Cook Library will display a new exhibit entitled “The Photographer as Participant Observer: Ed Wheel- er and the Gulf Oil Rigs, 1981-1985.” The exhibit will open with a reception Thursday with a discussion by author and professor Joe Millichap.
The discussion will address photographs and documents dis- played. The discussion will also ad- dress southern culture in historical and literary terms and Wheeler’s experiences as a photographer and teacher.
Earlier in the semester, the library displayed a series of paintings by Clinard “Clint” Martin entitled “Red Tails: 332nd Fighter Group, Ramitelli, Italy, W.W.II.” The paintings were displayed for a little under a month, and now Wheeler’s gallery will get its work displayed for the Southern Miss campus and the Hattiesburg community.
The exhibit will be in conjunction with the release of a special issue of The Southern Quarterly, a journal for the Arts and Letters in the South. The exhibit will document a subculture using “participant observation” methodology.
The Southern Quarterly, published by the College of Arts and Letters, has been in circulation for more than 50 years. The Southern Quarterly previews and highlights scholarly endeavors such as photo essays, portfolios, book reviews and photographs that make an impact in southern Mississippi and beyond.
The exhibit will chronicle images of the oil rigs stationed in the Gulf of Mexico back in the ‘80s, where Wheeler was stationed in 1980 as a gallery hand. The images capture men wrestling pipes, the camaraderie among them and even Wheeler handling the oil field intricacies him- self from time to time.
Wheeler, a southwestern Oklahoma native, is a World War II veteran, before spending 12 years working for The Dallas Morning News. While he worked in Dallas, he went back to school to get two photography degrees at East Texas State University.
In 1977, he moved to Hattiesburg to teach at Southern Miss until his retirement 20 years later. He was recognized with the Robert Garland Award for outstanding service as a photojournalism educator in 2007 for his impact at USM.
While at the university, he helped the careers of many photojournalists who went on to win several Pulitzer Prizes. His work is displayed in not just Mississippi, but in museums in Louisiana. Wheeler was inducted into the MCJ Hall of Fame in 2007 while he was a professor emeritus.
The discussion and reception will be headed by Joseph Millchap, a professor emeritus of English at Western Kentucky, who will devel- op and delve into the discussion of the importance of photography to southern culture.
The reception will begin at 4 p.m., with the program starting accordingly at 4:30 p.m.