In 2002, photographer Gillian Laub traveled to Georgia to document a racially segregated high school prom, the start of what would later become “Southern Rites,” her longterm photography and documentary film project investigating issues of race and equality in the town of Montgomery County, GA. In a recent Facebook post, Laub revealed that her project began when she came across a letter Anna Rich Chafen, a student at Montgomery County high school, wrote to SPIN magazine “in a cry for help…pleading for someone to cover an injustice in her town.” Added Laub: “All it takes is ONE brave person to change the course of an entire community. [Anna Rich Chafen] thank you for being that person. You inspire me.”
Through Laub’s project, the town has received media attention from outlets such as TIME, The New York Times, and The Village Voice. Laub’s film documenting Montgomery County the year after it merged its proms premieres this month on HBO. She also recently discussed the project on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and at a New York Times TimesTalk with the film’s executive producer, John Legend.
“Southern Rites” premieres May 18, 2015 on HBO. Laub’s still photographs are showing at Benrubi Gallery in New York City from May 14-June 27, 2015. Damiani will also publish a book of the work in June.