21 June 2008

The Earth and The Man:

JAMES AGEE wrote in 1936, "IF I could do it, I'd do no writing at all here. It would be photographs; the rest would be fragments of cloth, bits of cotton, lumps of earth, recordds of speech, pieces of wood and iron, phials of odors, plates of food and of excrement. Booksellers would consider it quite a novelity; critics would murmur, yes, but is it art; and I could trust a majority of you to use it as you would a parlor game. A piece of the body torn out by the roots might be more to the point."

I wish I could have you read the whole of this preamble out loud; it's about about eight pages; This book and these images echo over and over in my mind with the memory of my father's voice reading out loud to me; James Agee and Walker Evans did their body of work in the 36. Evans reflects on Agee twenty five years later after Agee's death. The photographer and the writer spent eight weeks photographing share croppers in Alabama for the Farm Security Adiministration. Fortune magazine never published the work and they sold only 600 books. It is truly a classic.






I travel south to north just like the rivers run and the ancient peoples who migrated through out this region of the Gran Chichimeca. I go to spend the night at the Hacienda Corralitos to photograph their grandson, Pedro in the 100 year old christening gown. Of course I get lost and off and on track navigating through the Mennonite fields; golden wheat stretching to the horizon; it is so quiet; the contrast between the gold and green, the smell of the wet in the dry desert. I can't recall ever looking at wheat; I watch it start to dance as the wind picks up; It's AMAZING! Keeping on track moving right along down the dirt road I recognize the turn to head towards the green of the Hacienda; but to my right I see a lone silhouette of a farmer tending the fields; I suck at fly by shots paparazzi style; I walk into a scene that defies time; I am a child standing in Bill Well's farmland when my dad would take my brother and I along on his photo shoots; I am Walker Evans and James Agee approaching the tenant farmers down in Alabama-what was it like to step out of their car and approach the people who would become some of the most amazing photographs of our time. I think of Agee's passage in Let Us All Now Praise Famous Men, about the descriptions of overalls...The lone man and I meet on the edge of the fieldis irrigating the fields; His name is Jacobo;2nd generation Mexican.His blue eyes are deeply etched from looking out across this land and into the wind and sun for a life time; He speaks only Spanish and old world German. his voice a deep baritone and laugh from within; I explain how I'd like to photograph and come again to learn more about farming and how I can work hard and that I have my ditch boots in the car;he thinks this is funny; he grew up with Bilo Wallace; I imagine picking cotton in the hot sun as a child. I wonder what it means to grow up here in this corner of the world.I think of the children with their families I photographed in the onion fields; The wind blows softly; The corn dances, the lines of rows darken perceptually as the water makes it's way.The irrigation ditch reflects the sky, a slice of blue cutting through the dark,brown,dry earth.

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