"The Corporate Farm Arrived and the Family Farm and Small Town Life of the South were Lost Forever..." - Gerry Spence.
Having grown up in Wyoming, Gerry Spence is no stranger to poverty. The ups and downs of the livestock and farming world are familiar to every Wyoming native. Spence, as a country lawyer, has seen all manner of poverty. Bankruptcies, foreclosures, liquidations and auctions are a fact of Wyoming life. So is the thrill of a good spring, a productive summer and a bounteous fall. Spence had heard about similar conditions in the South. Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama. But he had heard that there was one part of the boom - bust equation that was missing.
What Spence had been told was that the South, including many of the great cities of our heritage, had been removed from the economic cycle. He heard that there were whole families, towns and regions that had lost all economic vitality. So he went to see. "I wanted to know the truth. I wanted to see for myself," the courtroom cowhand affirmed. What he found made Wyoming's version of poverty seem modest.
"I took my camera and a car and traveled through the Southern countryside and towns which I had heard about since my youth. It is a disgace," he commented one summer afternoon in conversation with a friend. "There is a certain fairness to the boom - bust cycle of country life. But not for these forgotten towns. These people would have to rise up to be considered pariahs. They have no place in our ecomony. These folks, black and white, are the leftovers, the remains after a big corporate feast. The corporate farm arrived and the family farm and small town life of the South were lost forever."
"Despite all that, the individuals I came to know on my travels through the South kept a roof overhead, food on the table, found humor where it lay, and carved out of the leavings of this corporate gluttony a life of remarkable pride. I hope my small photo essay demonstrates the frustration and tenacity which I found in my search for the truth." - Gerry Spence, February, 2003.