Modernization of the Agrarian South: From Dorothea Lange to the 21st Century
"The King Is Dead" proclaimed the yellowed copy of The Macon News. Elvis Presley died in 1977 and the newspaper with details of his passing was placed on the glass countertop. It was among the relics of the bygone days in this country store in Musella, Georgia. But, as a documentary photographer, what caught my eye were photo-copies of historic images displayed next to the newspaper.
The photographs seemed familiar — it was a style I knew. I asked the owner about them. “Yeah, they were made by a famous photographer back in the 1930s but, you know, now, I can’t remember the name.”
“Dorothea Lange?” I asked.
“Yep, that’s it! You’re the first person to walk in here and know the photographer who made those images.”
Dorothea Lange made the photographs at this country store in the 1930s as part of her work for the Farm Security Administration. What would Ms. Lange, photographer of the famous "Migrant Mother," discover today in these same locations? How has our understanding of sense of place and history evolved ? What are the current perspectives of residents living in the same locations Lange encountered in her Georgia travels?
I am currently exploring the changes that have occurred over time in the rural Georgia areas that the legendary photographer worked in 1936 and 1937. The focus of the project is on the lives of ordinary individuals and the changes they have witnessed — how the areas that Lange photographed have been transformed by modernization. The outcomes for this project will be an exhibit, book, lecture/presentations and editorial contributions.
Since 2008, I have been traveling throughout the South to document what it means to be "rural" through the power of large-format photography and first-person narratives — capturing some of the little known and compelling stories of the South through pictures and the anecdotes of those who live “small town” and "rural" — stories that dive beneath the surface, giving the South its distinctive character.
Emphasizing the traditions of documentary photography as a way of seeing and interpreting cultural life, the imagery is accomplished through the lens of large-format, black-and-white, hand-printed silver gelatin film photography — a style and method employed by Lange. Using this unconventional photographic approach in a digital imaging age that is instantaneous, easy, inexpensive, and where technical skills and a knowledge of f-stops, exposure, shutter speeds, and the use of a darkroom have been replaced by smart phones, apps and computer screens — gives the project a distinctive visual aesthetic.
The project will interpret and enhance our understanding of Georgia agriculture, culture and history and allows for collaboration on education, outreach, history, advocacy and the arts.
To ensure the success of this project, we are seeking partners to support the fieldwork and dissemination of content to the pubic.
For information on underwriting benefits for the exhibit and printed book, please email, firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition, with a nod to the digital age, I am using Patreon to help bring this project to fruition. Patreon is a crowd-funding platform that allows fans of the documentary projects I produce — people like you — to support my travels across the South.
If you have enjoyed following my journey, I hope you will consider becoming a patron and contribute to the continuation of my work.
As a patron, you’ll be able to access content on my Patreon page where I regularly post updates on the current project.