7/15/11 – We had photographed the exterior of the new and old Carnegie combination library in Clarksdale yesterday evening. I wanted to see the interior and talk to the librarians today when they were open. The first librarian I met was Phillip Carter, the Reference Librarian. He was the outstanding blues guitarist we heard last night at Ground Zero. This confirmed the saying that real musicians have day jobs. He too enthusiastically brought the community alive. We discussed local history, notable personalities and, of course, music. I advised him on archival storage of some of their decaying collection. He brought out a wonderful old photograph of a high school band. I took a photo of it in the fascinating Mississippi Room. I also photographed an incredible display of artifacts from the ancient Mississippi Mound culture. Upstairs in the Children’s Library I photographed a giant dugout canoe and some very beautiful stained glass, both by local artists. The wonderfully informative Children’s Librarian explained how the nearby Delta Blues Museum started as a project of this library and originally was housed in this room. Reluctantly, we pulled ourselves away from Clarkdale’s amazing library and once again hit the road. We drove north to Helena, AR where the librarian in their new library explained that they have the oldest continuously running library system in the country. The old library would have been too expensive to retrofit and brought up to code. It is now closed but I photographed this wonderful pink rock building attached to a museum. We left the Delta and transitioned to regular America in Oxford, MS. The nice roads and malls are a little hard to take after the Delta. I wanted to include in this project libraries in the home towns of great American writers. Oxford was home to William Falkner. Mississippi has produced many great musicians and writers. As I set up my 4X5 camera in a room full of books done by many of these great Southern authors, an old man with white hair wearing a white shirt and white shorts sat down in front of me to read the paper. The light reflected perfectly off his hair and fortunately he didn’t move during my 8 second exposure. This photo was an unexpected gift. We arrive at the Main Library in Memphis, TN just as they were closing. It was large, beautiful and new. I managed to make a nice shot of the front with large back-lit clouds above it. We drove through a very rough neighborhood to get to the South branch library located in a mall. Our last library was the Cossett branch library in downtown Memphis. It is a combination library with the old and new libraries connected. The old is quite beautiful and looks down on the Mississippi River below. The new library is probably more functional but looks like 1960s architecture run amok. We checked in to our motel and looked forward to a quick swim in the pool. However, we were very excited about our change of plans. Instead of staying in Cairo, IL tomorrow we decided to push on to Louisville, KY. That would allow us to drive through eastern Kentucky the following day. I posted a new blog while Nick and Walker worked on editing their film and photos. By the time we are done the pool was closed. We headed downtown for dinner on Beale Street. It reminded me of Burbon St. in New Orleans, but not quite as crazy. Lots of drunk people were wandering around but some good live bands played on the street. In our rush to find food we miss what looked like a really interesting photo exhibit on the 1968 Sanitation Workers Strike where Martin Luther King was killed. We drive home in the hot, humid night listening to the song “Its Hard Out Here For A Pimp” which was set in Memphis. We then work for another hour and collapsed asleep at 1 AM.
7/16/11 – Today we drove long distances but only photographed two libraries. Because we were trying to get to the library in Evansville, Indiana before it closed at 5 we sadly missed the Civil Rights Museum as well as the Sun and Stax Record Studios in Memphis. An odd little library was in Halls, TN. It used to be a gas station but was successfully converted into a nice library. We drove on through beautiful farm land as I took my first nap on the trip. Nick and Walker were deep into conversation about their earlier trip to India. We arrived
at the Willard Library at 3:30 so I had an hour and a half to photograph the most beautiful library so far. In addition it is the only library that is haunted. We are told that the ghost likes to hang out in the basement and in one corner of the third floor. I think I see her but I’m not sure. The library is incredibly beautiful and I had to carefully pace myself to be able to photograph all of the interior before closing time. Right at 5:00 I exited the library and proceeded to spend another hour photographing the amazing exterior. This library and a few other civic buildings downtown suggest a wealthier, more exuberant Evansville than we see today. Walker and Nick felt this is the least interesting town so far. We drove several more hours through beautiful rolling farmland to Louisville, KY.