"The traditional neighborly work of killing a hog and preparing it as food for humans is either a fine art or a shameful mess. It requires knowledge, experience, skill, good sense, and sympathy," writes Wendell Berry in the essay portion of this book. In November 1979 as in years before, neighborly families gathered to do one of the ceremonious jobs of farm life: hog killing. Tanya Berry had been given a camera by New Farm magazine to photograph Kentucky farmers at work, and for two days at the farm of Owen and Loyce Flood in Henry County, she captured this culmination of a year's labor raising livestock. Here, in the resulting photographs, published for the first time, the American agrarian tradition is shown at its most harmonious, with strong men and women toiling with shared purpose towards a common wealth.
Tanya Berry reveals intimate, expressive moments: the teams of young men hoisting animals by physical strength onto a gambrel and wagon for butchering, women grinding meat and mixing sausage and readying hams for preservation, and the solidarity of human beings coming together in reverence for the food they would eat, the lives and bodies which would be taken, and those which would be strengthened.
The Neighborly Art of Hog Killing by Wendell Berry For the Hog Killing (poem) by Wendell Berry For the Hog Killing, 1979: Photographs by Tanya Amyx Berry Artist Statement Editor's Note Photo Captions
Tanya Amyx Berry is an artist and agrarian who is deeply entwined with the Kentucky community, human and natural, surrounding the hillside farm she shares with her husband, Wendell Berry. Ben Aguilar is a multimedia specialist with a focus on agrarian and landscape photography. His photographs have appeared in Rural Heritage magazine, Garden and Gun, and Reciprocal Failure.
This careful record invites us into the space of community, one that we are too often removed far from. This quiet visual poetry honors the transfer of life to sustenance. Herein lies a knowing I hope will not be lost on us.
~Roger May, photographer, writer, and creator of the crowdsourced "Looking at Appalachia" project
Seldom have I seen photos that are simultaneously so beautiful and so matter of fact, so raw and also elegant. Berry's art manages to transform viewers into community members, and from that vantage, we experience respect for farm labor, for the origins of food, and for animals on their way, as Wendell writes, to becoming people. An honest and unforgettable book, even more important now in the 21st century than it was in 1979.
~Ann Pancake, author of Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley: Novellas and Stories
Tanya Berry's keen humanity shines through in this moving collection of photographs. Here is a meditation on the profound importance of community, lost ways of being, and how the extraordinary is always there, waiting, in the everyday, if only we have our eyes and hearts as open as Berry's.
~Silas House, author of Southernmost: A Novel
Tanya Berry's frank and intimate and compelling photographs, amplified by her husband's careful recollections, testify to the knowledge and labor and interdependence required to live the farm lives modern Americans now elegize.
~John T. Edge, author of The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South
Tanya Berry (with her able farmhand) has made for us an imperative and moving portrait of a community sustaining itself with pork, sure, but also with affection. Here we have a fortifying argument for how to feed both the bellies and the souls of a neighborhood fellowship.
This book of Tanya Berry's fine and honest photographs, and Wendell's essay, are a snapshot of farm life at its rawest in the 1970s. They capture an honest moment that tells us as much about the world we live in now as it does about the world it shows us from the recent past. What a strange world we have made when we have hidden these things and handed them over to strangers.
~James Rebanks, author of The Illustrated Herdwick Shepherd and The Shepherd's Life