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Guide to the Tom Rankin Photographs and Papers, 1977-2013

Summary

Tom Rankin is a documentary photographer, filmmaker, folklorist, professor of art and documentary studies, and former director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. The photographic work of Tom Rankin in this collection dates from 1980 to 2007, and consists of 113 black-and-white and color photographs documenting the American South. The largest body of work, "Sacred Space," focuses on religious sites, rituals, and communities in the Mississippi Delta region. Another project, "Portraits from the American South," offers views of individuals and landscapes from other locations in the South. Finally, a smaller body of photographs features portraits of Mississippi writer Larry Brown. Finished prints range from 8x11 inch contact prints to 11x14 and 16x20 large-format prints. Supporting materials include manuscripts, publications files, and two films, all deriving from Rankin's career and art practice; these date from approximately 1980 to 2013. There is also a digital audio recording of a talk by Rankin at the exhibit opening of his work, "Near the Cross: Photographs from the Mississippi Delta." Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.

Collection Details

Collection Number
RL.10043
Title
Tom Rankin photographs and papers
Date
1977-2013
Creator
Rankin, Tom
Extent
31.5 Linear Feet, 25 boxes; 2 film reels
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Language
Material in English

Collection Overview

The photographic work of Tom Rankin in this collection consists of 113 black-and-white and color photographs documenting the American South from 1980 to 2007, focusing in particular on religious sites, rituals, and communities in the Mississippi Delta region; these prints form the largest series, "Sacred Space." Another body of work features portraits of Mississippi writer Larry Brown. A third body of work, "Portraits from the American South," offers views of Southern people, cultures, and landscapes in both color and black-and-white. Finally, a print of author Tim McLaurin from Hillsborough, North Carolina rounds out the collection.

Large-format prints typically measure 11x14, 13x19, and 16x20 inches, with many housed in window mats. Along with these prints, there are also 8x11 inch black-and-white matted contact prints. All titles were created by the photographer. Selected photographs from this collection have been exhibited at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke and other locations. A selection of Rankin's photographs was published in a book, Sacred Space: Photographs from the Mississippi Delta (1993).

Supporting materials in this collection include a digital audio recording of a talk by Rankin at the exhibit opening of work from the Sacred Space series, "Near the Cross: Photographs from the Mississippi Delta," as well as manuscript materials related to his career and art practice, including book publications and book layouts. Also in the collection are two motion films, Dance Like a River (1985), directed by Barry Dorfeld and Tom Rankin, and Four Women Artists (1977), directed by Bill Ferris.

Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.

More Biographical / Historical Info

Arrangement

The photographic materials are arranged in three main series by bodies of work: Larry Brown; Sacred Space: Photographs from the Mississippi Delta; and Portraits From the American South. These series are followed by Other Photographic Work, Manuscripts and Recordings, and Other Audiovisual Materials.

Using These Materials

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 2 full business days in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access to the Collection

Collection is open for research. However, original recordings and films are closed to use. Viewing or listening copies may need to be made for access.

Also, publication and commercial use of any kind requires the permission of the photographer.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. There may be a 48-hour delay in obtaining these materials.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

Conditions Governing Access note

Original audiovisual materials are closed to use. Use of these materials may require production of listening or viewing copies. Please contact Research Services before coming to use this collection.

warning Use & Permissions

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

More copyright and citation information

How to Cite

[Identification of item], Tom Rankin Photographs and Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

1. Larry Brown, 1993-1997, 2004

20 prints

Series consists of portraits of Mississippi writer Larry Brown with his family and friends in Mississippi. Arranged in original order as received; all titles were created by the photographer. Unless otherwise noted, all prints are 11x14 inch unmatted gelatin silver prints; three color pigment inkjet prints are also present.

Larry Brown in his garden, Yocona, Mississippi, 1994
Box 1
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0001
Charlie Jacobs funeral, Bolivar County, Mississippi, 1997 (Larry Brown far left)
Box 1
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0002
Larry Brown and Charlie Jacobs, Larry's pond, Tula, Mississippi, 1994
Box 1
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0003
Larry Brown, Oxford, Mississippi, 1996
Box 1
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0004
Larry Brown riding in my truck, Yocona to Tula, Mississippi 1996
Box 1
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0005
Larry Brown, Tula, Mississippi, 1994
Box 1
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0006
Larry Brown at home, Yocona, Mississippi, 1994
Box 1
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0007
Mary Annie Brown and Larry Brown, Tula, Mississippi, 1994
Box 1
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0008
Larry Brown, on my porch, Jefferson Avenue, Oxford, Mississippi, 1993
Box 1
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0009
Larry Brown cleaning deer, Yocona, Mississippi, 1990s
Box 1
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0010
Larry Brown at my house, Oxford, Mississippi, 1996
Box 1
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0011
Larry Brown, Tula, Mississippi, 1993
Box 1
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0012
Larry Brown, Tula, Mississippi, 1993
Box 1
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0013
Mary Annie and Larry Brown, Yocona, Mississippi, 1990s
Box 1
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0014
Jonny Miles and Larry Brown, Bear Creek, Mississippi, 1990s
Box 1
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0015
Larry Brown, Bear Creek, Mississippi, 1990s
Box 1
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0016
Larry Brown, Oxford, Mississippi, circa 2004

