Museum Exhibit Captures Faulkner’s Mythical Landscape on Film

Collection by French photographer opens with panel discussion March 5

This photograph of a little girl is among Alain Desvergnes' images included in 'Portraits as Landscapes, Landscapes as Portraits: Yoknapatawpha County in the 1960s' at the University of Mississippi Museum.

OXFORD, Miss. – Photographs depicting the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, shot in the 1960s by former University of Mississippi faculty member Alain Desvergnes, will be on display beginning Tuesday (March 5) at the University Museum.

The University of Mississippi Museum is exceptionally pleased to present the Yoknapatawpha photographs of French photographer Alain Desvergnes, and to welcome this artist back to northern Mississippi more than 45 years after he captured these compelling images,” said Robert Saarnio, museum director. “Alain’s photographs convey a time and a place both distant and strikingly familiar to those of us who live here, and we eagerly anticipate the opportunity to hear from him about this fascinating project.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, a panel discussion with Desvergnes is slated for 5-6 p.m. Tuesday at the museum. The discussion will be moderated by Ted Ownby, director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, and also features William Griffith, curator of Rowan Oak, and Jay Watson, Howry Chair in Faulkner studies and professor of English.

The opening reception, set for 6-8 p.m. Thursday (March 7), will include the artist and his wife. The exhibit will remain on display at the museum through Aug. 17.

Desvergnes was born in 1931 in the Périgord region of France. After studies in journalism and sociology and stints as a reporter and art critic, he lived in North America for 19 years. From 1963 to 1965, he was an assistant professor at UM, where he read the works of William Faulkner and fell in love with the mythical Yoknapatawpha County. Inspired by Faulkner’s words, Desvergnes sought to photograph Yoknapatawpha County, documenting both its beauty and its sorrow, which was visually unknown in Europe.

“I went to photograph William Faulkner’s landscapes in Mississippi, in order to find there the characters that make appearances in his novels, to sketch the portrait of these figures who’d fascinated me and who I constantly encountered when walking through his lands,” Desvergnes said. “Between reality and fiction, a microcosm of landscapes took shape, which I saw as portraits, as did a microcosm of portraits, which I saw as landscapes. I had imagined them like improvised palimpsests where an image superimposes itself on another to fit in differently so as to flirt or struggle with the original image.”

The University Museum is at the intersection of University Avenue and Fifth Street. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. General admission to this special exhibition is $5, $4 for seniors and $3 for students ages 6-17. Admission is free for UM students, UM Museum members and children under 5. Special group rates are available. To book a tour, contact

For more information, visit the University Museum website or call 662-915-7073.