Carey Gough, Untitled (Bill Monroe Homeplace, Jerusalem Ridge, Kentucky), 2012
A Music So Subtle and Vast
October 10 – November 9, 2013
Institute 193, Lexington
Originally from Kentucky, Gough has lived in Shrewsbury, England for more than a decade. In recent years, Gough has traveled home to photograph sites in Kentucky that are significant in the history of folk music. She has sought out the homes where prominent musicians were born, the churches and stages where they won acclaim, the sometimes-unsavory spots where they died, and places featured in their song lyrics.
These images are meditations on time and nostalgia. The sites Gough documents are often abandoned, dilapidated, or just empty. Despite the cultural pedigree of these places, time has taken its toll.
The project is also deeply personal. As an expatriate, Gough uses bluegrass music as a lifeline—a way of accessing home from afar. The tension between the realities she captures with her camera and the mythical Kentucky that can only exist in song lyrics imbues these photographs with a sense of loss and impermanence.
Gough’s photographs—like the music that inspired them—are sometimes politically charged, pointing to the impact of indigence, violence, and environmental degradation on the rural American South. She turns her lens on a run-down nightclub rumored to harbor the ghost of Pearl Bryan, the victim of a gruesome nineteen-century murder and the subject of many folk ballads. In another picture, Gough documents a road that once led to a town named Paradise (the topic of a John Prine song) that has since disappeared, replaced by a coal company’s corporate headquarters.
The exhibition is part of the 2013 Louisville Photo Biennial.