The Photograph Five

Sheila Pree Bright

May 1, 2023

Georgia-based photographer Sheila Pree Bright’s large-scale, mostly black-and-white photographs are on view in Jackson Fine Art’s new, 4,000-square-foot Atlanta space through May 26. The show includes images from three of Bright’s series: The Rebirth of Us, Behold the Land, and Invisible Empire, whose title is borrowed from an essay by W.E.B. DuBois about the social and cultural conditions in Georgia – the beauty of the landscape as well as the state’s history of slavery and racism. With meditative landscapes and two lush portraits in which a female face is framed by flowers, the work on view engages with the generational trauma of the south but also with joy and beauty. Bright’s portrait of Stacey Abrams is included in Black American Portraits at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art through June 30.

Sheila Pree Bright answered five questions from photograph.

Sheila Pree Bright and her sister, Likisha, at the 2019 exhibition Barbie: Dreaming of a Female Future at the Birmingham Museum of Art featuring Bright’s Plastic Bodies series

Name a photograph that brings you joy.

This photograph of me and my sister evokes well-being of happiness in me. In 2019, we traveled from Atlanta to Birmingham, Alabama, for the exhibition Barbie: Dreaming of a Female Future, featuring my Plastic Bodies series, at the Birmingham Museum of Art. When we arrived, we viewed the installation and talked about our mother, who had recently passed before the show opening. We were like children, reminiscent of our memories of our mother, whose spirit lives on with us.

Cover of Ming Smith (Aperture, 2020)

Favorite photo book?

Right now, my favorite photography book is by the photographer Ming Smith, who has a show at the Museum of Modern Art through May 29. I love how she captures moody, cinematic black-and-white images of everyday Black life in the ’70s through a woman’s gaze.

Installation view of Black American Portraits, courtesy Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, photo by Mike Jensen

Last exhibition you saw?

The exhibition Black American Portraits at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, co-curated by Liz Andrews, executive director of the museum, and Christine Y. Kim, the Britton Family Curator-at Large at the Tate, consists of photography, mixed media, painting, and sculpture.

View of the 2008 exhibition Young Americans at the High Museum of Art

Favorite museum?

My first experience coming out of graduate school was having a solo exhibition in 2008 at the High Museum of Art, Young Americans, curated by Julian Cox. This was my introduction to the art world while learning in real time. I consider the High my base in Atlanta.

Favorite work of art that’s not a photograph?

Kerry James Marshall’s artwork speaks volumes to me. The way the artist depicts the skin tones of Blackness shows a different perspective of seeing the unseen.

©Sheila Pree Bright, Bible, from the series Invisible Empire, 2019. Courtesy Jackson Fine Art