Delta 4: July 5 to 7, 2018

Continued roaming through the Mississippi delta, between Clarksdale and Greenwood, brought me to some incredible locations, including the now crumbling Bryant's Grocery in the town of Money, the site at which Emmett Till encountered Carolyn Bryant in August 1955. It was a fateful moment that ushered in one of the ugliest sequence of events—the lynching of Till, the trial and subsequent acquittal of the perpetrators, and the later admission by the same unpunished perpetrators of their responsibility for the act—in United States history. The building is now being aggressively reclaimed by nature, covered in kudzu and other vines pulling it down brick by brick, now just a shell of a structure. One of its walls is pictured below.

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Another disintegrating structure that I wanted to photograph was the abandoned bridge near Moorhead over the Quiver River. A few of its beautiful wooden substructure piers stand free, others have long ago tumbled into the river. I had hoped to take a photograph of it with my 8x10 camera, but there was really no place where I could set up the tripod safely, so I snapped a number of pictures on 35mm with my Canon rangefinder and phone.

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A bare tree standing in a graveyard near a small church was a striking sight, beautifully illuminated by the late morning direct sunlight. I made two images of it with my 8x10 and I can't wait to see them.

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Locations in Greenwood, Leland, Glendora, and a few other towns yielded promising images, and more fascinating sites I plan to return to on my next visit, hopefully this coming October or November.

 Bolivar County, MS

Bolivar County, MS

Delta 3: July 3 & 4, 2018

For the last two days, with the city of Clarksdale as my home base, I've wandered out to the towns of Marks, Sumner and Rosedale to photograph, and to other towns much smaller than those, such as Sherard, Belen, and Hushpuckena.

In Marks, a town whose level of poverty inspired Martin Luther King Jr. to push for another march on Washington (which became the Poor People's March in 1968), I made an 8x10 portrait of Evelyn Jossell, the superintendent of schools in Quitman County. Evelyn has been active in bringing AP (advanced placement) coursework to the high schools there, raising the ceiling and prospect of future possibility for the students there. I also used the 8x10 for a portrait of some of the mentors working with young students at one of the schools.  There may have been a light leak on the negative of my portrait of Evelyn; I sure hope it comes out. If not, I'll try again next time. Read Evelyn's article on AP coursework as a force for civil rights in Mississippi here.

I also had the opportunity to spend an evening with the photographers Maude Schuyler Clay and Langdon Clay, at their home in Sumner, MS. Maude is the cousin of William Eggleston, and the two of them, have spent decades making a visual record of life in Mississippi, especially in and around Tallahatchie County. Sitting in this home filled with art and listening to stories and lore and gossip and thoughts about Maude and William's family and of photographing the places and people Mississippi delta was an unforgettable experience for me. Langdon shared with me some of his large format prints, especially an amazing panoramic series of photos taken of the length of the block of 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, made on 22 8x10 negatives in 1979. And Maude also showed me some of her prints that she is working with for her next book, and number of beautiful folk art paintings made by her mother.

On the 4th, I wandered south on Route 1, and was especially taken by the beautiful old Episcopal church there, as well as some other unique sites.

Today I'm heading just a little further south and staying the night in Leland. I will photograph around the towns in that sector of the delta for the next two days, before returning to Memphis tomorrow night.

Here are just a few digital captures from the last two days on the road.

Delta 2 : July 1 & 2, 2018

I arrived in the Mississippi delta yesterday afternoon, after a short drive from Memphis, TN.

Here are just a few digital captures from my phone, as I've been roaming down remote roads and deciding what to devote to large format and 35mm film.

More to come as we go!

Delta 1

My first trip to the Mississippi Delta was in November 2016.This is a picture I took on that trip. It was made in Shelby, MS, the birthplace of my father.

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I had always wanted to see where my dad was from. Little did I know that I was walking directly into the epicenter of a landscape deeply imbued with mystery, memory, poetry, personal resonance, echoes of time, love, devotion, and loss: an intensely beautiful and austere environment, ideally suited for evoking vivid, gripping feelings in this observer. 

I am returning for a one week visit this July 1st through 8th. I will be based in Clarksdale and Leland, venturing out and shooting photos on large-format (8x10") and 35mm negative film, and will be working with the images during a one month residency at McDowell Colony this winter to inspire musical compositions.

As the hot summer days progress, I will post all my digital photographs from this year’s Mississippi visit on this page, in chronological order.

I hope you'll follow along!