Home Grown ~ Georgia Cotton

In 1854, the anti-slavery poet John Greenleaf Whittier declared cotton to be the “haschish of the west,” a drug so potent that it distorted all reality, making “knaves” of all who profit from its production and trade. Cotton – the highly treasured natural fiber, soft and luxurious -- has made and broken empires. 

 

In my series “Home Grown,” I focus on images of the cotton harvest near Perry, Georgia, in 2018 and 2019. I am drawn to the sheer physical beauty of the plants: white fluff spilling out of golden bolls, yellow, plastic-wrapped modules dotting the early winter landscape. Expansive fields, in hues of gold and ivory and olive, both haunt and compel. These pastoral landscapes belie a history fraught with brutality and violence, forced child labor, slavery and war, and destruction of natural resources through pesticide use and water depletion. Cotton’s historical contradictions seem almost unreal against this lovely backdrop. Looking at these vast fields, we can almost imagine the ghosts of southern agrarianism. While modern farms no longer resemble the antebellum plantations, the unmistakable Georgia red clay remains the same, and the soft white fiber in hard, textured bolls remains the same. The soil and plants become both the tangible and visible links to the past.