The Real Places That Gave Rise to Southern Fictions

Tema Stauffer’s photographs explore how the experience of going somewhere is shaped by your expectations of what you will find.

It is this kind of heftier noun which Tema Stauffer takes for her subject in “Southern Fiction,” a visual survey of the settings that shaped the imaginations of some of the last century’s most significant Southern writers. Stauffer’s pictures are not illustrations of particular literary works or portraits of individual writers but, rather, invocations of people and places, both real and imagined. Taken together, they capture the intellectual and aesthetic challenges posed by biography, but also by geography—and specifically by the American South.

Tema Stauffer

MW What inspired you to start taking photographs, and what is the primary inspiration for you to keep working in this field? TS I sp...

I was fascinated with stories and was determined to invent my own path. Among some of my early fantasies of what I might be when I grew up were a writer, an artist and the leader of a motorcycle gang. My mother enrolled me in my first photography class at an art center while I was in high school. I took pictures of my friends in fields and cemeteries and jumped out of the car with my camera for the right stranger on the street - someone who looked as restless as I felt.