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at Marshall Visual Art Center
by Todd Camplin

The past few weeks have been pretty rough. I haven’t ventured far from my East Texas studio
to see shows. The season has got me down but not out. So I thought I might go to something
in Marshall Texas. They have a little visual art center located next to the Marshall Visual Art
Center. Usually the black carpeted walls on large panels are not the best for displaying art,
but in this case, the show worked out perfectly. The show contains the photography of
Johnna Rena’ Guillory.
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Guillory is the type of photographer that immerses herself in the culture to record lives in their most
natural setting. For this particular project, Guillory chose to spend long hours in a bar in southern
Louisiana. Not just any bar, but a culturally significant space where the last embers of a style of
music and culture are still celebrated. This group of images features the people, the drinks, and
the music around Fred’s Bar. When the bar was purchased in the 1950’s Fred made an effort
to revive the French music through live performances and broadcast radio. Though Fred has
passed on, the bar still supports his dream of keeping the Cajun culture alive.
As you enter the show, there is an establishing photo of the outside of the bar. She also has a
photo of a historical marker as an introduction to this body of work. The outside photo shows
bikes parked next to the building with a sign “Fred’s Lounge.” This image of the bar sets the
stage for the next indoor shots of the people. Inside the bar you see a range of individuals
lounging around and soaking in the atmosphere. The photos are rich with a contrast of light
and shadow. You can feel the light has become lower as you walk past more images. You
see photos of people pouring drinks where the pourer is blurred and the people sitting at
the bar are peering at their own internal dialog.

The big story is really comprised of little moments that draw you in and you forget yourself.
I have been told that examples of music will accompany the show opening on February
the 11th. Come out to Marshall, Texas to see the show. If you’re in the area, visit my east
Texas studio too. For those that can’t make it, I hope Guillory will be showing in the DFW soon.

Cultural objects become important subjects. The accordion is lovingly given its due as a subject.
Yet at the same time, she also focuses on the bottles and cups that litter the scene. All things
are important to document and give an account of Guillory’s images. I like how she ends the
group of photos with the bikers riding home, away from the bar. This is a way to give a narrative
continuity to the works. While essentially a photo essay, the photos are much more than just
a sequence of images that tell a story, and each image is a microcosm.