After an illustrious career producing for Dateline, MSNBC, and National Geographic, Keris Salmon turned her storytelling drive toward photography. For her 2016 series “We Have Made These Lands What They Are: The Architecture of Slavery,” Salmon traveled to southern U.S. plantations and captured details large and small—a bannister, a bird, wooden slats, a columned façade, branches in sunset—from past sites of slavery. Using letterpress on cotton-rag paper, she paired the pictures with texts from old diaries and books about antebellum America. Some disturbing juxtapositions result.
In one work, Sugar (2016), Salmon situates a picture of a dark tree with text that reads: “The girl that mixed the poison with the / SUGAR / is one that Mr. Doherty had / lately bought. She is about / FOURTEEN / years old. She acknowledged the act / and said she done it to kill the cook woman.” Gallerist Arnika Dawkins believes that through uniting her imagery with appropriated text, Salmon creates an “alternative reality.” The new tales unite present beauty with past horrors, a dialectical opposition that produces moving new artworks.