John Sumner


John Sumner has been photographing the American South for over 25 years. His timeless images are embedded with the hard-labor sweat and red clay that permeate the region. His photographs are populated with Southern people, not just places they inhabit. Sumner is fearless in his approach, capturing people who are obviously unafraid of what this “outsider” might do with the images. Sumner is, after all, not an outsider, but a genteel artifact of the South himself. His style is disarming and obviously effective in his quest to capture his homeland and its people.

From county fairs to local festivals, Sumner fans out from his home base in Atlanta to capture a world that is historically far away, but in reality just down the road from his big-city home. Images of kids riding in the back of pick-up trucks are peppered with the innocent joy that only someone removed from a contemporary life could muster. Decade-weathered faces are perched next to supple newborn skin as generations share the familial bonds that often define the South. The torch is passed from generation to generation as young black and white children play in Atlanta’s Cabbagetown neighborhood, oblivious to the racial strife their parents have witnessed and endured.

From the top of Stone Mountain, where a blanketed girl assumes an angelic persona, to a tree in Piedmont Park where lovers have carved their initials into the base of a birch tree for decades, Sumner is a consummate Southern “witness.” His warm-toned fiber prints and Giclee reproductions reveal another way of life.


Permanent Collections:

The High Museum of Art, Atlanta GA
Permanent collection - nine images

The Museum of Contemporary Art Of Georgia
Permanent collection - one image

Shite Museum of Art

University of Notre Dame – seven images
Purchased three images from New York exhibit

Schatten Gallery, Emory University
Mayor's Corridor, Atlanta City Hall, Atlanta, Ga.
Title: Neil Ray and the Spirit
Selected by Mayor Maynard Jackson

Corporate Sales:

American Security Insurance
Title: The Southern Series of 87 Images

Greenberg Trawris, LLC
Purchased 3 Images

John & Sue Wieland Collection

Published Works:

Man on the Porch

Priest in Jerusalem

1988 Democratic national Convention
1988 Photo Essay of Israel

We the People
Jurors: Alex Haley, Eddie Adams, Dr Joyce Brothers
Trucking Home

Annual 2000 Contest
Title: State Fair
Honorable Mention

Photo Essay of Trains and Train People

Commemorative Calendar 1997
Title: Reminiscing the South

Live Free or Die, Rhonda Schaller Studio, NYC

Associated Artist, Winston Salem
“Face Value” cash prize
Juror: Marc Pachter
Director, National Portrait Gallery
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

Nassau Community College, New York
Juror: Tina Kukielski
Curator, Contemporary Art
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Image used for brochure

Art and Sciences National Juried photography
Juror: Katherine Ware
Reviewed: Pat Johnson
“Because I’m a writer, I have a prejudice for photographs with a narrative, so I loved Grandpa at the Fair by John Sumner.”

18th Annual National Juried Art Exhibition
Douglas County Georgia Art Guild
Juror: Ben Apfelbaum
Second place “The best southern photographs I’ve seen in the region.”

The Stage Gallery International
Curator: E. Lynn Moss
Senior Editor, American Artist

2001 - 2005
Atlanta Celebrates Photography
Juror: Fay Gold
Juror: Jane Jackson
Gallery 214, Montclair, NJ
Juror: Sid Sacks,
University of Art, Philadelphia, PA

Atlanta Photography Group Gallery, Virginia Ave., Atlanta, Ga.: The Nexus Photographers

Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, Tennessee; Art Extravaganza
Juror: Dr. J. Richard Gruber, Director of Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, La.

Savannah College of Art Merit Award
Juror: Holly Solomon, N. Y. Gallery

1998 and 2005 Triennial Exhibition
Huntsville Museum of Art, The Red Clay Survey
Juror: Ruth Weisberg
Juror: Elaine Spatz-Rabinowitz

First Annual Juried Photography Exhibition
Title: Images of the South
Jurors: Jane Jackson and Dr. Irving Finkelstein,

The Center for Photography, Woodstock, NY
Juror: Sandra S. Phillips, Curator of Photography,
San Francisco Museum of Art

Schatten Gallery, Emory University, Atlanta, Ga.
Title: With Liberty and Justice for All
Exhibit included works by Walker Evans, Lewis Hine and James Van der Zee
Paneled Jury: Dr. Ann Abrams

Erie Art Center, Erie Pennsylvania
Juror: Duane Michals and Bea Nettles
Southeastern Photography Exhibit, Asheville Art Museum, Asheville, NC
Juror: George Tice

Nexus Gallery, Atlanta, Ga.
Two-person exhibit with Kiyoako Kato
Review from W. C. Burnett of the ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION
"…he operates from a very sympathetic viewpoint…an interesting attribute for a photographer."

Nexus Gallery, Virginia Ave., Atlanta, Ga.
Two-person exhibit with Mary Anstadt
Review by Geoffrey Perrin, GAZETTE MAGAZINE "His photographs are pure intensity of mood by simplification of form."

Grant, City of Atlanta, Bureau of Cultural affairs
Grand Cultural Center, Bartow County, GA
Title: Photographic Essay on Bartow County, GA 1982-1985
Atlanta Arts Festival: 1980-1985, 86, 89
Georgia State National Fair - Six First Place Awards of Excellence - B&W and Color