The Last Harvest.
Truck Farmers in the Deep South.
Photographs by Perry Dilbeck. Text by Perry Dilbeck and Tom Rankin.
Center for American Places, Santa Fe, 2006. 112 pp., 64 duotone illustrations, 6¾x9".
Perry Dilbeck’s black-and-white photographs affectionately document the disappearing livelihood of the Southern truck farmer. Small and independent operators, truck farmers typically own fewer than forty acres of land and sell their vegetables and fruits at roadside stands or local farmers’ markets. In recent years, the rise of large-scale commercial farming coupled with overdevelopment, which swallows up farmland daily, has greatly diminished this traditional business.
To honor these farmers, Dilbeck chose to photograph them with a Holga, the simplest of plastic cameras. The Holga was first produced in 1982 as an inexpensive mass-market camera for working-class Chinese, who used them for family portraits or at family events. The sometimes surprising effects of the Holga, including vignetting and blurring, have popularized it with fine-art photographers.
Dilbeck, who formed close relationships with the farmers he portrays, always carried a tape recorder with him. The farmers’ stories and memories, which are quoted in the book, are filled with the same pride and dignity that comes through in Dilbeck’s photographs. The farmers’ faces show signs of a vigorous life. Dilbeck’s images also show the vibrant stamp of the men’s presence on the landscape: their garden plots, their antique machinery, and their homes and outbuildings. A culmination of more than ten years of work, The Last Harvest pays tribute to the dignity of local ways in the face of globalism and urban expansion.