Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Imprint: The University Press of Kentucky
Through striking photographs, James Baker Hall powerfully conveys the physical experiences of a Kentucky tobacco harvest. He captures the process from beginning to end—from the tractor ride out to the field, where rows of tobacco stretch toward the horizon; to the careful, precise cutting of each individual plant; and finally, to the hauling away and housing of the tobacco in the barn. Along the way, he provides snapshots of the many faces of the process and the "gathering of many hands" to help out.
Hall's stunning work is accompanied by an essay from Wendell Berry, which provides an insightful meditation on the shifting nature of humans' relationships with the land and with each other. Berry's essay laments the economic, political, and societal changes that have forever altered Kentucky's rich agricultural traditions. Berry also adds a deeply personal perspective to Hall's eloquent visual testimony, sharing memories of stories told, laughs shared, meals savored, and brief moments of rest and refreshment well earned.
Tobacco Harvest: An Elegy is a snapshot of a way of life long gone—a time before the importing of cheaper tobacco from abroad as well as the medical and moral case against smoking nearly destroyed the industry in the US altogether. Through Berry's words and Hall's photographs, we get a glimpse of the high standards and perfectionism required for a good harvest, and the heat of the sun, the dirt, and the people hard at work.
Essay: By Wendell Berry
Photographs: By James Baker Hall
Environmentalists, rural sociologists, and cultural researchers should examine this book and take it to heart. This work provokes reflection on the creation of social and cultural meaning and continuity.~Journal of American Folklore
Hall's photographs work well to say what words can merely describe: tobacco farming was hard work; it was work that allowed people to survive.~Coffee Talk Quarterly