Monday, April 6, 2015
Exoticizing rural Arkansas … in the New York Times
The "Lens" feature of the New York Times last week ran a piece called "Love and Loss on the Road to Arkansas." It features the work of Nina Robinson, who took a road trip (from New York) to southwest Arkansas to see her aging grandmother. Her grandmother died while Robinson was there, and so the photographer stayed longer than she had planned, chronicling the lives of her extended family in Dalark and nearby Arkadelphia. The photos are poignant and lovely, and I am glad the New York Times ran this feature. But I cannot help think how odd it is that the everyday lives of people in the rural south would be of interest to the cosmopolites who read the New York Times. Are the lived experiences of African-Americans in Dalark of interest to NYT readers? Are they of "interest" in the way the lives of small tribes in the south Pacific or Africa are of interest? That is, do they represent the exotic? I'm not sure. Regardless of the answers to these questions, I suppose the photos matter—and justify this showcasing—as art.