Harris Barnes, former editor of Southeast Farm Press, has captured much of the beauty and all of the passions of cotton in 50 years of photography. He has collected 350 of his photographs in a 144-page “coffee table” book. Titled A 50 Year Pictorial History: The Photographs of Harris Barnes, the book is printed in a 9 by 12 inch format that permits full display of photographs that have been chosen from thousands he has taken.
His portfolio portrays cotton in different places through changing times, the old and the new, the nostalgic alongside brash innovation. Here a laborer wrestles to dump a heavy sack of cotton on a trailer that still looks a lot like a wagon. There, in another picture, a multi-row mechanical cotton picker easily dumps a huge mesh basket of seed cotton.
Barnes' portraiture of cotton, its beauty and its busyness, is a travelogue of the Cotton Belt.. In the Delta it is often framed by cypress brakes, bayous, and lingering sharecropper cabins. In the Tennessee Valley, it may be terraced rows on a red clay hillside and, in South Carolina, a green lawn blooming white and pink in front of a Piedmont ante-bellum mansion.
Under the bigger skies to the west, it's a lumbering cotton stripper silouhetted by sunset on the Texas Plains or, in the San Joaquin Valley, the pampered plantings beneath distant mountains and a giant irrigation rig nearby. On an Arizona desert floor, it's rows of cotton bales, resplendent in their white “universal density” wrappings, lined up like a company of Marines ready for inspection.
For additional information about the book contact Harris Barnes at 537 School St., Clarksdale, Miss. 38614, or phone 662-624-8986. The Fax number is 662-627-2088.