The Bitter Southerner Family Album
The Bitter Southerner is becoming known for a few things, but brevity isn’t exactly one of them. Every week, we throw thousands of words of great Southern writing at you, as well as amazing photographs that are worth at least a thousand words apiece. We appreciate your patience with us on this point. We truly do.
We could never have brought you the year of stories we did without the absolutely selfless contributions of great writers, photographers and dreamers. To coincide with our first anniversary, we have finally established a proper gallery that assembles all our contributors. Please take a look. We’re rather proud of it, because it reminds us just how many talented people it has taken to bring our idea to life.
And for your enjoyment, we’ve assembled this gallery of 30 of The Bitter Southerner’s greatest photographs from the last year.
Photographer: Whitney Ott
The great Atlanta photographer Whitney Ott has come to our rescue repeatedly and was there with us from the beginning. The shot from our very first story, “We Are Bitter,” shows the hands of our creative director, Dave Whitling, as he shells boiled peanuts. We do a fair amount of that around here. Her photograph (top), from “Greg Best: Southern by Choice,” depicts the makings of a cocktail that has now become impossible to duplicate: Best’s Resurgens cocktail from his early days at Holeman & Finch. It’s impossible because you can’t find that Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye anymore unless you’re willing to shell out many Benjamins to a whiskey flipper — or you have a well-placed friend in Kentucky. And yes, the one ounce of whiskey you see in that bottle remains there today. We’re saving it for something special.
Photographer: Stacie Huckeba
We look at this photograph, and we know it’s time to offer up some gratitude. The subject of this shot, Patterson Hood, is the leader of one of the best rock bands to come out of the South in decades, Drive-By Truckers. Patterson wrote a wonderful essay — “The New(er) South” — for us in our very first month, which instantly expanded our audience. Thank you, Brother Hood. We are grateful. And thank you also to Stacie Huckeba, one of Nashville’s premier music photographers, who agreed to share this photograph with all of you on The Bitter Southerner when she barely even know what the damned thing was. That’s also Stacie’s photograph at the top of this story: an amazing shot of DBT fans in full-on, balls-out Rock Show mode.
Photographer: Artem Nazarov
This photograph comes from the great book “No Cameras,” a look inside Atlanta’s infamous Clermont Lounge, by photographer Artem Nazarov, writer Dana Hazels Seith and designer Ryan Wood. It also ran in the BS story “We’re All Freaks,” Seith’s account of her three years hanging with the ladies of the Lounge as the book was written.
Photographer: Tamara Reynolds
When we first saw Nashville photographer Tamara Reynolds’ “Southern Route” series, we thought we had found a kindred spirit. When we first talked to her about a week later, we knew we had. Just so we’re all clear on this, Ms. Tamara is a big-time advertising photographer. She doesn’t need no BS. But she struggles with the same questions we do, and finds the answers in her incessant journeys around the South, photographing our people and places exactly as they are. And that’s how we found each other. In addition to sharing “Southern Route,” her series from which the photo above comes, with us, she also traveled with us to Memphis for Richard Murff’s great story on Memphis in May, and to Oxford, Miss., for our two-part series on the Southern Foodways Alliance. Below is Tamara’s photo of SFA executive director John T. Edge in his office on the Ole Miss campus.
Photographers: Maude Schuyler Clay and Langdon Clay
There is an argument to be made that, like the blues, American color art photography has its roots in the Mississippi Delta. William Eggleston, if you don’t already know it, was The Man — the Hunter S. Thompson of American photography. Eggleston taught the art to his younger cousin Maude Schuyler Clay (her image above). Maudie dwells still in the Delta with her photographer husband Langdon Clay (his image on the left). The Clays gave us these images to accompany Mary Warner’s lovely story about them, “The Weight of Home,” which ran back in January. Mary wrapped up her story just as she was packing boxes to move to L.A. for a new opportunity. We wish her well. We miss her. And we expect she’ll be back. She’s got Delta silt in her blood.
Photographer: Zach Wolfe
Zach Wolfe is widely known as one of the hip-hop world’s ace photographers. He offered to shoot our story about Killer Mike for us, but we could never make Zach’s schedule coincide with Mike’s. Instead, Zach wound up shooting a different, but no less defiantly Southern musician — Lee Bains III. Music is music, see? And if music is one of Zach Wolfe’s greatest subjects, then his work shooting Bains for the BS proves that the line between rock and rap — and between black and white — is mighty thin.
Photographer: Brett Falcon
If you want to see that all Southerners are not the same, then come to DragonCon every fall in Atlanta. That’s where some of our most different folks gather with their like-minded nerds from all over the world. Brett Falcon captured this photograph for George Chidi’s BS story, “Not Dead Yet!”
Photographer: Gregory Miller
Whatever the South becomes over the next few decades, it’s clear as a bell that Latino culture will be a big factor in our melting pot. This photograph comes from Gregory Miller and Peter Short’s great project, “American Mariachi.”
