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Matt Henry’s Lone Stars: An Important, Frightening Story in the Deep South

Matt Henry’s fictional exploration of a murder in the American South is neon-hued and unsettling.

Matt Henry‘s latest photo series Lone Stars has a David Lynch feel to it: strangely colored, dimly lit, and full of small, careful details.

The narrative follows a fictional community in a fictional town somewhere in Texas. Henry’s photos are less about telling a clear story and more about creating a mood. The events in Lone Stars are sometimes ambiguous, but the place Henry constructs feels real and frightening.

The story’s lack of clarity adds to the feeling of foreboding in the images. There’s also a staged, theatrical quality to the images which makes them feel like film stills, giving the viewer the sense that they’re only looking at brief snapshots from a larger narrative.

According to Henry, Lone Stars takes place in the 60s, with the presence of the 1969 Western True Grit on a movie marquee helping date the narrative. Henry positions it as a follow up to his series Born on the Bayou, which was shot in Louisiana. In both photo series, though, the super-sharp definition of Henry’s digital images throws into question the idea that the images are happening in the past.

This uncertain sense of time reminds the viewer that, despite how much Lone Stars looks like it takes place in the past, the racial tension and violence it depicts persist as very real problems in the present.

“Much of the small-town landscape in Texas was peppered with Trump-Pence banners, so recreating a story steeped in racial tension somehow didn’t feel like an exercise in nostalgia at all,” Henry says. He’s planning another Southern Gothic shoot in Georgia in 2017.

See Lone Stars below, and find more of Matt Henry’s work at his online portfolio.

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