Gravity is Stronger Here is a creative nonfiction montage made from photographs and short films by award-winning photographer Phyllis B. Dooney. Ultimately, it’s a series about desire: to be seen and loved. For Dooney, it’s also about looking for America in America. In 2011, she visited Greenville, Mississippi, starting a five-year-long documentary project featuring Halea Brown (who is openly gay) and her dynamic Southern American family.

The experimental shorts feature the Browns, whose roles vary; sometimes they’re collaborators, and at other times they’re documentary participants. The experience inside the book is a nearness, a grazing of shoulders with another’s humanity — quotes are woven into docu-poems by critically acclaimed writer, Jardine Libaire.

Greenville is a key tile in our national mosaic as it represents the American boom town left in the wake of a changing global economy. The work presents us with a place/space where love for a gay daughter and an Evangelical love of God can exist in one mother, violence and tenderness in the same relationship, and hope and hopelessness in the same daily life. These multiple truths are often lost in stories that collapse American families into constituencies.

The work provides less an imposed narrative than a consciousness; the subjects are within reach — you can smell the musk, cigarette smoke, meat cooking in the backyard, a magnolia blooming by the door. Gravity is Stronger Here was awarded Honorable Mention by The Center for Documentary Studies’ Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize in 2016. Read more about it in Huck Magazine, Photograph Magazine, and ProPhoto Daily.


Phyllis B. Dooney is a social documentary visual storyteller. Phyllis was honored in 2019 as one of Photo District News (PDN’s) “30 New and Emerging Photographers.” She has an MFA from Duke University’s Experimental & Documentary Arts. Her work has appeared in Lightfield Festival, Click! Photography Festival, The New York Times Magazine, American Photo, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Prison Photography, The Oxford American and elsewhere. She lives in North Carolina.

Writer: Jardine Libaire
Book Publisher: Kehrer Verlag
Book Photo Editor: Alison Morley
Book Designer: Patricia Fabricant
Contributing Artists: Sara Jimenez, Dominick Rapone
Video Editors: Forrest Borie, Michael Reich, Joshua Banville
Sound Editor and Re-recording Mixer: Austin Krier
Web Designer: Katie King