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Southern Spaces
A journal about real and imagined spaces and places of the US South and their global connections

"No Deadline Short of the Grave": The Photographs of Paul Kwilecki

Duke University
Published September 30, 2013


In this illustrated talk at the Decatur (Georgia) Book Festival, August 31, 2013, Tom Rankin discusses his book One Place: Paul Kwilecki and Four Decades of Photographs from Decatur County, Georgia. Kwilecki (1928–2009), a "self-taught" photographer, lived his entire life in Bainbridge, Georgia, where he took hundreds of masterful black-and-white images over the course of forty years. "I know of no single body of images," comments Rankin, "with a reach and resonance to match what Paul accomplished in Decatur County."


Part 1: Tom Rankin introduces the life and work of Paul Kwilecki and his relationship to Decatur County, Georgia. 

Part 2: Rankin discusses the evolution of Kwilecki's photographic style and the process of assembling the book, One Place.

Part 3: A discussion of Kwilecki photographs that reveal insider-outsider tensions in Decatur County.

Part 4: Kwilecki's subjects and the continuity of his perspective across decades of "staying put."

Self-portrait taken at the request of a magazine, December 1985. Photograph by Paul Kwilecki. Courtesy of Tom Rankin.
Self-portrait taken at the request of a magazine, December 1985. Photograph by Paul Kwilecki. Courtesy of Tom Rankin.

About the Author

Tom Rankin is professor of the Practice of Art and Documentary Studies and director of the MFA program in Experimental and Documentary Arts at Duke University. His books include Sacred Space: Photographs from the Mississippi Delta (University Press of Mississippi, 1993), Deaf Maggie Lee Sayre: Photographs of a River Life (University Press of Mississippi, 1995), and Local Heroes Changing America: Indivisible (Norton, 2000), among others. Rankin writes frequently about photography and the documentary tradition and his photographs have been widely exhibited.

Publication Update

In January 2019, Southern Spaces updated this publication as part of the journal's redesign and migration to Drupal 7. Updates include image and video adjustments, as well as revised recommended resources and related publications. For access to the original layout, paste this publication's URL into the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine and view any version of the piece that predates December 2018.

Cover Image Attribution:

Elberta Crate and Box Co., Bainbridge, Georgia, January 1982. Photograph by Paul Kwilecki. Courtesy of Tom Rankin.

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