North Mississippi Homeplace: Photographs and Folklife, a book talk by Michael Ford
In the early 1970s photographer and documentary ﬁlmmaker Michael Ford left graduate school and a college teaching position in Boston, Massachusetts, packed his young family into a van, and headed to rural Mississippi, where he spent the next four years recording everyday life through interviews, still photographs, and ﬁlm. The project took him to Oxford (in Lafayette County), as well as to Marshall, Panola, and Tate Counties, to a remote area north of Sardis Lake. His efforts resulted in the award-winning documentary ﬁlm Homeplace (1975), but none of the still photographs from this time were ever published. With this illustrated volume, those photographs are now available and offer a valuable window onto the rural, local culture of northern Mississippi at that time.
The moving photographs in Ford's new book illustrate his experiences as an apprentice to blacksmith Marion Randolph Hall, his visits to Hal Waldrip's General Store in Chulahoma, a day spent with A. G. Newsom and his crew making molasses, and Othar Turner's barbecues accompanied by traditional fife-and-drum music. They also capture the evocative landscape of the Mississippi hill country and the everyday lives of its residents.
In 2014 the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress acquired Michael Ford's collection of films and photographs documenting grassroots community life in northern Mississippi. The Michael Ford Mississippi Collection includes documentation of music, farming traditions, blacksmithing, molasses making, and other aspects of community life in LaFayette, Marshall, Tate, and Panola Counties, Mississippi, during the early 1970s. In addition to the 2019 book, portions of this material have been published in the film Homeplace (1975).
This important collection complements existing materials about 1940s musical traditions from the Mississippi Hill Country in the center’s archive. Ford’s material, made three decades later, includes music making but expands to occupational folklore, foodways, vernacular architecture, and other arenas of cultural expression.
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101 Independence Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20540
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