From 15th of septembre until 27th of october 2018

Matt Henry

Exhibition "Southern Gothic and Others Stories"
Plantation House 2016 © Matt Henry Plantation House 2016 © Matt Henry Plantation House 2016 © Matt Henry


From September 15th to October 27th 2018



Polka Galerie is proud to present “Southern Gothic and Other Stories”, Welsh photographer Matt Henry’s second exhibition after “The Trip” (2016). An avid admirer of scripted photo narratives, the artist imagines a series of new photographic tales shot between 2016 and 2017 in Georgia, Texas and Louisiana respectively. These three new stories: “The Curse of Nanny Goat Island”, “Lone Stars” and “Born in the Bayou”, immerse the viewer into the hallucinatory and bizarre world of the southern United States.


These works explicitly pay homage to the genre of Southern Gothic, inspired by gothic literature that emerged from European literary romanticism and naturalism. Prominent authors of the style include William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers, Tennessee Williams and Harper Lee. The fictional world woven through their narratives is steeped in post-civil war culture of the southern states, where the fantasy of rural folklore intermingles with sharp social criticism that touches on pacifism, poverty and community tensions. Matt Henry’s dreamlike worlds give rise to eccentric, sometimes grotesque characters. Each set and shoot creates a new imaginary world, caught between a storyboard and the photographer’s improvisation with unconventional, sometimes amateur actors.


Henry’s series “The Curse of Nanny Goat Island” tells the stirring tale of multiple mysterious deaths that disturb the peace in a small town in Georgia known for its KKK following. The locals begin to suspect the inhabitants of a nearby island—descendants of West African slaves who practice a form of Hoodoo magic. When the islanders call upon Georgia’s only black reporter to investigate, she too disappears, leaving the town with even more questions… With “Lone Stars” the photographer channels a Lynchian atmosphere, plunging into an equally mystifying drama that befell a small Texas town. The terrifying details of the story are left up to the viewers’ imagination.


For Henry’s next series, “Born on the Bayou”, Henry arrived in Louisiana in the summer of 2016. “I arrived and headed straight out to the swamps of Bayou Gauche”, he recounts, “to track down an old bar shack called the Fisherman’s Wharf. It was dark, ten at night, and the sounds of chirping swamp life were loud enough to compete with a preacher’s voice, thundering something about eternal damnation from my rental car. I was fresh from re-watching Season 1 of True Detective and determined to find the bar that a beaten Rust Cohle had retired to.” Thus begins an epic journey through Louisiana. On it we encounter fallen preachers, famous musicians, prostitutes and a swamp princess. The actors behind each protagonist’s role also have their own stories to tell… From an ex-police detective, a disillusioned waitress, and an elderly antiquarian gentleman to NFL cheerleaders and a bodybuilding lawyer, lending his 67 Mustang and collection of semiautomatic pistols to the photo-shoot… Can you make them out underneath the costumes?


Matt Henry’s narratives are independent self-enclosed worlds that resemble Gregory Crewdson’s cinematography, and his photographs – stills from a film that was never made, left to the viewers’ imagination. In them, the artist along with his actors dream up absurdly sinister, perplexing, dramatic and oftentimes violent scenarios. “The small town has always acted for me as the perfect stage to play out the stories we tell ourselves about what it really means to be human,” explains Henry.


“Southern Gothic and Other Stories” is a captivating journey into the hidden world of three communities set in the 60s, each revealing a distinct angle on a country that has long forgotten the American Dream. Their stories ring clear against the contemporary backdrop of resurfacing social violence and institutionalized racism in Trump’s America.


The exhibition is also marks the launch of Matt Henry’s new book “Night of the Hunted”.






Matt Henry, born in 1978, grew up in North Wales and is now based in Brighton, England. His photographic practice focuses on American politics and culture of the 1960s and 1970s; a subject Henry researched in his BA Politics (Univ. of Nottingham) and MA Photography (Univ. of Brighton). The works present themselves as fictional scenes staged across set-builds and dressed locations in the UK and USA.


Henry’s work plays with fragments of American photography, cinema and literature to explore their underlying ideological questions.


Particularly interested in counterculture, his first monograph, Short Stories, imagines the rise of progressive politics in a small conservative town, through a simultaneously utopian and dystopian lens.


Matt Henry’s work has been exhibited in Europe, North America and Asia.





Bling Bling Baby!, Germany, November 2016-January 2017

Unseen Amsterdam, September 2016

Gardening, Flatland Gallery, May/June 2016

Photo Noir, Photo Place Gallery, February 2016

Format EVIDENCE, Tbilisi Photo Festival, September 2015

Format EVIDENCE, Obscura Festival, Malaysia, August 2015

Exposure, FORMAT International Photography festival, Derby; Mar/Apr 2015

Open featuring Shane Lavalette, Centre for Fine Art Photography, Colorado; Dec/Jan 2014

Night Contact, Brighton Photo Biennial; October 2014

Mythopoesis, University of Brighton Masters’ degree show; September 2014

One Shot: One World, Month of Photography Los Angeles; April/May 2014

Come Together, FotoWeekDC Washington; November 2012

Shanghai International Photography Festival; October 2012

Association of Photographers Awards, London; October 2011

Fotox100, Fotografia Rome; October 2010





Southern Gothic, Polka Galerie, Paris, Sep/Oct 2018

The Trip, Polka Galerie, Paris, Sep/Oct 2016

Michael Hoppen Gallery, London (online show), Mar/Apr 2015

Blue River Falls, One Eyed Jacks Gallery, Brighton; July/August 2014

Sometime in the Never, One Eyed Jacks Gallery, Brighton; October 2012