Sodom Laurel Album (review)

Sodom Laurel Album, by Rob Amberg (University of North Carolina Press, in association with the Center for Documentary Studies, 2002).

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Sodom Laurel Album (review)

by Cary Fowler
Southern Cultures, Vol. 10, No. 2: Summer 2004

University of North Carolina Press, in association with the Center for Documentary Studies, 2002.

Sodom Laurel Album takes its name from an isolated North Carolina mountain-hollow community of ramshackle homesteads, deteriorating barns, worn-out tobacco fields, and tough, “ordinary” people.

Rob Amberg could have breezed in for a photo-shoot, taken a few stereotypical or even romanticized shots of the poor and simple, and been on his way. Instead, he moved in, stayed for twenty-five years, and is still there. The result is a remarkably intimate portrait of plain people, who, through Amberg, become multidimensional and fascinating. Sodom Laurel Album is part picture album, part story-book told in the subjects’ own words coupled with Amberg’s insightful and sometimes humorous angle on this world and his role in it, and part music album—the “book” contains a fine CD with traditional songs authentically performed by residents of the community (mostly recorded by Emory University folklorist Allen Tullos in the 1970s).