Last Saturday I attended an art show that took place at photographer Josh Anderson’s house in East Nashville. The featured artists were locals Garland Gallaspy and Rebecca Gillespie. Born one day apart, the two Polaroid enthusiasts were exhibited in a way where the photos seemed to morph into one another. Gillespie has a great eye, but I went to the show to see Gallaspy’s work — I've encountered it previously, but this was the first time I'd seen a formal exhibition of his pictures. The show worked like a pausing point for his pathological Polaroid documentation and celebrated a new photo book that he's publishing.
The first time I came across one of Garland’s Polaroids was last summer in a swimming pool in Gallatin. Plenty of fruity gin drinks were imbibed, and pool basketball had given way to lazy sunbathing. At one moment, I emerged from my slow underwater exploration to find an abandoned volleyball bobbing in the pool with a just-shot Polaroid resting on top of it. I swam over in time to watch the image develop in the sun. The snapshot was of a Nashville ballerina as she flipped off the diving board. In this shot, the summer was perfectly frozen through the lens of a local character who always reminded me of pulp noir writer Charles Willeford. Garland was nowhere near the Polaroid when I found it, and I later learned that it was his tendency to snap shots and move on from the image, always confident it would make its way back to him.
A week later I saw Garland had posted a Polaroid he took of John Waters at Bonnaroo — it was just something he offhandedly snapped while working the festival, but it was the best picture of the brilliant and smutty filmmaker I’ve ever seen.
That instance lead to my willing descent down the rabbit hole of Garland’s Polaroid archive on his Facebook page. It reminded me of the times I saw Ryan McGinley’s Indian summer portraits of nudes in New York. I never really liked McGinley’s portraits because they seemed stilted and phony, like all the waifish girls and boys were posing because they knew they’d be branded as a McGinley-type.
Alternatively, Garland’s photos do not look like they were slapped with authority. He is a silent observer with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, a penchant for rhythm and a crass sort of pulchritude. He doesn’t try to ever hunt after or arrange his photos. They seem like extensions of his aura, cluing people into the version of Nashville that he accepts. That's a Nashville I like, too.
Polaroid Art Show is up through the end of the week. Email Josh (email@example.com) to schedule an appointment.