Friday, November 03, 2006

Photography: The NC I See


By: Langston Hughes

Just a herd of Negroes
Driven to the field,
Plowing, planting, hoeing,
To make the cotton yield.
When the cotton's picked
And the work is done
Boss man takes the money
And we get none,
Leaves us hungry, ragged
As we were before.
Year by year goes by
And we are nothing more
Than a herd of Negroes
Driven to the field--
Plowing life away
To make the cotton yield.

These are photos that I took on Wednesday in Martin County, North Carolina. Martin County represents my roots here in America and cotton is where it all began. Have a great weekend!


Gooders Girl said...

You have a great eye.

My roots started in sugarcane and tea. But prinmarily sugar cane.

Stephen A. Bess said...

Thanks for the compliment. Yeah, that sugar cane! I have this DVD titled, Sugar Cane Alley. It's one of my favorites. It's set in Martinique.

Reflex said...

Great photos, great sight :)

to touch a unicorn said...

Great photo stephen, and like the poem sad images of a terrible age.
Hope you have a great, sunshine filled weekend. :)

Stephen A. Bess said...

Thank you!

You know, these images actually give me a good feeling even though they're connected to a painful past. I saw beauty when I looked at these images on my way home. I had to pull my car over and take these pictures. :)
Thanks and I hope that your weekend will be the same.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Stephen, all i can do is echo what everyone else has been saying--you have a painter's eye for perspective.

Good job!

Enjoy your weekend.

Stephen A. Bess said...

Thanks Geoffrey! It helps that I'm a dreamer.


Lyrically speaking said...

Stephen, you provided immense imagery with words and the pics were also appreciated, thanks for sharing

Stephen A. Bess said...

You're welcome and thank you. :)

African girl, American world said...

Let me tell you know I have no direct ties to cotton fields per se but when I was in GA driving and we passed some real live cotton fields....I was hyperventilating and everything!!!!

Stephen A. Bess said...

That connection could be simply because of the people who picked that cotton. They were Africans held captive here in America. Perhaps your connection is continental. I sometimes think of my wife in that context. I imagine her being captured and brought here. I imagine her not being able to see her family in Africa anymore. It makes me sad. By the way, have you checked out my post on the time we visited a plantation? Check it out.

Cergie said...

Your two pictures are very neat.
I'm wondering what is growing in the field at the top, perhaps rape ?
And there is still cotton now ?

Now in france and in USA, there are perhaps no more slaves, however I'm not sure that there are no more exploited persons.
For instance in France, the Chinese illegal immigrants working in clandestine workshops.

Stephen A. Bess said...

Yes, that's good ol' cotton. I find it beautiful! Merci!
I was just sharing the history behind it. Here in America it is the illegal Latino immigrants (Mexico, El Salvadore, etc.) that are exploited.

Jenell : BlakIzBeautyful said...

Hey Brother Stephen...

I think the very first time I visited your blog you had a photo of a cotton field and I was in awe.

It is happening once again....

My 2nd time seeing a cotton field and so much more to me then just a cotton field.
I see the blood and sweat of my ancestors in the cotton field.
I see the tears and distress of my ancestors in the cotton field.
I see the torture and inhumain treatment of my ancestors in the cotton field.
Most importantly I see the power and strength of my ancestors in the cotton field

Xave said...

Powerful poem
Beautiful photography
Quite a statement

Stephen A. Bess said...

That's beautiful! :)I can't get away from that cotton, huh? I like what you said about that connection. Your history, being from Liberia, is so interesting to me because your ancestors were brought here and then went back and reconnected. I think that's beautiful. More of us should have taken that boat.

Thank you bro! I hope that all is well. I need to come check you out as well. Peace~

Jenell : BlakIzBeautyful said...

Thank you Brother Stephen.

My history is rooted in me soo deep. And my father is from the tribe called "Conga" Conga people is what they call them. That term was given to the Amerigo slaves who were returned to Africa from America and settled in Liberia.

So the cotton field is very personal to me in that respect.

Stephen A. Bess said...

Amen, JB. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Hey bro,

Cool poem, cool pic, and as usual, cool marriage between the two.

Question: do you always have a camera ready on you, or do you go, "Today, I'm a-goin' picture hunting."

Here in France they've been talking about Robert Doisneau, the great French photographer. He would hang around a corner for ages, waiting for the right picture.

Have a nice weekend. Lumelisa 'mè.

Anonymous said...

beautiful photos, Mr. Bess. I love Langston.

Thanks for sharing. This touches me deeply.

Anonymous said...

Did you feel the urge to reach out and just start picking? Like it came natural to you?

Stunuh Jay said...

That sun,
At any other time,
It caresses as with sweetness
Tender kisses of a heated lover

That sun,
Like the tail of a whip
Cuts and slices sharp as a knife
And bruises as black so dark we're blue

That cotton
Puffy clouds that at any other time
Glide as soft as baby's breath
Warm against our cheeks

That cotton
Rips and tears at fleshy tips
dragging pieces of flesh to itself
drops of blood
give the cotton it's cruel blush

Tafari said...

Beautiful shots especially the 1st one. My slave past is unknown by me but the mere mention of sugar cane, cotton | tobacco | rice or hemp fields give me the chills.

No matter what the crop is we are all connected considering how our families were broken up & slave breeding.

Your pictures are my poem here.

Stephen A. Bess said...

I ususally have my camera on me when I'm out. There are times when I set out to go picture taking. I knew that I was going to get some pictures when I was going to Carolina.

Thank you. There's a Langston poem for just about every situation.

Thanks and hello.

I'm glad that you liked it. I started to write my own poem but I was too anxious to post.

Yeah, I felt the urge to pick but I had a piece of Fried Chicken in one hand and Watermelon in the other. By the way, I saw your blog and I understand.

Thanks and you're welcome. Write on! :)

Whew! That's nice. If I could turn back the hands I would've asked you if I could post that with my pictures. Very nice!

Your response to those things show a connection with that past and a connection with your ancestors. There are some who feel that sort of talk is fairytales, but it's real to me. Thanks and welcome! I'll come by to visit.

Rose said...

I love Langston's poetry. I just returned from the South. I wanted to jump out of the car and pick some cotton. I did it one time for about 10 minutes about 20 years ago with my cousins. I wanted to just try to feel what our ancestors and my parents felt when they picked. It was hard, sticky and the heat was seering, I hated it and within minutes I passed out. Still I am amazed by the south and how our people had to work to survive.

Tafari said...

I hear you on the fairytale piece & for those people I always recommend "Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South" by Kenneth Stampp. If they think our past is insignifanct after reading this, well they are just mental.


Anonymous said...

I have actually seen this herding done, at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, which used to be the Angola Plantation. The captains ride on horses, and the men walk in raggedy lines, with picks and other tools over their shoulders. When I first saw it, I thought they were making a movie about slavery, but then I understood: it was real (and real slavery, too). That cotton blossom is really soft to touch, but you have to pull hard to get it off the stalk.

Stephen A. Bess said...

I can only imagine. It's a testament to the strength of those African ancestors who had to endure it.

Thanks for that info!

Some may try to argue that these people are criminals, but no one deserves to be treated that way. Thanks for that.

black feline said...

i love the contrast...:)

Stephen A. Bess said...

Thanks! :)

NML/Natalie said...

I have never seen a cotton field before. That poem is sad - taking, taking, taking whilst the boss man prospers.

Stephen A. Bess said...

...and still taking.

I'm glad that I can share part of my existence to you. Now, I need to go to the Caribbean for that sugar cane.

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