Friday, September 26, 2008

Photographer gets farmers posing, not working

"Farmers are just as important to America now as they were in 1776," northwest Missouri farmer Richard Oswald asserts in the Daily Yonder, reviewing American Farmer: The Heart of our Country, a 264-page book with more than 150 photographs by Paul Mobley from 30 states, and the farmers' own words edited by Katrina Fried.

"I can read between the lines of each picture," Oswald writes. "I can smell the burlap and feel the humid summer heat. I feel the tickle in my nose from hay dust, and I know about the burn one gets from the hot vinyl seat cover in the cab of an ancient pickup truck. I understand the threadbare clothes and labor stained ball caps, shy smiles, sweaty t-shirts, and the bent brim of a straw hat."

But Oswald also faults Mobley for "a sameness about his pictures that doesn’t always show how the farmers do their jobs. The color photos seem too bright, almost pretty, the poses sometimes too rigid. But I’ve been photographed myself a few times, and the toughest thing for a farmer to do is look natural while someone nearby holds a camera. Farmers are a restless people, with hands always at the ready. Seldom do you see those work-hardened hands in a pocket." (Read more)

The Welcome Books Web site for the book says it will be in stock Oct. 7 and has photos from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming.

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