taken since World War II in the South. Included in the collection of more than 600 photographs are works by more than 20 Guggenheim Fellows, as well as lesser known and emerging photographers. The organization’s mission is to make its collection broadly accessible through regional museums, nonprofit galleries and nontraditional venues, and to encourage complementary, community-based programming to accompany each exhibition.
“Thank you to The Do Good Fund for this opportunity to share Paul Kwilecki’s work with the Albany community,” Dunphy said.