In the 1980’s, I began to document life on my grandparents’ cotton farm, Rotan, at Rotan Switch, located on the Mississippi River in Northeastern Arkansas. (Rotan Switch is the railroad switch where the cotton bales were loaded onto the trains traveling northeast to the textiles mills.) These vernacular images of every day life depict my family’s heritage and the agricultural life of many African Americans in the rural south and preserve a part of history, tenant farming, which no longer exists.
As a young local photographer, I had the unique perspective of being both an insider and an outsider.
I was welcomed into the local homes, cafes and churches to capture images, which reflected the memories of my childhood. I snuck into the honky-tonks, to join the people who met to relax after a hard week of work. It felt natural to photograph these endeared friends doing ordinary things. We shared fried chicken and black-eyed peas. We sang “Sweet Jesus Take Me Home” at the Southern Baptist church. I spent many hours wandering the fields and local towns documenting the world around me.
These photographs are my way of shining light on a community that raised and molded me and that is woven with respect, love, compassion, and integrity.