Jerry Siegel

Artadia Awardee
I am a strong believer in place, and how a region, a community, and a home will shape who you are. The place I know, where I was raised, is the Black Belt region of the American South. It is how I was raised, instilled with belief in family and tradition, that motivates me to document the place I call home.

I was born and raised in Selma, Alabama, in the heart of the Black Belt region. Selma was a vibrant, small southern town, really not that different from many towns throughout the South. So many things have changed in Selma and the region since I left, and it is not the place I remember, yet I have never lost my attachment to and sentiment for the area. Even with the passing of my parents, my siblings and I have kept the family home and still maintain a bond with our past.

And so, I travel back to my home, to the Black Belt and Selma, to tell the story of the ever-changing region, using my camera to capture this reality as I see it and the emotions that accompany it. I have explored and documented my family home, the Temple where we were raised, the town of Selma and the Black Belt region. In my series Rt 2 Box 348E, I document the only home the four Siegel siblings have ever known. Even with the passing of our parents in 1989 and 2000, we have maintained the house, missing only one Christmas in 53 years. And within this story comes another about Southern Jewry. In the series 10 Jews Left, I have photographed the remaining 10 Jews in the congregation, their lives, and the way they continue to give back to their community. In Selma’s more prosperous times, the streets of downtown were lined with Jewish merchants with more than 100 families in the congregation. Many of the original merchant buildings are still in place, but they are barely recognizable–covered now by paint, siding, and signage.

I also travel the region to the other small towns, down side roads, out in the country to capture the evolving and changing area in my series Black Belt Color.

All my work encompasses my concern for the region and the need to tell the story of what this region is now. With continued conviction and love of the area, I work to capture what I refer to as the Contemporary South. It is not the South of Atlanta, with its tall glass buildings and big commerce. And it is not the old South of falling down shacks, rusted signs and kudzu-covered areas. It is the South of today.