Photographs from Iowa.
Photographs by Danny Wilcox Frazier. Foreword by Robert Frank.
Duke University Press, Durham, 2007. 120 pp., 80 duotone illustrations,
In Driftless, Danny Wilcox Frazier’s dramatic black-and-white photographs portray a changing Midwest of vanishing towns and transformed landscapes. As rural economies fail, people, resources, and services are migrating to the coasts and cities, as though the heart of America were being emptied. Frazier’s arresting photographs take us into Iowa’s abandoned places and illuminate the lives of those people who stay behind and continue to live there: young people at leisure, fishermen on the Mississippi, veterans on Memorial Day, Amish women playing cards, as well as more recent arrivals: Lubavitcher Hasidic Jews at prayer, Latinos at work in the fields. Frazier’s camera finds these newcomers while it also captures activities that seemingly have gone on forever: harvesting and hunting, celebrating and socializing, praying and surviving.
This collection of photographs is a portrait of contemporary rural Iowa, but it is also more that that. It shows what is happening in many rural and out-of-the-way communities all over the United States, where people find ways to get by in the wake of closing factories and the demise of family farms. Taken by a true insider who has lived in Iowa his entire life, Frazier’s photographs are rich in emotion and give expression to the hopes and desires of the people who remain, whose needs and wants are complicated by the economic realities remaking rural America. Poetic and dark but illuminated with flashes of insight, Frazier’s stunning images evoke the brilliance of Robert Frank’s The Americans.