Inkjet color print, 16x20 inches

Box 1
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0017
Larry Brown and Richard Howorth, Larry's pond, Tula, Mississippi, 2004

Inkjet color print, 13x16 inches

Box 8
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0018
Larry Brown and Richard Howorth on dock at Larry's pond, Tula, Mississippi, 2004

Inkjet color print, 13x16 inches

Box 8
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0019
Larry Brown, Tula, Mississippi, 1997
Box 8
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0020

2. Sacred Space: Photographs From the Mississippi Delta, 1989-1992, 2006-2007

62 prints

This body of work comprises 62 black-and-white prints that document and reflect on spiritual and religious practices in the rural Mississippi Delta region of the Southern United States, with a focus on churches, pastors and congregations, cemetery sites, and baptisms. Selected images were published in "Sacred Space: Photographs from the Mississippi Delta," and exhibited in 2008 at Duke University as "Near the Cross: Photographs from the Mississippi Delta."

The artist offers his reflection on the project: "No single institution in the Delta region has had a more profound impact on the entire culture of the Mississippi Delta than the countless African-American churches that accent the landscape. The ubiquitous presence of these churches and their adjoining cemeteries and churchyards - these sacred spaces - constitutes a kind of three-dimensional iconography in an otherwise profane agricultural landscape. Landmarks to some, places of spiritual refuge to others, 'home church' to their devoted members, these centers of religious and social life have been planned, built, decorated, and maintained by local communities for heartfelt reasons...Thus the look and life of the church, inside and out, reflect the attitudes, beliefs, aspirations, and realities of the community...The church survives not only as a place of worship, but also as a symbol to the membership of a sacred home where a formal commitment to religion began, where family meets, and where forebears once gathered."

The prints in this series come in many sizes and processes: 11x14 inch unmatted black-and-white gelatin silver prints (box 2); 11x14 gelatin silver prints in 16x20 inch mats (box 7); 16x20 inch unmatted prints (boxes 4-5); and 16x20 inch gelatin silver prints in 20x24 inch mats (box 6). Prints in Box 3 are 8 1/2 x 11 contact prints, with slight variations, in 11x14 inch window mats; there are a few prints in this group that have larger finished print versions in the collection. Within size categories, prints are arranged in order as assigned by the photographer. All titles are original.

Reverend Brooks Tobe, at his home in Rosedale, Mississippi, 1991
Box 2
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0021
Reverend Tom Bronner and his niece, New Bethel M.B. Church, Perthshire, Mississippi, 1991
Box 2
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0022
Baptism, Moon Lake, Mississippi, 1990
Box 2
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0023
Baptism, Jerusalem M.B. Church, Mound Bayou, Mississippi, 1989
Box 2
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0024
Deacon Fred Davis, Moon Lake, Mississippi, 1990
Box 2
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0025
Baptism, three at time, Moon Lake, Mississippi, 1990
Box 2
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0026
Mt Pleasant M.B. Church, Beulah, Mississippi, 1989
Box 3
Image RL-10043-P-0027
Grave of Matilda Wray, Sunflower County, Mississippi, 1990

A large-format print version is also in collection.

Box 3
Image RL-10043-P-0028
Mt. Olive Church, near Beulah, Mississippi, 1992

A large-format print version is also in collection.

Box 3
Image RL-10043-P-0029
Reverend Tom Bronner with neighborhood children, Gunnison, Mississippi, 1989
Box 3
Image RL-10043-P-0030
New Hope M.B. Church, Shelby, Mississippi, 1989

A large-format print version is also in collection.

Box 3
Image RL-10043-P-0031
Hand-painted window, A.M.E. Church, Indianola, Mississippi, 1990
Box 3
Image RL-10043-P-0032
Interior of Bethlehem M.B. Church No. 2, Shaw, Mississippi, 1991
Box 3
Image RL-10043-P-0033
Reverend E.B. Brown at pulpit, Mt. Pleasant M.B. Church, Beulah, Mississippi, 1989
Box 3
Image RL-10043-P-0034
Handmade gravestones, Mound Bayou, 1989
Box 3
Image RL-10043-P-0035
Paper Easter flowers, near Tchula, Mississippi, 1991
Box 3
Image RL-10043-P-0036
Evening Star Baptist Church, undated
Box 4
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0037
Mt. Olive Church, near Beulah, Mississippi, 1992

A smaller contact print version is also in collection.

