It was one of those rare Delta days in the fall when the sun is high, but it’s cool out. Similarly to New York after a long winter, time moves slow, but people are moving faster, happier, and their windows are down.
Mom and I were in town for a few days shooting video footage before the launch. For the most part, I was working from a lengthy shot list and behind a 90’s VHS monster with a dying battery. It was hard work and the way it should’ve been.
We spent two days hitting the high points: crop dusters, the hands of blues musicians, giant rims on town cars -- a bunch of things I knew would be there, but didn’t know where or when. We were just a few miles shy of Clarksdale and a cold beer when we pulled into Shelby at golden hour. Having spent the previous afternoon there with my grandmother, I knew what I needed from those 2.7 square miles and was ready to call it.
Energized and exhausted by what the day held, I was talking us through what I was after and how we might achieve it when one of us said, “What’s that?”
More similar than we’d like to admit, mom and I both love a good hunt; even better if it’s a bargain. I learned it from her. So it was no surprise that when we got a glimpse of the view from the Die Cut Factory, we pulled right over, waded through thorns, and up I went.
There is a stereotype of photographers in the Delta who drive around town making photographs of the dilapidated buildings that naturally come with a once booming town now left behind. Though there is a place for journalism, if you are familiar with the Delta, these buildings are not news and documenting them can come off as low-hanging fruit, furthering the narrative many people are working to shift forward in Mississippi.
Knowing this and dealing with my own case of imposter syndrome, my head swirled as I weighed my priorities and what would now be my “process.” Mom was the perfect partner.
Am I allowed to enjoy this moment without being a culture vulture?
Okay so how do I do that in a way that I feel good about?
Well why did we pull over?
Not because of what used to be. We pulled over because sometimes the sunset asks that of you. Without knowing how much power I was putting in my little point and shoot camera, I took only five pictures of one of the happiest stops we made on that trip. Yet another thing I knew would be there, but didn’t know where or when.
Mom stayed back and watched me wander around and report back, beginning to understand what it was that made me tick, what I deemed nourishing whenever I was this far South. Through one of the loading docks, she had a clear shot out into the Delta land with my shadow stretched among bizarre graffiti and she got it. The sun dimmed and it was a time-lapse that has and will continue to happen whether or not we are there to experience it.