Anne Algar’s photographic work is concerned with the cultural and the sociological. In Mississippi Blues, Algar plays homage to the genre of Blues music and the social history that gave birth to it. These photographs were taken in the Mississippi Delta, a region stretching from Memphis Tennessee in the north, to New Orleans, Louisiana in the south. The images take the viewer on a journey to landmarks, significant locations and iconic sites of Blues history, a history that is also the history of black America, of slavery, poverty, oppression and segregation. Blues music gave expression to despair and loneliness, as much as to hope and redemption, it was played in backstreets, juke joints and private house parties away from the prying eyes of white citizens and Churchgoers, who saw the Blues as the music of the Devil.
Reflected back in the images we get a sense of this history lurking just below the surface, where we find octogenarian Bluesman Big George Brock playing for tips, a portrait of Bobby Kennedy gathering dust on an old couch, empty chairs in a once thriving juke joint or a derelict building in a town that has seen better days.
The images evoke nostalgia for the past, but also reflect back a certain melancholia embedded in the landscape, a strange sense of stepping into the past while still being in the present. They conjure a second America, a poor, downtrodden, crushed America where hope has faded into hopelessness, and Martin Luther Kings dream remains so.
In the worldwide consumption and commodification of the Blues its roots have been hidden. Understanding these roots broadens an appreciation of a musical genre for its ageless ability to speak to the human heart
Algar is a Melbourne based photographer. She has exhibited widely in Melbourne and her work is held in the Museum Victoria collection, the Deakin University art collection and the National Film and Sound Archive.