Dubbed “The Father of American Surrealism,” Clarence John Laughlin (American, 1905-1985) was the most important Southern photographer of his time and a singular figure within the burgeoning American school of photography. Known primarily for his atmospheric depictions of decaying antebellum architecture that proliferated his hometown of New Orleans, Laughlin approached photography with a romantic, experimental eye that diverged heavily from his peers who championed realism and social documentary. The exhibition surveys Laughlin’s signature bodies of work made between 1935 and 1965, emphasizing his inventiveness, artistic influences, and deep connection to the written word. The High began collecting Laughlin’s work in 1974 and Strange Light: The Photography of Clarence John Laughlin is the first major presentation of Laughlin’s photographs by the High Museum following a landmark acquisition of his work in 2015.
The more than one hundred works in this exhibition attest to Laughlin’s innovative approach and prescience for the future of the photographic medium. From allegorical social commentary, to expertly constructed narratives, to bizarre material experimentation, Laughlin’s effort to access a higher artistic potential for photography is evident throughout his career. His desire to push the limits of photographic possibility paved the way for generations of artists and the growth of the medium into a tool of magical potential.