“The Atlanta airport can be a mess,” says Gregory Harris, assistant curator for photography at the High Museum of Art. “You’re stuck in security lines, or your flight could be cancelled or delayed, or you’re about to miss your plane. But in the midst of all that, there’s a sense of possibility and hope, too.” Those calm instances are where Georgia photographer Mark Steinmetz finds his inspiration. In “Mark Steinmetz: Terminus,” the latest installment of the High Museum’s “Picturing the South” initiative, which commissions Southern photographers to create new bodies of work about their home region, the artist brings to light human moments that happen in the busiest airport in the world.
Based in Athens, Georgia, Steinmetz has been recognized for his street photography since the eighties. “He usually photographs the edges of cities and highways,” says Harris. “He’s interested in people who occupy liminal spaces, and there’s nowhere more transitory than Hartsfield-Jackson.”
Using only a small handheld camera, Steinmetz’s improvisational black-and-white photos focus on the paradoxes the airport poses: the literal movement from past to future, the simultaneous urban and rural setting the facility occupies on the outskirts of the one of South’s largest metropolises, and the contemplative moments that occur within the bustle of it all. In his shots, a man glances up at the sky, a boy watches the planes on the tarmac, and a woman turns a luggage cart into an impromptu lounge chair. “Hartsfield-Jackson is a gateway to the wider world,” says Harris. “And it makes for the setting of some incredibly human moments.”
“Terminus” will be on display at the High through June 3.