With his striking photographs, James Baker Hall powerfully conveys the physical experience of a Kentucky tobacco harvest. He captures the process 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 hauling the crop away and housing it in the barn. Hall's snapshots of the "gathering of many hands" who come to help and the time-honored practices of the harvest capture the end of an era.

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 laments the economic, political, and societal changes that have forever altered Kentucky's rich agricultural traditions. He 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 candid portrait of a bygone way of life—a time before cheaper tobacco imported from abroad and a public awareness of the health risks associated with tobacco use nearly destroyed the industry in the United States. Berry's words and Hall's photographs offer an understanding of the high standards and perfectionism required to produce a good harvest, as well as a glimpse of the hot sun, the dirt, and the people hard at work.

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James Baker Hall (Other contributor)
Publication date
July 12, 2022
Page count
File size
27 MB
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