In 1936, writer James Agee and photographer Walker Evans were sent to the Deep South to do a story on sharecropping cotton farmers. Like the Mississippi, the project overran its banks and the article never ran. The result instead is a lush, rambling meditation on poverty, farming, animals, racism, and three families whose lives are dissected exhaustively along with 62 photographs of them and their surroundings. Agee calls himself a "spy" and worries about prying into the private miseries of these individuals for the entertainment of casual readers; his prose seems Biblical in its verbosity, repetition, and majesty. He discusses the families' homes and precious few belongings in minute detail, work, finances, clothing, education (what little there is of it), and all the creatures in the area. The result is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece of style and close reporting tempered by massive compassion and humility.
This report prepared by David Loftus