Hodgson Photo Service, tucked into a 14th Street strip mall next to the Silver Skillet, is one of the quirkier venues for the multi-tentacled Atlanta Celebrates Photography event, now in its sweeping-up-the-confetti and pulling-down-the-streamers phase of its month-long photo-palooza.
Some of the work in Judy Kuniansky's show On the Edge can veer into well-trod territory. Typical is a conventional image in which the photographer marvels at the surreal ways of backwater Southerners seen in a "No Guns Allowed" warning posted at a peaceful lake.
But Kuniansky finds her voice in a small group of striking silver gelatin portraits of jukin', jivin' and yee-hawin' country boy roughnecks. It is in the documentary survey of Southern, tanned-to-leather good ol' boys sporting marijuana leaf tattoos and snorting Canadian Mist that Kuniansky strikes gold.
"Tailgate Party" is a typically smart, engaging photograph that captures a pastoral idyll as dappled with filmy sunlight as Manet's "Dejeuner sur L'Herbe." A gaggle of shirtless, whiskey-guzzlin' overgrown boys hang out in the woods on a pickup truck used like a float on a choppy lake, in an image that puts an unexpectedly romantic glow on these most earthy of folk.
The pickup is the locus of activity in the salty subculture Kuniansky documents — a party zone, a beloved companion, a stage, a hobby — attested to in a photo of three axle-graces chatting over an exposed engine in "Under the Hood," or the wonderful image "An Edge Up" of an older man jutting his chin in concentration as he shaves using the sideview mirror on his truck.
Kuniansky has found rich material in her images and expresses both interest and fascination for subjects who may not be exactly ennobled, but who seem partly rescued from citified visions of Lynyrd Skynyrd rednecks cruising country roads with homicide on their minds. With a hint of Shelby Lee Adams and Tennessee photographer Mike Smith, Kuniansky allows us a glimpse of the strangers in our midst, and also of some of the deliciously peculiar rituals of macho Southern life.
On the Edge runs through Dec. 20 at Hodgson Photo Service, 206 14th St. Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-872-3686.??