Cottonland - The Mississippi Delta by Magdalena Sole
Called “the most southern place on earth,” the Mississippi Delta is an iconic region lying between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers, running from Memphis to Vicksburg. The Delta evokes visions of sharecroppers, plantations and, of course, the sound of the Blues. The area has a small wealthy gentry and a large impoverished underclass living in dilapidated houses and tilting trailers. The Delta is one of the poorest places in the United States with the saddest infant mortality rate, rampant unemployment and little hope for a better future. What is little known is the resilience, resourcefulness and family cohesiveness of its people. Cottonland is an exploration of communities in the Mississippi Delta.
When I came to the Mississippi Delta I encountered what is familiar: communities that exist at the edge of society, forgotten and shunned by the mainstream.
I was born in Spain during the Franco years. My family had to leave in the middle of the night for Switzerland and I found myself living at the edge of a small town where the immigrants lived in apartments, or barracks, navigating a society that was very hostile to outsiders. This is where I learned to understand exclusion, and a life lived at the margins.
I was drawn to the people I met in the Delta. Unlike most people I had encountered in other areas, Delta people allowed me to slip into their midst as if they had known me forever; we could swap stories and laughter, sorrow and silence. This happened not just once or twice; it happened every day in every town. In the most unexpected places I found kinship.
Sometimes as a photographer you are lucky and make a friend here or there, but most often you arrive as an outsider, and that is how you leave. But the Delta refused to go along. I arrived as an outsider, but I was gradually so absorbed into the fabric of life there that I felt not like an outsider but rather like the family member who happened to have the camera.
These photographs are the result of 12 weeks, 9 trips, and more then 10,000 miles of crisscrossing the Delta in search of people and their stories. The project is part of a larger work called “Forgotten Places”, an ongoing series capturing communities that exist at the edge of society.
Look for the forthcoming book entitled “New Delta Rising”, to be distributed by the University Press of Mississippi in early 2012.
Magdalena Sole is a New York City based artist.
To view more of Magdalena's work, please visit her website.