Photographer William Gedney was a man on a search. What he sought and found was his true subject as an artist— the isolation of the individual and the sensuality of the human figure. Lyrical and eloquent, the black-and-white photographs of William Gedney capture the strength and grace of people living on the edge. His sympathetic images reward us with real knowledge of specific lives, revealing that they are in many ways much like our own.

Gedney died of AIDS in 1989, leaving behind an extensive archive of photographs and writings, now housed at the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University. Gedney’s contemplative and masterful images have found new life through the Center for Documentary Studies: in 2000, What Was True: The Photographs and Notebooks of William Gedney was jointly published by CDS and W.W. Norton & Company, and an installment of Gedney’s photographs—Short Distances and Definite Places—was exhibited at CDS in 2001.

In November 2015, musician M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger will perform an original collection of songs based of Gedney’s images as part of the Duke Performances From the Archive initiative. For more information about the upcoming performances, visit the Duke Performances website.