Biography: A photographer, author, and collector, Clarence John Laughlin is best known for his evocative, surrealist pictures of the American South. Born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Laughlin grew up in New Orleans. Although he had limited formal education (he dropped out of high school in his freshman year), Laughlin was a lover of literature and an author of Symbolist-inspired poems and stories. Laughlin taught himself to use a view camera and began working as a freelance architectural photographer. His personal projects included documenting the crumbling mansions of the South and arranging elaborate tableaux with models, costumes, and props. His work has nostalgic and surrealist elements and has frequently been compared to the work of French photographer Eugène Atget.