The Southern Glossary Instagram account is curated by a new artist or photographer each week. Every curator will put their own spin on the account, showing off work, their process, and their surroundings. Here's a Q&A with last week's curator, photographer Nic Persinger.
How did your interest in photography begin?
I come from a fairly creative and artistic family, but my curiosity didn't hit me until high school. At 16 or 17 I spent a week in New York City visiting my aunt who is a photographer. She had the first digital Canon Rebel and I was amazed by it. After some begging, she let me take it out for a stroll around town. I shot tons and tons of images and to be honest, they turned out better than we expected them to. After that, I came home dying to make photographs. At the time, my high school didn't offer a photo class due to budget constraints, but my art teacher still had tons of equipment from the 80s and 90s. So, I would spend my lunches and time after school with him understanding how cameras work and the fundamentals of photography. If it wasn't for the help of my Aunt Michelle and my art teacher Rocco, I don't think I'd even own a camera today.
How do you feel about the relationship of an artist to their city or surroundings?
An artist's sense of place is very important to me, because that's one of the most crucial elements of my work. Home, origin, and place drive almost all the narratives in what I produce. For me, that's what draws inspiration. I come from a very strange and wonderful place—which I think really propels my vision and also creates a great bridge of familiarity and oddity for viewers.
Do you have a creative or artistic peer group in your area that you're a part of? What opportunities are there for artists like yourself?
I'm really glad I have found myself in a group of Appalachian and Southern artists that I'm honored to be associated with. It's important to be involved with a group of peers, I think. We all support one another in so many ways. When I left DC and moved back to West Virginia, I was nervous to see if I could still network and meet other artists while being sort of secluded. I knew moving back would force me to make the images and work I needed to be making, but I was terrified I would just fade away in the woods. West Virginia is a very tricky place as an artist. There are very few galleries, and there isn't much of a market for fine art. Resources here are limited for artists—but that's something I'm working on changing. I have to give a huge thank-you to three people who have supported me to no end—Dan Rios, Rob McDonald, and Roger May. All of them are dear friends and damn fine gentlemen (and artists) who have really pushed me get to where I'm going.
Where do you go to draw inspiration?
As I mentioned before, the gallery outlets in WV are far and few between. Most of my inspiration comes from my surroundings and traveling home. I live about two and a half hours from my hometown. When I make a trip home it's always much longer with lots of stops along the way. My wife is a saint. I don't know many people that would tolerate a 2 hour trip that turning into 4 hours with lots of back roads and me talking to strangers to photograph. But in a nutshell I draw inspiration from home, family, Breece Pancake, Jesus, hollers, and the folks I meet along my travels. Music is also a huge part of my process. The hours I spend on the road are full of albums after albums.
Do you feel creatively satisfied?
Lately, more than ever. I've had such a wild year. For me, being a photographer is lonely work. I'm usually alone in the middle of nowhere making photographs. This year I've been fortunate enough to share my work with more people than ever. I did my first batch of honorarium visits at universities to speak, a museum exhibit, and some really amazing group shows with new and old friends. This year has made me sure of the fact that I did the right thing returning to West Virginia.
Tell me about a recent, current, or upcoming project or exhibition.
I've started working on a long-running project of mine again. The name Bernard Coffindaffer doesn't ring a bell for most people, but what he left behind is something everyone has a memory of. If you've ever seen three giant crosses along any highway—that's because of him. He was from the same county as me and his story has completely captivated me for years. His vision from God told him to erect these cross clusters all over. Almost 3000 clusters are in the US. His last years of life were a sort of divine insanity—he spent millions on those crosses until he suddenly died, penniless. I've been photographing his crosses, the roads to them, and where he came from for a few years now and I can't wait to share it.