Somewhere along the back roads of small towns dotting the Louisiana and Mississippi landscape is Jack Spencer, a self-taught photographer, searching for beauty. Driving through forgotten towns, lush bayous, overgrown cotton fields and visiting weathered porches filled with the sound of authentic country blues, Spencer watches and listens, always looking for that one moment, interaction or ray of light that inspires him to take a picture. His photographs illuminate a singular mood, person or place, exposing us to the raw beauty etched into the faces and landscapes in the South, as he returns time and again to his subjects, peeling away layers, offering us a glimpse at another facet of their character.
From the moss hanging on Cypress trees in Tomotley, South Carolina, to the crumbling ruins of an old church, to an abandoned tire swing swaying in a humid breeze, Spencer's work emanates with the heat of a southern summer where everything grows like wildfire and the air feels like an extension of your skin.
These are but a few of Spencer's most notable images from Native Soil, his first monograph, which solidified his place as one of the most gifted photographers working today. Whether photographing people or the landscape, Spencer manages to draw us in, searching for stories in the silhouettes of children on a beach or the haunting eyes of an older man staring directly into the camera.
Spencer continues this intimate vision in Mexico, a landscape similar to the South, yet filled with a spirituality and religion all its own. It is here, among the ceremonies, festivals and sun drenched streets that Spencer has created his newest works, photographing everyday heroics prevalent in ordinary life. It is here that Spencer captured two Incas on stilts, silhouetted against a tumultuous sky; where he caught a woman dancing in the sunlight as her veil lifts into the moist air; where a dog wanders through the cobblestone streets searching for food.
Throughout his travels, Spencer looks for the unexpected, waiting patiently for images to emerge. In one image we see a woman walking along an endless road, her broken umbrella shielding her from the hot sun. In another we see three children with painted faces in traditional costume, prepared to take their place in the Day of the Dead festivities. In yet another we see a barren landscape, dark and foreboding, the remnants of a past storm scattered along the horizon.
Whether traveling the roads of Louisiana, Mississippi or Mexico, Jack Spencer is on an endless quest for beauty -- to capture small moments and freeze them for all to wander into. It is here, within his images, that we grasp his magic, as each image reveals its own meaning. Spencer is an artist whose vision is unquestionable, as is his commitment.