B I R N E Y I M E S : Juke Joint Revisited
[10 July - 28 August, 2004]
A child of the 1950s segregated South, Birney Imes embraced photography in part as a means to explore the social facets of the community from which he was withheld during his youth. Initially, Imes' subjects were the people themselves, the occupants of that unfamiliar culture. His subsequent photographs of local juke joints, however, in many ways address the culture more directly, as
personified by the sites of its enactment. Ramshackle buildings, sparsely furnished, spontaneously decorated and accessorized with handwritten menus, advertisements and admonishments, take on an aggregate personality more vivid than any single customer.
Imes does occasionally and perceptively photograph the patrons of these shoestring establishments, but more often than not his long exposure times reduce the human population to ghosts, incidental to the collective identity of the venue they sustain. If, as Freud suggests, an individual's character is essentially a sedimentation of the things they've loved, then presumably a critical mass of well-loved, well-used objects will begin to delineate a personality. Birney Imes goes a long way, with these photographs, in mapping the psychological topography of such inimitably Southern structures.