I never thought that a photograph that I had taken would ever cause me the personal challenge that this one has. I think the reason that it is giving me so much trouble is due to the fact that, in my opinion, it has been effective in what I wanted from it. It is bold, yet structurally unassuming. Outside of the one obvious element, it's not wonderful, nor is it trash. However, in working on a project involving the southeastern region of the United States, I knew it would be inevitable to avoid the Confederate Flag.
For anyone with a pulse in the United States, especially in the south, the controversy over this flag is far from unknown. As a resident of South Carolina, and former resident of Georgia, I've been privy to controversies over the flag and its varied displays by each state. Having grown up in the south, I'm also aware of both sides of the argument of why it should or should not be displayed, right or wrong. It actually amazes me sometimes that in this day and age, so far removed from the events that brought us this symbol, that there is still such a divide caused by this flag.
I will say right now that I have come to see and understand how this flag has become a symbol of hate and oppression to many. I also have heard the countless arguments of heritage associated with the flag. This is the reason that I have really struggled over possibly including this image in whatever final incarnation my project becomes. It is my hope that people will understand that this was in no way my attempt to glorify what this flag has and still represents. In regards to my work, this flag is, right or wrong, is still a piece of what this region of the country is visually. To ignore that would be to act like the problem doesn't still exist.
I truly do not want this work to be political or controversial in any way. My initial thought was to try and avoid including the flag as a way to avoid having to deal with it. As I mentioned already, that would be the easy, and ignorant, way to get around it. My feeling is that by including it I'm not ignoring that the issue of the flag and the ideas that have revolved around it exist.
The one thing that I have noticed, though, and gives me some hope, is that once I reconciled myself with the thought of including it somewhere in the project I've had a hard time finding the flag. That is not to say that if you went looking you would never find one. However, outside of places I KNOW have a flag flying on display, just stumbling across one doesn't seem as easy as it was while growing up.
In the end, I just wanted to get this off my chest. I've never had a photograph that I've felt so conflicted over. I think my reasons for feeling that way are valid, yet again, to not use this image as a representation of what is still a part of the visual realm of this region of the country would be acting as if it didn't exist. To me, that would be even worse.