Posted January 27, 2014 by in Literary Travels

“Faulkner’s World: The Photographs of Martin J. Dain” Exhibit

Photo by Rex Bridges, with JGRLS Attendees at the "Faulkner's World" photo exhibit take a closer look at the photographs of Martin J. Dain.

Photo by Rex Bridges, with JGRLS
Attendees at the “Faulkner’s World” photo exhibit take a closer look at the photographs of Martin J. Dain.


or some readers, their first introduction to William Faulkner’s works is fraught with difficulty. His use of “stream-of-consciousness” writing in novels like Absalom, Absalom can be downright confusing. Even so, Faulkner became famous for his stories, mainly because of his vivid settings and realistic characters. But reading Faulkner is not enough to fully understand his genius. Unless a person has actually been to Lafayette County, Mississippi, walked its lands, and looked into its people’s eyes, he or she cannot fully appreciate the depth of Faulkner’s writing.

Luckily, Faulkner’s world was captured in the beautiful photography of Martin J. Dain, who visited Oxford, Mississippi, during the early 1960s while on a venture to photograph the hill country culture. The end result of Dain’s trips was a book titled Faulkner County: Yoknapatawpha, a collection of his photos. Those pictures have now been made into a traveling exhibit titled “Faulkner’s World: The Photographs of Martin J. Dain,” which has toured several cities in the Gulf Coast region. Currently, the exhibit can be found at the Pascagoula Public Library, where 33 of the photos are on display.

Part of the first Faulkner on the Coast Festival, sponsored by the Jackson County Historical and Genealogical Society and the Jackson George Regional Library System, the exhibit has been at the Pascagoula Library since January 6 and will end its tenure there on January 30. The exhibit is free to the public and can be seen Mondays through Saturdays from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. and has docent-led special tours on weekday mornings from 9 a.m-11 a.m. Other related events have included Reader’s Theater Night, a one-man show titled “Oh, Mr. Faulkner, do you write?” that stars John Maxwell, and essay contests for area high school students.

In a recent interview, Pascagoula exhibit coordinator Renee Hague explained, “The Faulkner exhibit was a complement to the other events in our first Faulkner on the Coast Festival.” According to Hague, the exhibit has drawn people from all over the Gulf Coast to the library.

Of the photos in the current exhibit, which was organized and sponsored by the Center for Southern Culture at Ole Miss, only two are of Faulkner. Most pictures in the collection are of rural scenes, such as mules pulling a man in a wagon on a country lane, women working in their homes, and waiters getting ready for customers at a cafe. These images depict life as it was in Lafayette County during Faulkner’s own time, and viewing the photos makes it much easier for readers to understand how Faulkner was able to draw inspiration from this environment.

Understanding Faulkner and his world means viewing a culture in transition. As exhibit coordinator Hague stated,

Dain’s photographs give equal face time to both races and were taken before the gains of the Civil Rights Movement.

For that reason, the photos will appeal to history buffs and Faulkner fans alike.

Faulkner was an inspiration to writers of his own generation, and he continues to serve in that capacity for all who carry the inextinguishable desire to set pen to paper in the hope of producing that one work that will change the world for the better.

Those wishing to explore the “Faulkner’s World: Photographs of Martin J. Dain” traveling photo exhibit while it is still at the Pascagoula Library have until January 30; interested parties should contact Renee Hague in the Genealogical Department at (228) 769-3060 for additional information. After that, the photos will make their way to the Katrina Research Center at the University of Southern Mississippi in Long Beach.

Photo by Rex Bridges, with JGRLS The exhibit will be on display at the Pascagoula Library until Jan. 30.

Photo by Rex Bridges, with JGRLS

Mollie Smith Waters

Mollie Smith Waters teaches American literature, theater, and speech at a small community college in rural Alabama. Her hobbies include reading, writing, traveling, and walking.