About Places for the Spirit:
"Looking at these black and white images sometimes feels like dropping paper flowers in a glass of water and watching them expand. Vaughn Sills’s images make the mind expand like a rose, fragrant with vision…. [Her] humility in the face of the order she finds in these various gardens is touching – and enlightening.” --Hilton Als
"Sills, who took these photographs in Georgia, the two Carolinas, Louisiana, [Mississippi], and Alabama, includes the location in each title. How could she not, these images are so idiosyncratically — so wondrously — specific. That said, they also convey a sense of being beyond place — and outside of time. Humanity, the Bible says, started in a garden. Looking at these photographs, one can see how it continues in gardens, too." --Mark Feeney, The Boston Globe
About One Family:
“Beginning in 1979… and continuing in a series of visits over the next 20 years, Vaughn Sills photographed a large, appealingly complicated, and financially precarious family named the Tooles. Like the Alabama tenant farmers who became the subjects of Walker Evans and James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, the Tooles are at once emblematic and elusive; the more we see them, the less we truly understand. But Sills hasn’t used the pictures to buttress a sociological treatise. Instead, she’s edited down hundreds of images into a sympathetic and sustained group portrait that’s now a book (One Family, University of Georgia Press, $29.95) and a show (Viridian, 24 West 57th St, June June 9.)
“The bond Sills formed with the Tooles over the years was cemented by her regular gifts of Polaroids (she printed from negatives) but grounded in her absorbed attention to the vicissitudes of their lives. In the third year of the project, Sills began recording increasingly candid discussions of the family’s history and its members’ dreams and frustrations. Transcriptions of these conversations – supplemented by daughter Tina’s alternately feisty and melancholy poems – have become the book’s core text.
“But passionate virtually uncritical empathy only goes so far, and none of this would be worth discussing were it not for the aching soulfulness and down-home grit of Sills’s photos. Taken in and around various peeling clapboard houses, the details of which are effortlessly Evans-esque, include a number of terrific front-porch tableaux as well as individual portraits. Having watched the youngest of the seven Toole children grow up, Sills is especially tender with them, and they reward her with the sweet transparency that can be heartbreaking. But Lois, the tough untroubled clan matriarch, is a riveting presence throughout (diagnosed a manic depressive, she died at 64 in 1999), her wariness alternating with amused acceptance both of her disheveled self and the persistent camera. Not surprisingly, the Toole women take center stage in One Family’s drama, but once you see Sills’s pictures of them you’ll understand why they deserve to steal the show."
-- Vince Aletti, The Village Voice