Calling it one of the highlights of his life, works of renowned agricultural photographer Harris Barnes were recently handed over to Mississippi State University library officials where his photographs depicting farming over four decades will be cataloged for future generations.
At a ceremony held at the Carnegie Public Library in Clarksdale, Miss., Lynn Reinschmiedt, associate dean of the college of ag and life sciences at MSU, said the more than 80 boxes containing hundreds of pictures will be filed for a newly formed historical project dubbed CHARM (consortium of historical ag/rural materials).
“Many of Barnes' photos show how at one time things were done (on the farm) and how they have changed,” Reinschmiedt said. “His pictures capture experiences and realities and they also document them.
“It's an honor to have this collection.”
Frances Coleman, dean of MSU libraries, called the photos “the premiere source collection for the university's students to learn from for now and in the future.”
Barnes, of Clarksdale and a 1941 graduate of MSU, said he can recall, in most instances, the circumstances surrounding every ag-related picture he snapped.
He remembered that his interest in photography was kindled by a peer while Barnes was working as a Delta farm manager following military duty in World War II. He never received formal photography training.
“I really got into cameras only wanting to photograph my children,” he confessed.
Eventually he turned his camera's lens to his surrounding environment: fields of cotton. After freelancing part-time as an ag photographer, beginning in 1970, Barnes turned to the profession full-time, while eventually also becoming an ag journalist. While relocating to South Carolina, Barnes helped lead the editorial start-up of Southeast Farm Press.
That experience, he said, helped educate him on other kinds of crops outside of the Delta, such as tobacco.
In 1980, Barnes became a full-time freelance photographer, gaining assignments across the country from various agricultural chemical and equipment companies, etc.
In recent years, he has assembled many of his pictures into books. He hopes to complete his latest book, “The Good Ol' Days on the Cotton Farm,” in coming weeks.
“Opening the letter (from MSU concerning his collection) was one of the nicest things in my life, and I'm sure they will be put to good use at MSU,” he said.