She and Mary drive into the yard of the farm where Lange had found the sharecropper cabin. She writes:
We drive up to the house and park beside various trucks, step out, wooing the dog, a setter of mixed breed. To the back door, of course. Knock.Here are Lange's photos of the cabin and the young family that inhabited it, of the sharecrop farm, and of the larger farm where it was located. I've also included a photo that Spirn made showing the farm as it looks these days.
After long minutes, a man comes to the door. Tall, in a blue T-shirt, very hospitable, his name Greg. I show him the photo of the house. “We have that photo on our refrigerator,” he says. “My wife found it on the Internet.” May we walk around? “Of course.” The tobacco barn is well preserved. Mary walks with me up the hill to the barn, and Greg comes after, opens it up so we can see the tier poles and tobacco-string poles. As for the sharecropper’s cabin, Greg thinks it was torn down.4
Lange's photos were taken in July 1939. They come from the Farm Services Administration collection in the Prints and Photos Division of the Library of Congress. Captions and field notes were prepared by Lange and a research assistant who accompanied her. Click image to view full size.
This is the cabin itself, followed by a few detail images:
Field notes say: 'The woman had been through seventh grade, the husband not much education. She would not let us take photographs of interior — "Ain't cleaned up in ever so long — too big a mess." No privy in sight, had to get water from "the spring" so far away the man was gone about 20 minutes to get a bucket of water.'}
Details of this image:
Like most of Lange's rural portraits, this one shows dignity and strength; in this case they seem be accompanied by a bit of curiosity, cheerfulness, and a shy vulnerability in the man's face.
Field notes: The man was shy of having his photograph made but finally held the baby in front of the house for one picture. They have just moved here this year — "They treat us better here than where we did live"; did not know how many acres he had, tobacco, corn, a potato patch, "and such." He said they did not measure up the land this year — everybody did last year when they were cut down in acreage, but this year everybody planted all they wanted to.}
Detail of this image:
Field notes: Negro sharecropper's house: shows different aspects of house, chimney, lean-to with kitchen stovepipe, stuffed through side of wall and capped off with joint of tobacco flue to keep smoke from blowing back into house, flower garden in front protected by a slender fence of laths, young Negro couple and baby. Note guano sacks washed and drying on a line in back.}
Sprin took this photo of the same property when she visited:
Field notes: Note disc harrow standing rusted in the field. House in background of this photograph is the pack house with log "ordering house" adjoining it.}
Field notes: Owner's house: general view of hillside farm opposite [actually beside] Tucks Service Station, shows home, outbuildings, and tobacco field beyond. The fields show erosion. The owner usually makes, according to the man at the filling station, about 500 pounds to the acre which is a small yield for Person County. Better yields run from 900 to 1,200 pounds.}
Details of this image:
1 Daring to look: Dorothea Lange's photographs and reports from the field, by Anne Whiston Spirn
2 The blog is simply called Anne Whiston Spirn.
3 This is A. P. Tucks Service Station; see previous post on this blog: Tucks.
3 Source: Person County, North Carolina.