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This Place, These People: Life and Shadow on the Great Plainsby David Stark and Nancy Warner
Synopses & Reviews
The numbers of farms and farmers on the Great Plains are dwindling. Disappearing even faster are the farm places — the houses, barns, and outbuildings that made the rural landscape a place of habitation. Nancy Warner's photographs tell the stories of buildings that were once loved yet have now been abandoned. Her evocative images are juxtaposed with the voices of Nebraska farm people, lovingly recorded by sociologist David Stark. These plainspoken recollections tell of a way of life that continues to evolve in the face of wrenching change.
Warner's spare, formal photographs invite readers to listen to the cadences and tough-minded humor of everyday speech in the Great Plains. Stark's afterword grounds the project in the historical relationship between people and their land. In the tradition of Wright Morris, this combination of words and images is both art and document, evoking memories, emotions, and questions for anyone with rural American roots.
"Following in the tradition of Walker Evans's and James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Fellow Men, as well as the Plains homesteader and photographer Solomon Butcher, photographer Warner and her cousin, sociologist Stark (The Sense of Dissonance), provide a richly nuanced glimpse of the once thriving, but now diminished farm life in and around Cumming County, Neb. In 1950, there were about '110,000 farms in Nebraska, their average size a little more than 4 acres. By 2007, the average size of a Nebraska farm had grown to about 1,000 acres, but there were fewer than 50,000 farms.' Pairing black-and-white images of broken-down and abandoned farm buildings with reflections from county residents, this volume captures this sense of loss as well as the deep relationship between people and their land. Asked why she doesn't abandon her farm and move to town, a resident named Ferny declares: 'Sometimes I think about it... but what will I do in town all day? I could have coffee all the time. But what about my animals?' 70 b&w photos." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
David Stark is the Arthur Lehman Professor of Sociology and International Affairs at Columbia University, where he directs the Center on Organizational Innovation. His most recent book is The Sense of Dissonance: Accounts of Worth in Economic Life.
Nancy Warner is a fine-art and portrait photographer based in San Francisco. Many of the photographs in this book were first exhibited at the Great Plains Art Museum as Going Back: Midwestern Farm Places (2008). The photographs are available for sale, exhibit, or licensing. Contact Nancy Warner at www.warnerphoto.com.
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