"This Place, These People: Life and Shadow on the Great Plains"

Dec 5, 2013

Farming, as a way of life, has of course been on the decline in this country for a long time now --- and one way in which we can actually see this dwindling livelihood is by noting the disappearing or decaying farm structures throughout America's rural landscape: the houses, barns, and out-buildings that made such a landscape habitable in the first place. Our guest is a photographer whose work tells the stories of these once-loved-but-now-abandoned buildings. Nancy Warner joins us by phone; she's a fine-art and portrait photographer based in San Francisco. Along with her cousin, David Stark, a professor of sociology at Columbia University, Warner has collaborated on a book, "This Place, These People: Life and Shadow on the Great Plains" --- Warner took the photos, Stark wrote the text, and you can visit the website for this book here. As was noted of "This Place, These People" in Publishers Weekly: "Following in the tradition of Walker Evans's and James Agee's 'Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,' as well as the Plains homesteader and photographer Solomon Butcher, photographer Warner and her cousin, sociologist Stark, provide a richly nuanced glimpse of the once thriving, but now diminished farm life in and around Cumming County, Nebraska. In 1950, there were about '110,000 farms in Nebraska, their average size a little more than 4 acres. By 2007, the average size of a Nebraska farm had grown to about 1,000 acres, but there were fewer than 50,000 farms.' Pairing black-and-white images of broken-down and abandoned farm buildings with reflections from county residents, this volume captures this sense of loss as well as the deep relationship between people and their land."