The image that Jane Rule's book both begins and ends on is haunting precisely because it captures the past that's always lurking within the Delta's present. There is something surreal, almost Kafkaesque on display here. A farmer with his back to us drives a tractor straight ahead on a lonely dirt road. Big woods loom on the left. On the right, at the edge of a field of cotton, a grey-clad horseman moves in the opposite direction, a ghost returning to history. --Steve Yarbrough, from the introduction The Mississippi Delta evokes mystery, beauty, and hardship in equal measures. Its haunted fields, turbulent history, and resilient people have fueled countless songs, tales, and literary works, and its presence resonates strongly in the construction of the American South. In Delta Deep Down, photographer Jane Rule Burdine captures the region with clarity and warmth. Since the early 1970s, Burdine has used the Delta as her muse, traversing and documenting the ever-changing landscape in color photographs. These powerful images reflect how the Delta and its citizens have responded to each other, and how each has in turn been changed. Weatherbeaten shacks, cotton and soybean fields, industrial equipment, people at work and play, and cloud-draped, endless horizons are all seen through Burdine's lens. The Delta's past and present mingle in every photograph of the inhabitants--black and white, young and old, rich and poor--in moments of contemplation, hard work, and joyous revelry. Novelist and Indiala native Steve Yarbrough offers a touching, personal introduction that explores how Burdine's photographs reveal the place he once called home, and how, through her photographs, the hold this fertile ground claims on his heart is reinforced. Delta Deep Down offers an unforgettable portrait of a quintessential Mississippi place and the people who abide in it. Wendy McDaris provides historical context and locates Burdine's work among current trends in fine art photography.
Jane Rule Burdine is a photographer based in Taylor, Mississippi. |Wendy McDaris is a curator/cultural critic living in upstate New York and editor/essayist for Visualizing the Blues: Photographs of the American South, among other art catalogs. |Steve Yarbrough is the James and Coke Hallowell Professor of Creative Writing at California State University, Fresno, and the author of The Oxygen Man, Visible Spirits, The End of California, and other novels.