Photographer: J.R. Ward II
Our good buddy J.R., a proud son of Sandersville, Ga., kind of accidentally became our go-to guy when it was time to shoot bartenders. We will not comment on whether his motivation had anything to do with the chance to sample the spirituous wares. The photograph at top is of Jerry Slater, who created The Bitter Southerner No. 1, a muddy and delicious concoction that remains on the menu to this day at his H. Harper Station in Atlanta. At bottom left is Paul Calvert, who bears a wonderfully remarkable resemblance to Robert Goulet and who gave us The Bitter Southerner No. 3 cocktail, a delicious blow for whiskey justice, last December. At bottom right is Greg Best behind his old station at Holeman & Finch. We can’t wait to see where that guy turns up next. Wherever it is, J.R. will probably be there, too.
Photographer: Whitney Ott
When spring began to roll around in the South this year, we tried to show all our readers that you could, in fact, make amazing summer cocktails, like this wondrous looking (and tasting) Mint Julep, on the cheap and in your own backyard. We took Whitney along with us to a funny and increasingly drunken afternoon in Paul Calvert’s backyard in Atlanta’s Cabbagetown neighborhood, and we managed not to drink this julep, a creation of Jerry Slater, until Whitney had a chance to capture it in its pristine, freshly stirred and frosted glory.
Photographer: Darin Back
Darin Back shot these amazing photographs of Austin songwriter Jon Dee Graham, which captured our favorite songwriting curmudgeon being ... well ... himself. . They ran with our story “A Man of Few Words: Jon Dee Graham and the Laws of Subtraction.” We also owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Graham, who believed in the idea of The Bitter Southerner even though he couldn’t — and still can’t — figure out whether Texas is part of the South or not. As we said from the beginning, people of good will may disagree about that. But for our money, if at least east Texas isn’t part of the South, then we’ll kiss every cow’s ass from here to there. God smiled on Austin.
One of our most successful stories covered the three gentlemen behind #weloveatl, an Instagram hashtag that has amassed a collection of more than 50,000 Instagrams that express why Atlantans love their city. These three photographs are the favorite submissions of, respectively, Brandon Barr, Tim Moxley and Aaron Coury. Aaron just got engaged, by the way. Y’all congratulate him.
Photographer: Troy Stains
When we got the time to spend a day with Atlanta rapper extraordinaire Killer Mike, Troy Stains followed him all over town, from his barbershop on the southwest side of Atlanta to his home for his daughter’s birthday party. We’re grateful to Troy for his amazing work on this story and on “Eat White Dirt,” our look at an age-old practice and whether it is a Southern thing or just a human thing. Or both. And we’re grateful to the Killer for allowing us into his amazing life. He is the walking, freestyling embodiment of, as one of his own songs says, "the opposite of bullshit."
Photographer: Gregory Miller
Greg Miller is another one of those photographers whose work we really had no right to ask for absent payment, but who volunteered anyway — not once but thrice, for these two photographs from Nick Kaye’s amazing look at Alabama’s Rural Studio, “Architecture for the People,” as well as for “American Mariachi” above and “Cotton + Steel” last month. Full disclosure: Greg kind of had the inside track on the “Cotton + Steel” story, because his wife is the founder of that company, a five-woman collective of Southern fabric designers who are turning the quilting world upside down.
Photographer: Andrew Thomas Lee
Documenting the amazing experience inside Atlanta’s new National Center for Civil and Human Rights was a huge challenge, but Andrew Thomas Lee rose to the occasion with his photographs of the Center’s CEO, Doug Shipman, above, and its vice president of member relations (and granddaughter of Atlanta Daily World founder William Alexander Scott II), M. Alexis Scott (right). We maintain that the National Center for Civil and Human Rights is the most important institution in the modern South, because it brings all of us face to face with the wreckage and the wonder that arose from one of the most contentious times in our history.
Photographer: Whitney Ott
For these photographs, Whitney Ott traveled with her photographer husband Jaemin Riley up into the North Carolina for a weekend at the studio of one of the South’s greatest potters, Alex Matisse (and yes, you know that name; Alex is the great-grandson of the French painter Henri Matisse). Whitney and Jaemin did an incredible job of capturing the daily lives of the potters at Matisse’s East Fork Pottery, to accompany Asheville writer Jodi Rhoden’s great story, “All Wealth Is From the Earth.”
Photographer: Roger May
There may be no photographer in the modern South who is more committed to capturing us, as we are, than Roger May. Given the fact that your editor-in-chief is himself a product of Appalachia, we truly saw ourselves in Roger’s pictures from the coal-mining country of West Virginia and Kentucky. And we thank the great Southern writer Silas House for giving us his permission to use his introduction to Roger’s amazing love letter to the mountains. As one great songwriter once put it, “I was born on this mountain. This mountain’s my home. And it holds me and keeps me from worry and woe.” May's ongoing project to document the faces of Appalachia shows the truth in those lines. All of you need do is look into the eyes of his subjects.