newyorker.com – The critic Greil Marcus has written that “forgetting and disappearance” are the engines of the romance in American folk music. Folk players, at the same time, are inheritors and couriers of memory—partaking of a great archive of long-held recollections. The true story behind an American folk song may be elusive, and yet the musical tradition hands these tunes forward, not unlike the family watch.
Rachel Boillot has been photographing old-time musicians of the Cumberland Plateau, in rural, eastern Tennessee, for two years. First hired as a contract documentarian by a small, non-profit record label working to preserve the regional old-time tradition, she found herself enthralled by, and “tremendously welcome” among, the local players and their community—the people she calls the “elderly bearers of tradition.” Boillot now works as an assistant producer and designer for that label, Sandrock Recordings, and she seems keenly aware that in her photographs—of the artists, their homes, and their landscape—she is telling stories about storytellers. “The ballads, in particular … It’s a narrative medium,” she says, “a marriage of creative impulses to make, and to document and preserve one’s foothold in the world.” This documenting, as in her own photography, she told me, takes “mysterious liberties” in service of “delivering the most true cultural narrative we know.”
Categories: Election 2016