Shellburne Thurber’s Southern Home

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Shellburne Thurber’s Southern Home

by Lee Zacharias
Southern Cultures, Vol. 10, No. 3: Fall 2004

"'I never really knew my mother very well and I think that I was trying to figure out who she was. Since she wasn't around anymore, the only things I could photograph were the places that she'd lived in.'"

In the summer of 1936, when Walker Evans traveled with James Agee to Hale County, Alabama, to document the daily lives of tenant cotton farmers for Fortune, he established in the mind of America a lasting image of the South. Though the essay never appeared in the magazine, which found Agee’s writing “pessimistic, unconstructive, indignant, lyrical, and always personal,” the photographs were included in Walker Evans: American Photographs, published in 1938 by the Museum of Modern Art in conjunction with its first one-photographer retrospective. They also were reissued in 1941 with Agee’s text as Let Us Now Praise Famous Men but belonged to Evans’s employer, the Farm Security Administration (FSA), as a condition of his leave, and thus passed into the public domain.