A rural richness
'Small Town America' seems an obvious choice for a photobook title but I doubt there has been anything published as good as this since Sherwood Anderson's 1940 'Home Town'. The 215 black and white photos reflect life in rural Missouri from the early fifties to the late eighties and it is all student work. In case this puts you off remember that these students had the benefit of some remarkable faculty members, Russell Lee for instance was part of the team for many years and his boss at the FSA, Roy Stryker taught in 1949 and 1957.
Visually the book is divided into four chapters, On Main Streets, Heart of the Country, A Place Called Home and chapter four has three photo essays covering a Joplin school in 1962, the Hannibal flood of 1986 and a family in Neosho during 1981. The three main chapters nicely run the photos out of date order though it seems to me that the earlier photos reflect the photojournalism techniques of the thirties and forties with their content-rich imagery. One of the really great ideas about Photo Workshop was that each year a different location was chosen so that the students were not photographing in the same place each year.
Look through the book several times, as I have over the years and you'll get a clear impression of small town America with a very human face. The book was published in 1993, perhaps it's time for an update to see how the students have seen rural Missouri since then and in color.
Part of the book's intro.
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