29 Jan Featured CPAC Member: Lisa McCord
Member Since: 2018
The Colorado Photographic Arts Center represents a diversity of photo professionals, students, and appreciators based here in the heart of Denver and beyond. We recognize and celebrate the work of our members at all levels through our Featured Member series. This time Lisa McCord is sharing her documentary project Rotan Switch, where she focuses on the experiences of her family’s cotton farm in Arkansas. We encourage you to explore this selection of profound black and white images, becoming familiar with the stories, memories, and passage of time in each frame.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
By Lisa McCord
I began documenting life on my grandparents’ cotton farm in 1979 when I was twenty-one years old. Although my grandfather started out as a sharecropper, by the time I was born he had become well-known in the Mississippi Delta as a farm owner in the community of Rotan, Arkansas. I developed close relationships with the people who worked on the farm. They would welcome me into their homes, and I would hang out at the juke joints and honky-tonks where they would go to relax after a hard week of work. We’d share fried chicken and black-eyed peas. We’d sing “Sweet Jesus Carry Me Home” at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church.
After forty years, I have come to realize that all of my photographs taken here are explorations of home. I have lived in many countries across the world, but my idea of home remains firmly rooted in the Arkansas land and people. Over time I have documented the families here- mine and others-across six generations. For me, these images and recorded interviews are tender reminders of people and places I love.
I realize that these photographs are complicated when seen in the context of the social and economic structures of the rural South. Although these subjects are family to me, as a white photographer and the granddaughter of a farm owner, my photographs of the Black community implicate my own role in reinforcing these power structures. These systemic oppressions are deeply troubling. My hope is to celebrate and honor this community I love and grew up with in the Mississippi Delta.
Rotan Switch takes its name from the community’s central landmark – the railroad switch where the farmers loaded their cotton bales onto trains headed out of the Arkansas Delta. Though the railroad switch hasn’t been used to transport cotton in many years, still it remains a potent symbol of the complex intersections of industry and agriculture, of race and injustice. This series acknowledges the history of my rural home, one that we must shed light on in order to move into a more just future.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Lisa McCord is a fine art and documentary photographer from the Arkansas Delta who lives and works in Los Angeles and Arkansas. Focusing on her experiences on her family’s cotton farm, her creative practice explores concepts of storytelling, memory, and the passage of time.
McCord received her BFA from San Francisco Art Institute and earned an MFA from California Institute of the Arts. She also attended New York University, Le Contrejour, Paris, and The Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, NY. She taught photography at several high schools and universities in the LA area including Pepperdine University.
She has shown her work in galleries and museums internationally, including SoHo Photo Gallery and Carrie Able Gallery in New York; Bruce Lurie and Building Bridges in Los Angeles; Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins; Classic Photographs Los Angeles, the Annenberg Space for Photography Museum in LA, and the Cotton Museum in Memphis. Her work has been featured in numerous publications including Black & White Photography (UK edition), Float Magazine, and Feature Shoot. She was a Critical Mass Finalist in 2015, 2016, and 2021. McCord’s work is in the permanent collections of the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.