Piggy Wiggly Lore Reveal

What happens when two old pals talk about inflatable gorillas

The Slow Exposures photography festival in Zebulon, Georgia, has been a great part of my life for a few years now. While I couldn’t go this year, I did participate in a freewheeling conversation with Pat Owens.

Spartanburg, South Carolina, Polaroid 600 (July 4, 2020)

Pat has deep family ties to Alabama, and shoots instant film. I get that wonderful feeling when looking at his photographs of I wish I had taken that! or where did he find that place! but more and more he just blows me away—like with this incredible night shot of a Piggly Wiggly with a Polaroid Land Camera:

Polaroid by Patrick Owens, Tuskeegee, Alabama

There is a late-night feel to this photograph that reminds me of NYC photos from the 1940s and 50s, at the very dawn of color—this is barely color—a splash of saturation and one reflection away from being something Saul Leiter made on a rainy day in Manhattan.

Over the course of a half hour and six instant photographs, Pat and I shared about homages to Mr. Christenberry (like my palmist below), grocery store parking lots, schools our families attended, how I’m a terrible friend because I take like a week to respond, and rescuing handpainted signs.

Shreveport fortune teller, Polaroid SX-70 (2020)

It was a bucket of fun and there’s tape of our conversation. I was really thrilled by how our images complemented each other, unconsciously mimicked each other across several states, and being able to visit with another artist about why we do what we do. We kick it off by pairing Polaroids of inflatable gorillas hawking fireworks—sure, maybe his is pink, but mine has on sunglasses. We’ll call it a tie.

AS ALWAYS I am gorjusjxn on Instagram, and you can see more Polaroids at McCartyPolaroids. If you want to see more of Pat Owens’ work, his Instagram is @patleo and his website is here. While he is an accomplished photographer, Pat’s sculpture explores his love of the vanishing South in a revelatory way.