“Not Forgotten: An Arkansas Family Album,” Nina Robinson’s solo show at the Bronx Documentary Center, which opens April 9 and runs until May 29, is a tender, intimate look at the photographer’s extended family in a moment of transition. The series began when Robinson traveled to Dalark, Arkansas, to say goodbye to her ailing grandmother, who passed away a week into her visit. Robinson photographed her grandmother’s last days and her family’s reaction to her death, but her initial short trip stretched into three months as her subject expanded to include life beyond caring for and mourning her grandmother. As the show’s statement reads, Robinson “soon became engrossed in the often overlooked rural African American communities surrounding Dalark, communities whose members are mostly working and middle class landowners.”
Robinson had been visiting the town since she was a child, and her family’s connection to the state stretches back six generations—in her series, the land often amplifies the emotional tone of the pictures. In an image that sums up the family’s grief, an aunt looks out over a lake surrounded by bare trees—the sky, the water, her hair and jacket all shades of grey. In another image that speaks to joy, a young cousin exuberantly eats a candy apple in a shaft of sunlight on a green lawn. The series was a shift in approach for Robinson, who worked for a California newspaper before deciding to freelance and then moving to New York to pursue documentary photography. “I’ve never done anything so personal before,” she told The New York Times Lens blog, which featured the series last year—her brave approach yielded rich results.