New York Photo Review
Volume 3 Issue 39 November 28 to December 4, 2012

The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

The Color of the Delta
Magdalena Solé
Mississippi Delta
June at Hot Spot by Magdalena SolŽ. Source: souslesetoilesgallery.net
Magdalena Solé, "June at Hot Spot" 2011

Magdalena Solé may have taken a very circuitous route to find her life’s work as a social documentary photographer, but her powerful exhibition of life in the Mississippi Delta is ample proof that her detour was worth the wait.

Solé, who was born in Spain, came to New York in 1984, where she started a successful graphic design firm. Not satisfied with that, she then went on to earn a MFA in Film Production from Columbia University. In 2002, this got her a job as Unit Production Manager on the set of “Man On Wire,” which won an Academy Award in 2009. It was only then, after remembering the encouragement she had received as a child for her Instamatic pictures, that she rediscovered her passion for photography, and embarked on yet another career, which has taken her around the world.

Solé says she is drawn to stories about people living a marginal existence who have the resilience and resourcefulness to survive despite the hardships. Of course, there are legions of photographers who document the life of the underprivileged, but few have managed to do it with such dignity and impact as Solé. Her masterful use of light and color – often highly saturated – can convey more beauty than is immediately apparent. For example, the photograph, “4th Street and Issaquena, 2011,” of a rundown boarded-up building in Clarksdale, conveys an air of optimism from the young boy purposefully walking past.

Thin woman on Porch by Magdalena SolŽ. Source: souslesetoilesgallery.net
Magdalena Solé, "Thin woman on Porch" 2010

As the artist says:

”My work is about communities at the edge of society; my photographs describe brief moments of human existence, carried by the rhythm of a setting. They convey what is at once simple and vast, passing and constant, ordinary and intangible. “What inspires my pictures is light and the hidden spaces it illuminates, especially in immigrant and working class communities. Places where beauty is found in displaced spirits and peeling paint.”

Solé’s eye for color and graphics is wonderfully illustrated by the image, “Two Brother’s, Wangz ‘n’ Zangz Restaurant, Clarksdale , 2011.” No peeling paint here, just a red tablecloth, green walls and a dartboard. But it seems like so much more. In “Thin Woman on Porch, 2010,” the photographer captures a barefooted woman holding a broom, seemingly unashamed to be seen standing on the front porch of her rundown house. The nearly matching colors of her shirt and door, and the ornamental statues of dogs guarding the front steps, add another dimension.

Traveling to the Delta region nine times over a two year period, Sole traversed 10,000 miles in an area that stretches from Memphis, Tennessee to Vicksburg Mississippi. In these remarkable photographs—which were incorporated into her book, “New Delta Rising” –– she casts light on a segment of American society few outsiders have seen with such clarity and compassion.

Magdalena Solé
Mississippi Delta


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