The Southlight Story

As a medium of expression and communication, photography can be a very personal endeavor. It is usually something that is created individually; that is, the photographer is not just contributing a portion of the finished work; he is responsible for the entire image…100% of the contents. Further, the subject matter is usually drawn from the photographer’s own experiences. Due to this solitary nature of photography, it’s easy for the photographer’s work to become insular, derivative and repetitive. When that happens, it can be a very difficult cycle to break. But it must be broken if he is to continue his artistic growth.

Artists of all types have a tendency to put a lot of themselves into their works. This means that in revealing the finished pieces – whether it’s only to close friends or in large, public exhibitions – they are also revealing themselves. As their art is judged and evaluated, they themselves are also judged and evaluated. Because of this, all artists know fear, and their ability to manage it (or not) usually determines how happy they are.

The lucky artist also receives encouragement: positive words that enable her to continue creating her art. These words may come from anywhere – even the artist herself – but they’re usually best when they come from a trusted external source. The artist who is present and determined will also know acceptance – the self-acceptance that allows him to fully acknowledge what he's created, and see it for all its flaws and inadequacies, or its beauty and elegance. Any artist will tell you that self-acceptance is really the only kind of acceptance that matters. This self-acceptance breeds respect for the artistic process.

It is this cycle that constitutes the bulk of the artist's experience: encouragement-fear-acceptance-respect; encouragement-fear-acceptance-respect...over and over again as she creates her art.

It was with a clear understanding of this nature of “being an artist” that Southlight Salon was formed in 2009 by four photographers who wanted to share their ideas, experiences, successes and failures with other like-minded creative people. Four photographers who wanted to grow as artists; to be pushed when they were unable to push themselves; to have their ideas and notions challenged by others who might see things differently; to refresh and renew their perspectives on what it means to be a photographic artist.

Some years – and a few additions and subtractions later – Southlight is now a seven-member salon with a steadfast mission: to promote art south of the Mason-Dixon line, with an emphasis on photography.

Salon Meetings

To achieve its mission, the Salon has established a schedule of monthly meetings, during which time new projects are discussed, information is presented and photographs are critiqued. All meetings are held at 6:00pm on the third Tuesday of the month, at the same location – the home of one of the members. A typical meeting consists of:

  • dinner, almost always cooked by the same Salon member, during which time any topic is open for conversation;
  • after dinner, the meeting is called to order and the conversation shifts to photography and art. Members have the opportunity to present new images they’re working on, and any old business pertaining to long-term projects, exhibits or other photographic news is discussed;
  • next is a Monthly Program, selected and presented by a different member each month. These programs can be almost anything, from data management practices to book collections to artist retrospectives. Frequently, the program is an assignment for which each Salon member has prepared images, a few written paragraphs and/or other materials.

The monthly meetings are the lifeblood of Southlight and it is not uncommon for them to last well past midnight, as anything and everything is subject to comment and/or question, and each and every point of view, critique and item is considered and discussed. Minutes are kept to record the proceedings. The hard work, the upending of old thought processes, the growth that comes from deliberate study, the vulnerability of opening oneself to criticism and critique — in other words, encouragement, fear, acceptance and respect — all of this happens in the meetings.

Additionally, Southlight members also engage in long-term group photographic projects, road trips and exhibitions; and they are frequent contributors to a variety of lectures, workshops and juried shows.

By committing to the artistic process and respecting the spirit in which the Salon was founded, a strong system of checks and balances has emerged. Through its regular meetings, honest criticism and by working together as a team to further each member's individual success, Southlight Salon has created for itself a unique and fertile environment for creativity, proving that the whole can be infinitely greater than the sum of its parts.