A photographic collection focusing exclusively on the unique cultural, historical and natural beauty of the Black Belt of Alabama is currently raising money on Kickstarter with 14 days to go. Pennsylvania native Tom Bejgrowicz and his Alabama-born girlfriend, Jennifer Martin, are traveling through the back roads of her home state’s Black Belt region this summer in hopes of creating a book.
Inspired by Walker Evans and James Agee’s 1941 book “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” and 1960s artist William Christenberry’s work, which both concentrated on Hale County, the couple will be visiting small towns in many of the Black Belt’s 17 counties, exploring their state and county roads – both dirt and paved – talking with residents and documenting what they discover along the way.
Back in 2003, while living in Birmingham, Bejgrowicz was introduced to the region when he designed the “Samuel Mockbee and the Rural Studio: Community Architecture” book for the Birmingham Museum of Art. “With her [Jennifer] being born and raised in Alabama along with my calling the state home for several years, we obviously both feel a deep-rooted connection to its culture, its history and its aesthetic,” he says. “Documenting the Black Belt region is something we’ve wanted to do for a decade now but have only now found the opportunity to do so.”
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“The Black Belt of Alabama: A Photographic Essay” Kickstarter project aims to raise $5,00o, with $2,520 pledged as of July 16. The minimum pledge is just $1, but $10 or more gets you a digital copy of the book, while $40 or more results in a signed and numbered copy.
“There are so many misconceptions that have led to a general lack of understanding about what the state of Alabama actually is – let alone what it has to offer in its beauty, culture and people,” adds Bejgrowicz. “With supporters from Europe, the west and east coasts, and many spots between, we’re off to a great start in spreading the word about this incredible region of the country.”