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The Visual South, Part III: Tourist Towns

The current issue of Oxford American magazine, known as "the Southern magazine of good writing," is nicknamed the "Visual South Issue." In its 100 under 100 list, the magazine identifies "the most talented and thrilling up-and-coming artists in the South." This week, we're looking at five of the photographers on that list.

How much does geography frame an artist's vision? It's hard to say; just ask Tammy Mercure.

"I don't think of myself as any particular kind of photographer, like a Southern photographer or a woman photographer," Mercure writes in our correspondence. "The South has very much shaped my photography, though."

Born in Iowa and currently teaching at King College in Bristol, Tenn., Mercure has a few ongoing documentary projects, including this one about tourist towns near the Great Smoky Mountains, a ridge that runs between Tennessee and North Carolina.

Mercure seems to shoot with a twinkle in her eye, which she keeps out for wryly humorous scenes — like people sitting at a park with their backs to the beautiful view. She also seems sincerely affectionate for what she captures in places like Pigeon Forge, Tenn., home to Dolly Parton's amusement park, and Cherokee, N.C.

"The pure spectacle of the towns brimming with shopping, all-you-can-eat buffets and pure entertainment stop some visitors from even seeing the nature up close and unmediated," her website reads.

She also explains that there are several things she appreciates: "The biggest is that the majority of the people I meet are really passionate about their 'thing,' whether it is NASCAR or a beauty pageant. I feel that they appreciate me for being into photography — and take the time to really show [me] something."

"I plan on living somewhere in the South for the rest of my life. The tea is sweet, and the weather is good for shooting every day of the year. And one can always find a live wrestling match every Saturday or just show up to Junior Johnson's house and get a hearty breakfast."

(See Part I and Part II)

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