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Bright Leaf

For a number of years, my home has been the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, loosely defined by the watershed of the Great Pee Dee and Little Pee Dee rivers. The Pee Dee is predominately an agricultural region. Farming in this area means corn, soy beans, cotton and tobacco. Tobacco had, for over a hundred years, meant more to the numerous small farm towns in the region than all the other crops combined. 

This was especially true after the Civil War. Cotton languished for lack of a market and an insufficient labor force. During those times when King Cotton was laid low, tobacco became the savior of the Pee Dee. This was a direct result of the introduction of the flue curing process which produced the golden yellow leaf most of us are familiar with. With tobacco, a small family farmer, with limited land and limited resources, could now provide for his family, pay off his debts, and even prosper on the proceeds from a few acres. 

Today, the ubiquitous tobacco barns lie empty and rotting. The warehouses that were the centerpieces of a town’s success are mostly gone or being demolished as safety hazards. Main Street in the Pee Dee has been replaced by the “big box” store. 

Still, there are a few farmers planting tobacco. I have chosen to document their labors because tobacco has been so important to the people and the history of this region. My intention is to show current cultivation practices, far different from methods employed even 50 years ago.   

It is unlikely that Bright Leaf will ever return as a mainstay of the Pee Dee economy, but it still resonates through the soul of the region.

What Stage & Why

The project I’m submitting is a work in progress. I began it in the middle of last year and needs at least 8-10 more months to complete.

I believe I’m at the beginning of Stage III. I understand the need to have a cohesive project and to tell a story in presenting the project. I feel I’m at the beginning of the stage because I am still developing technical skills that should be done in Stage I. I also am much in need of critical feedback.  Most of my friends and fellow students are overly complimentary and don’t emphasize weaknesses in my projects or areas to improve the focus of my work.

Action Plan

 

  1. Join online communities to solicit feedback from peers. My problem here is that I’m pretty ignorant of these groups. I feel I need to establish contact with documentary fine art photographers. Any suggestions?  
  2. I want to switch to medium format film. Can you mix digital and film within one project?
  3. My photography is pretty one dimensional. I need to go back and experiment.

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