Project Detail: Deep South: Standing at the Crossroads


Photo Story - Nera di Verzasca


Verzasca Foto


Richard Max Gavrich


Project Info

Deep South: Standing at the Crossroads

The general term “South” is derived from the Germanic “Sud,” meaning below. Naturally, South connotes something beneath, backwards, hidden, latent. The chiefly American expression of something “gone south,” recognizes a venture that has deteriorated or altogether failed. Like the roadside carpets of kudzu swallowing roofs and fences, damp and lush and consuming, the American South is wild and ever-changing, marked by multifarious movements, expansions and constrictions, like a living-breathing thing. Wherever and whatever the South is, it always seems to be far off: “way down South,” somewhere you’re unknowingly headed, joyfully returning, or mournfully fleeing. The American Deep South is less of a geographic region than a complex web of incongruities and oppositions, bound by culture, music, lore, mythos, and a set of highly contested histories.

Ramblin’ and road culture inflect this Southern tradition of oral and aural mysticism. In my mind, our venturing begins at an intersection: the crossroad. This point, “neither here nor there,” emerges as perfect allegory and symbolic juncture for where and what the South represents, bringing together racial tension, spiritual conjurings, tradition, dogma, and folklore— summed up at a place said to be”between the worlds.” Robert Johnson and his Devil-dealing fable made famous (at least in the American canon) the mythos of the crossroads with his first recording of “Crossroad Blues” in 1936, singing:

I’m standin’ at the crossroads

I tried to flag a ride

Standin’ at the crossroads

I tried to flag a ride

Didn’t nobody seem to know me

Everybody pass me by

The sun goin’ down, boy

Dark gon’ catch me here

Boy dark gon’ catch me here

Haven’t got no lovin’ sweet woman

That love and feel my care

We begin here, at this meeting point of highways, cutting through the unending stretches of cabbage- and cornfields, of bayous and bogs, past small towns, farms, churches, bisecting railways, rivers, meandering on towards the corrugated sky.