The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Magnolia state modern: Student photography exhibition displays architecture of Jackson, Miss.

The word “modern” brings to mind ideas of trendy, chic and hip — most likely in a metropolis such as New York City. 

However, until March 28, Mississippi State University hosts “Mississippi Modern,” an exhibit that showcases black and white photographs of Jackson, Miss., buildings designed in the modern architectural style. 

The gallery, which is on display in the top floor of Giles Hall, was curated by Tau Sigma Delta (TSD) students, an honor society within the College of Architecture, Art and Design. 

Landon Kennedy, senior architecture major and brainchild of the exhibition, said TSD is responsible for finding work to display in the Giles Hall gallery, and for the 2013-2014 season, each member was given a concept to elaborate on and with which to fill the gallery.

“This year, instead of one TSD member coordinating the entire schedule for the gallery, each fourth-year student in TSD was given a topic and then encouraged to develop that theme into a complete gallery showcase,” he said.  

Kennedy said his given idea revolved around modern architecture, which unexpectedly turned his focus inward toward Mississippi rather than out toward more well-known modern spaces.

“My topic was “modern,” so I needed to decide what would go into the gallery and how it would be displayed,” he said. “After discussing potential endeavors of showcasing modern architecture with professors in the school, a list of buildings in the Jackson-Metro area that express the ideas and themes prevalent in the modern architectural movement appeared.”

Jacob Gines, TSD faculty adviser and assistant professor of architecture, said students acquire a beneficial awareness of the exhibition-creating process from curating galleries.

“Coordinating these entities for the galleries is useful for students because they learn the value of the work that goes into the process and are able to see how it is perceived,” he said. “The students were invested in this particular exhibit a great deal, and they went through a lot of effort to get everything together.”

Kennedy said he and three other students journeyed to Jackson to photograph the 13 buildings featured in the exhibition. Though they left with a defined list of sites to visit, Kennedy said the photography was about discovering their subjects through a camera’s lens. 

“Once the buildings were selected and mapped out, three other students, David Lewis (staff writer at The Reflector, Mary Sanders and Casey Walker, offered to spend a Saturday in Jackson exploring these buildings through photography,” he said. “We actually had 12 buildings on our list to take photographs of on our way down to Jackson and came back with 13 because during our exploration we happened to come across an unexpected residential house that was also modern.”

The students utilized both a DSLR camera to take two large photos and a smartphone camera to take 27 small 4×6 photographs of the buildings.

Kennedy said the process of capturing the buildings required both types of cameras and photography. 

“The method used to document the buildings required the two groups to use a DSLR camera for wide, highly articulated shots and a smartphone camera for quick, less articulated shots that focus on the qualities of space in and around the buildings,” he said. “The method of taking the smart phone shots was borrowed from the concept of shooting with a disposable camera. However, we decided to use today’s ‘modern’ disposable camera: a smart phone.”

Sanders, junior architecture student and TSD member, said the experience of curating the “Mississippi Modern” gallery introduced her to Jackson and to a new way of viewing architecture that may have been left behind.  

“I had personally never been to Jackson when I was asked to be a part of the exhibit. I was really excited to not only just see Jackson and these buildings for the first time, but also to spend time experiencing each work kind of in a lost state,” she said. 

Gines said though people rarely attribute modern architecture to Mississippi, there is a wealth of modernity in Jackson and throughout the state. 

“Most people think there is no modern architecture in Mississippi, but there actually is quite a bit in the Jackson-Metro area,” he said. “There was a strong desire by Landon and myself to portray the significance of local modern architecture, and the university has created a great outlet for us to do so.”

Kennedy said the gallery represents structures in Mississippi that help illustrate the history of architecture in the state from WWI to the future and encourages visitors to discover hidden gems that reside in unexpected locations, like Mississippi.

“The exhibit represents a focus on buildings in the state of Mississippi that express characteristics exclusive to the modern style appearing after WWI. It also tells the story of our state from past and present to future,” he said.  “I’ve had students approach me after seeing the gallery and say, ‘Is that really in Jackson?’ The gallery encourages people to go out and explore — explore everything that Mississippi has to offer. We just happened to focus our efforts on historic architecture.” 

There are currently plans for the exhibition to travel to Jackson, Greenwood and the Mississippi Delta.  

Sanders said the gallery causes visitors to view things from a new perspective and look past preconceived notions of a place. 

“This exhibit is all about looking beyond what you know about a place and allowing yourself time to experience a small portion of the architecture that makes up a place like Jackson, or fill in the blank,” she said.


Editor’s note: David Lewis is a photographer and staff writer at The Reflector. 

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Magnolia state modern: Student photography exhibition displays architecture of Jackson, Miss.