It was the same day at two different spots in Madison County - Hot Springs and Hopewell (don’t you just love that name). It was the same roll of film, two different exposures. But the pictures are so different from each other - illustrating the change taking place in the county at that time, change that continues to this day.
The first is a photograph of Hoye and Nina Shelton and their family, with two neighbor men. They have just finished a day of hanging tobacco. In 1983, burley was still king in Madison County, the leading county producer of burley in the state, with hundreds of small farmers like the Sheltons depending on tobacco for cash income. But tobacco’s days were numbered, and in ensuing years it has played a steadily decreasing role in the county’s lifestyle and economy. Farmers like the Sheltons either moved onto other crops, or more likely, gave up farming altogether.
The second photograph is of a group of teenage girls holding a platter they’d won at a small festival in Hot Springs. The platter has an image of ET on it. By 1983, Madison was firmly engaged in mainstream culture and had been for decades. Radio and TV, better roads, telephone, and a changing demographic brought new values to the community, so an image from a popular movie shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me. Yet still I was struck by the availability and acceptance of mainstream culture in the county.
It’s the pairing of the photographs that I really like. The image of place they offer – a place moving away from a tradition that had sustained it for many years and toward an image of an unknown, and otherworldly, future.