• October 29, 2013

Notes From the Road: The Bedroom

There was almost a pleading quality to Reverend Landers’s voice when he asked if I would take his picture. “It will go right there,” he said, pointing to a patch of wallboard hung with angel wings made of crepe paper and a cross fashioned from scraps of cardboard. “I’d be proud to be so remembered and immortalized.”

It was a Sunday in early November of 1969. Reverend Landers was in his long, black preacher’s robe when he stood to be photographed on the porch of his church with his congregation that morning, the two blind brothers Willy and Isaiah McGowan. Afterward he directed me to follow him across the road to make more pictures, this time of his wife. But Mrs. Landers appeared to be hiding from us, and the house was dark inside. The only illumination came from red and green Christmas tree lights.

Reverend Landers pushed me toward a closed door, telling me not to worry. Mrs. Landers, who was sitting at the far side of the room on the edge of the bed, didn’t look up when I entered. All I could think to say was, “Excuse me.” Reverend Landers made no effort to sit next to his wife, but sat back on the foot of the bed, so that his long, bony legs appeared to splay out in every direction.

As I was raising up my camera, the religious fervor that Horace Landers so much wanted me to capture appeared to leave him. He was no longer the spiritual man elevated by the gospels and the members of his church. He was an uncertain man, an aging man, a desperately poor man, a lonely man, an invisible man.

Reverend and Mrs. Landers, Hughes, Arkansas, 1969
Reverend and Mrs. Landers, Hughes, Arkansas, 1969

Photographer Eugene Richards, a frequent contributor to National Geographic magazine, began his career over 40 years ago as a VISTA volunteer in the Mississippi Delta of Arkansas. The people he met and the photographs he made of them became the basis for his first book, Few Comforts or Surprises: The Arkansas Delta.

The land and its stories have stayed a part of him, and in 2012 Richards published a new story, “Arkansas Delta, 40 Years Later,” in National Geographic magazine.

Now, thanks to a recent Kickstarter campaign, the story will continue in the form of a new book, Red Ball of a Sun Slipping Down, scheduled for publication in 2014. As part of the fund-raising process Richards has been keeping a journal, Notes From the Road, part memory, part new experiences, discussing the Arkansas Delta photo stories, then and now.

Over the course of the next few weeks, Proof will dip into this stream and share Richards’s stories with you. To see all of his posts and to learn more about his new book, visit Red Ball of a Sun Slipping Down—Keith Jenkins, director of photography

There are 16 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. LauJunJie
    November 22, 2013

    wow nice image

  2. michael blecha
    November 5, 2013

    Initial response is to feel immense gratitude for all that we’ve given. Then immense sadness that Rev. Landers and his family will never know the blessings possible in our country. Why me, and not him?

  3. Emma agelu
    November 5, 2013

    Is a good picture

  4. Michele
    November 3, 2013

    “He was an uncertain man, an aging man, a desperately poor man, a lonely man, an invisible man.” One descriptive word that is missing is “an angry man”. All of the words used speak to the human condition of poverty. Let’s add that Rev. Horace Landers was a man of great faith in his daily walk with God. In 2013, poverty is growing, religious faith is declining.

  5. Ann Bridgman
    November 3, 2013

    When I think back to 1969 after returning home from nine years in

    When I think back to 1969, I think of how little I knew of these peoples’ sufferings!

  6. kathleen feathers
    November 3, 2013

    I want his books for Christmas, can’t wait

  7. Marilyn
    November 3, 2013

    Your photographs really stirred me. Thank you for sharing them.

  8. Karen Wesneski
    November 3, 2013

    Beautiful picture at

    Beautiful pictures that show the “souls” of each person. Truly mesmerizing.

  9. Jackie
    November 3, 2013

    There is a pride and dignity captured in this picture; to me, it is evident by the decor of the walls.

  10. Zuyao Zhang
    November 3, 2013

    Good !

  11. seyed hassan
    November 3, 2013


  12. Anthony terry
    November 2, 2013

    edithed: I have not read much about the story,but as from what i saw from the images of it, i could tell that it was a sad one….

  13. anthony terry
    November 2, 2013

    i have not read much about the story, but as i see from tge images of it, i could tell thatcit was a sad one….

  14. John Ficarro
    November 2, 2013

    The photograph and the story is exceptional in sharing some American stories that would otherwise be unknown to most of us.

  15. Icesy Bombay
    November 2, 2013

    Very intriguing. amazing image, well capture.

  16. John Waire
    October 30, 2013

    I love everything about this image. The eyes draw me in and make me want to ask so many questions…

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