Benrubi Gallery, in collaboration with the International Center of Photography, is pleased to
announce Southern Rites, the new exhibition from award-winning photographer Gillian Laub,
whose previous exhibition at the gallery, Common Ground, dealt with the relationship between
Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians. With Southern Rites, she again takes on a story
steeped in generations-long tensions, and tells it with power, sensitivity and enduring poignancy.
Southern Rites is a provocative twelve-year visual study of one community’s struggle to confront
longstanding issues of race and equality. In 2002, Laub was invited to Mt. Vernon, Georgia, to
photograph its segregated homecoming celebrations. She kept returning to the community and in
2009, The New York Times Magazine published a photo-essay by Laub titled, “A Prom Divided,”
which documented Georgia’s Montgomery County High School’s racially segregated prom rituals.
Laub’s photographs ignited a firestorm of national outrage that, remarkably, led the community to
finally integrate the proms.
Laub continued to travel to Mt. Vernon to document the aftermath, which was welcomed in some
circles and decried in others. In 2011, amid newfound hope, the murder of a young black man
(portrayed in Laub’s earlier prom series) by an older white town resident reopened old wounds.
Through her intimate portraits, first-hand testimony, and video installation, Laub reveals in vivid
color the horror and humanity of these complex, intertwined narratives.
The photographer’s inimitable sensibility ensures that, however elevated the ideas and themes
may be, her pictures remain studies of individuals; a chronicle of their courage in the face of
injustice, of their suffering and redemption, possessing an unsettling power. Laub’s photographs
capture a world caught between eras and values with extraordinary candor and immediacy—
and ultimately ask whether a new generation can finally unshackle themselves from an
uncomfortable past and make a different future.
The Benrubi exhibition coincides with the world broadcast premiere of Southern Rites on HBO, a
documentary directed by Laub herself, and executive produced by acclaimed musician John
Legend. Film, book, and exhibition constitute a major cultural and artistic achievement by one of
the most daring, wide-ranging photographers at work today.
Laub’s work has been widely collected and exhibited, including at the International Center of
Photography, New York, NY, the Museum of Fine Art, Houston, TX, the Terrana Collection, Boston,
MA, the Jewish Museum, New York, NY, the Brooklyn Museum, New York, Corcoran Gallery of
Art, Washington, D.C., among others. In 2014, she was the recipient of the Individual
Photographer’s Fellowship awarded by the Aaron Siskind Foundation. She regularly photographs
for Time and the New York Times Magazine, among many other
New York-based photographer Gillian Laub graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in comparative literature. Laub is well-known for her documentary portraits of families, friends and strangers, which the artist describes as a “search for a deeper understanding of family and tribe in all its forms.” Her exhibition Common Ground (Israelis and Palestinians) placed Palestinian and Israeli children, families, and even soldiers next to each other, leaving the viewer to ponder which person belongs to which culture. An American Life intimately documents Laub’s own family, portraying intimate moments in various members of her extended family from Florida to New York City, as well as the Westchester suburbs.
Laub’s Dateline Israel was shown at the Jewish Museum in New York City in 2007. That same year her monograph Testimony, which includes fifty portraits of Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, displaced Lebanese families, and Palestinians, was published by Aperture, which also presented her with an Emerging Artist’s Award. “The bravery of the photos in this series is that they show what even funerals do not show: the true horror of war and terrorism,” David Rieff wrote in the New York Times: “To consider these images is to be reminded not just of human cruelty and human stupidity but also of human tenacity.”
Laub’s work is contained in the collection of many museums, including the International Center of Photography, New York, NY, the Museum of Fine Art, Houston, TX, the Terrana Collection, Boston, MA, and the Jewish Museum, New York, NY, among others. She regularly photographs for Time and the New York Times Magazine, among many other publications.