This Place, These People: Life and Shadow on the Great Plains

Overview

The numbers of farms and farmers on the Great Plains are dwindling. Disappearing even faster are the farm places--the houses, barns, and outbuildings that made the rural landscape a place of habitation. Nancy Warner's photographs tell the stories of buildings that were once loved yet have now been abandoned. Her evocative images are juxtaposed with the voices of Nebraska farm people, lovingly recorded by sociologist David Stark. These plainspoken recollections tell of a way of ...

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Overview

The numbers of farms and farmers on the Great Plains are dwindling. Disappearing even faster are the farm places--the houses, barns, and outbuildings that made the rural landscape a place of habitation. Nancy Warner's photographs tell the stories of buildings that were once loved yet have now been abandoned. Her evocative images are juxtaposed with the voices of Nebraska farm people, lovingly recorded by sociologist David Stark. These plainspoken recollections tell of a way of life that continues to evolve in the face of wrenching change.

Warner's spare, formal photographs invite readers to listen to the cadences and tough-minded humor of everyday speech in the Great Plains. Stark's afterword grounds the project in the historical relationship between people and their land. In the tradition of Wright Morris, this combination of words and images is both art and document, evoking memories, emotions, and questions for anyone with rural American roots.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/23/2013
Following in the tradition of Walker Evans’s and James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Fellow Men, as well as the Plains homesteader and photographer Solomon Butcher, photographer Warner and her cousin, sociologist Stark (The Sense of Dissonance), provide a richly nuanced glimpse of the once thriving, but now diminished farm life in and around Cumming County, Neb. In 1950, there were about “110,000 farms in Nebraska, their average size a little more than 4 acres. By 2007, the average size of a Nebraska farm had grown to about 1,000 acres, but there were fewer than 50,000 farms.” Pairing black-and-white images of broken-down and abandoned farm buildings with reflections from county residents, this volume captures this sense of loss as well as the deep relationship between people and their land. Asked why she doesn’t abandon her farm and move to town, a resident named Ferny declares: “Sometimes I think about it… but what will I do in town all day? I could have coffee all the time. But what about my animals?” 70 b&w photos. (Nov.)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Sarah Bryan Miller

A melancholy, touching look at a vanishing way of life.

The Omaha World Herald - Casey Logan

Each photo presents a snapshot of a place vacated. Together, they tell a larger story of an America fading into the landscape.... Conversations, captured by Stark, are sprinkled throughout the book, bringing insight and understated humor to the inanimate beauty of Warner's photographs.

RALPH magazine

A moving collection... The country and the book are spacious, the stories are moving, and the photographs are wonderful.

Billings Gazette

Quietly evocative

Robert Wuthnow

The photographs and the words so beautifully preserved here evoke powerful--and indeed painful--memories of the homes left behind when millions of rural Americans packed up, said good-bye to all they had known, and relocated to the nation's cities and suburbs. The memory of that transition continues for many of us, tearing at our hearts.

Ted Kooser

This marvelous book offers us a glimpse of the ghost of the Great Plains as it makes a last appearance. We ought to be immensely grateful to David Stark and Nancy Warner for inviting us to their deeply moving séance.

Richard Rhodes

These resonant photographs and recollections evoke a world almost gone from American life. They are as filled with time as old monuments, and as moving.

Martha Casanave

Warner's exquisite and haunting images are like memory itself: fragments that the imagination weaves together into a meaningful whole.

Ruth Silverman

I was very moved by this evocative, literate, and informative book. Warner's beautiful--and painful--photographs are a perfect companion to Stark's writing and the 'voices' of the Nebraskans that are included. I am very grateful for this sensitive and sad look back.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231165228
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 11/19/2013
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 793,627
  • Product dimensions: 10.30 (w) x 10.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

David Stark is the Arthur Lehman Professor of Sociology and International Affairs at Columbia University, where he directs the Center on Organizational Innovation. His most recent book is The Sense of Dissonance: Accounts of Worth in Economic Life.

Nancy Warner is a fine-art and portrait photographer based in San Francisco. Many of the photographs in this book were first exhibited at the Great Plains Art Museum as Going Back: Midwestern Farm Places (2008). The photographs are available for sale, exhibit, or licensing. Contact Nancy Warner at www.warnerphoto.com.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

PrefacePhotographs and VoicesAfterwordList of PhotographsList of VoicesAcknowledgments

Columbia University Press

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