“Jack Leigh: Full Circle, Low Country Photographs, 1972-2004,” is the first museum survey of work by the acclaimed Savannah, Georgia-based photographer since his passing 10 years ago. In addition to exploring Leigh’s documentation of low country terrain and traditions, the exhibition traces distinct threads of influence in Jack Leigh’s career — from works by mid-20th-century artists who inspired him to works by contemporary artists influenced by his indelible legacy.
Leigh was among a new generation of photographers in the mid-to-late-20th century creating images that focused on the complexity and overlooked beauty of the everyday world — isolated buildings, roadside signs, objects in a yard, tabletops and gas stations. Yet while his peers, such as William Eggleston and William Christenberry, moved into color photography and captured isolated scenes in various American cities, Leigh remained committed to black-and-white and focused his practice exclusively on his lowcountry home. As the exhibition reveals, Leigh’s work provides an unsparing visual narrative of the region’s fading traditions and distinct environment — from oystermen working in South Carolina marshscapes to remote hamlets along the Ogeechee River.
Leigh is perhaps best known for his photograph “Midnight” (1993), which depicts a “Bird Girl” statue located in Savannah’s Bonaventure Cemetery. The image was commissioned by Random House for the cover of John Berendt’s novel, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” Leigh’s cover photograph became inextricably tied to the record-breaking success of the novel, immediately catapulting Leigh to international acclaim.
Moving beyond this singular image, “Jack Leigh: Full Circle, Low Country Photographs, 1972-2004” explores the threads of influence in Leigh’s work. Leigh’s images are presented alongside works by photographers who inspired him, such as Eva Rubinstein, Walker Evans, Helen Levitt and George Tice. They are also in conversation with works by his contemporaries, such as Sally Mann and William Christenberry. Completing this circle of influence, the exhibition presents works by artists Tobia Makover (M.F.A., photography, 2001), Lisa Robinson (M.F.A., photography, 1999), Ben Beasley (M.F.A., photography, 2002) and Marcus Kenney (M.F.A., photography, 1998), among others, whose practices continue to be influenced by Leigh’s perspective.
The exhibition also features a reading room that will provide insight into Leigh’s creative process and legacy. Visitors can examine the artist’s writings, annotated maps and contact sheets as well as photography by SCAD alumni artists whose work and careers are deeply influenced by Leigh.