Atlanta-based photographer Melissa Alexander explores how her West End neighborhood is coping with the novel coronavirus pandemic in her documentary photo series.
It’s on view at the Arts Center of Greenwood through March 20.
Some 40 photographs, printed on Rad Grafix Vinyl, are displayed in the center’s main gallery.
Prints were produced by Taylor Cowan of That Vinyl Guy in Greenwood. Exhibit sponsors include Greenwood County Community Foundation and South Carolina Arts Commission.
This is the first gallery showing of this body of Alexander’s work. Previously, she only had shown it on her website, phyllisiller.com.
“The challenge was not to get physically close to people while they were talking, and on top of that — masks,” admits Alexander, who says several in her family cope with hearing loss. “This is one the better ideas I’ve had. It was a spontaneous reaction to everything going on with COVID.”
Alexander is a mother, photographer and filmmaker. She said she’s had a camera with her, off and on, since she got one for Christmas at age 16 and devoting herself to photography full-time in 2017.
“The first portrait I took for this (pull-up) project was in April,” Alexander said. “A friend and her son had stopped by and they were parked on the curb. I grabbed my camera. As I was opening my screen door, I thought ‘pull-up portraits’. It was a grounding moment just to connect and smile at each other.”
Alexander said she felt motivated to connect with others during the pandemic shutdown of businesses and schools, “to let them know they were not alone.”
Alexander did not charge for the pull-up portrait sessions.
“The cost of not being seen during this time felt like too much,” Alexander said. “People are losing their jobs and not working. ... Normally, I would be working conferences in May and June. But, I told my mom something’s telling me I will be OK...Don’t hold onto joy just for yourself. You got to give it out.”
“A large part of my following are Black people,” Alexander added. “It’s good to show the humanity. ... For people who don’t look like me, I want them to see the humanity.
“For people who do look like me, I want them to remember we’re together. ... On a level outside of what we look like, just remember we are all stronger together. ... One of the things I’ve been fearful of with Covid is that we will forget how to connect with each other.”
Now is not the time to be fearful of neighbors, Alexander said, but rather a time to reach out and make sure everyone is OK.
Jennifer A. Smith, Arts Center of Greenwood gallery and marketing director, said the series shows people on their vehicles, in their vehicles and out in the open.
“There are very relevant and current images to what has been taking place, from the Black Lives Matter movement, to masks, to people without masks,” Smith said. “But, there’s a lot of light-heartedness, too.
“All of the images are on this vinyl material, stuck directly to the wall, in two different sizes,” Smith said. “The vinyl prints are reusable and there will be prints for sale. They’re so beautiful.”