Box 4
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0038
Grave of Matilda Wray, Sunflower County, Mississippi, 1990

A smaller contact print version is also in collection.

Box 4
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0039
Chester Arthur Burke, Rosedale, Mississippi, 1989
Box 4
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0040
Steeple on Margaret's Market, Vicksburg, 1990
Box 4
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0041
Interior of Chester Arthur Burke M.B. Church, Rosedale, Mississippi, 1989
Box 4
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0042
Percy, Mississippi, 1989
Box 4
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0043
Pleasant Green M.B. Church, Rolling Fork, Mississippi, 1990
Box 4
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0044
Reverend Tom Bronner at home, Gunnison, Mississippi, 1989
Box 4
Folder 3
Image RL-10043-P-0045
Mt. Tinnia  M.B. Church, Scott, Mississippi, 1990
Box 4
Folder 3
Image RL-10043-P-0046
New Hope M.B. Church, Shelby, Mississippi, 1989

A smaller contact print version is also in collection.

Box 4
Folder 3
Image RL-10043-P-0047
St. James M.B. Church, Jonestown, Mississippi, 1991
Box 4
Folder 3
Image RL-10043-P-0048
Pleasant Green M.B. Church, Rolling Fork, Mississippi, 1989
Box 4
Folder 3
Image RL-10043-P-0049
Church on the Shaw-Litton Road at Sunset, Bolivar County, Mississippi, 1989
Box 5
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0050
Shellmound, Mississippi, 1991
Box 5
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0051
Holly Bluff, Mississippi, 1990
Box 5
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0052
Chester Arthur Burke M.B. Church, Rosedale, Mississippi, 1989
Box 5
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0053
Mt. Tinnia M.B. Church, near Scott, 2007
Box 5
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0054
Mt. Tinnia M.B. Church, near Scott, 2007

Same church as in print -0054, seen at more of a distance.

Box 5
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0055
Little Ebenezer Baptist Church, Rosedale, 1990
Box 5
Folder 1
Image RL-10043-P-0056
Near Shelby, Mississippi, 1989
Box 5
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0057
Paper Easter flowers, near Tchula, Mississippi, 1991
Box 5
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0058
Reverend Tom Bronner with neighborhood children, Gunnison, Mississippi, 1989
Box 5
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0059
Reverend E.B. Brown, Mt. Pleasant M.B. Church, Beulah, Mississippi, 1989
Box 5
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0060
Morning Star M.B. Church, Beulah, Mississippi, 1989
Box 5
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0061
Reverend Herman Dennis, Margaret's Grocery, Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1990
Box 5
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0062
Alfred Green Grave, Beulah, Mississippi, 2007
Box 6
Image RL-10043-P-0063
St. James M.B. Church, Jonestown, Mississippi, 1991
Box 6
Image RL-10043-P-0064
Bethlehem M.B. Church No. 2, Shaw, Mississippi, 1991
Box 6
Image RL-10043-P-0065
Reverend Brooks Tobe, Little Ebenezer Baptist Church, Rosedale, Mississippi, 1989
Box 6
Image RL-10043-P-0066
Brooks Chapel M.B. Church, Greenwood, Mississippi, 2006
Box 6
Image RL-10043-P-0067
Abundant Life, Highway 1, Washington County, Mississippi, 2007
Box 6
Image RL-10043-P-0068
Holly Bluff, Mississippi, 2007
Box 6
Image RL-10043-P-0069
Near Litton, Mississippi, 1991
Box 6
Image RL-10043-P-0070
Mt. Tinnia M.B. Church, Scott, Mississippi, 2007
Box 6
Image RL-10043-P-0071
New Hope Church, Estill, Mississippi, 1989
Box 6
Image RL-10043-P-0072
Deacon Fred Davis, Moon Lake, Mississippi, 1990
Box 7
Image RL-10043-P-0073
Baptism, Jerusalem M.B. Church, Mound Bayou, 1989
Box 7
Image RL-10043-P-0074
Moon Lake, Mississippi, 1990
Box 7
Image RL-10043-P-0075
Candidate for baptism, Perthshire, Mississippi, 1989
Box 7
Image RL-10043-P-0076
Juandra Griffin and Venita Murray, Moon Lake, 1990
Box 7
Image RL-10043-P-0077
Prayer after baptism, 1990
Box 7
Image RL-10043-P-0078
Congregation, Bethlehem No. 2, Shaw, Mississippi, circa 1991
Box 7
Image RL-10043-P-0079
Baptism of Cheronda Brown by Reverend Crabtree, Stamps Lake, 1990
Box 7
Image RL-10043-P-0080
Baptism, Moon Lake, 1990
Box 7
Image RL-10043-P-0081
Candidate for Baptism, 1990
Box 7
Image RL-10043-P-0082

3. Portraits from the American South, 1980-1993

30 prints

Images of individuals, cemeteries, businesses, and landscapes taken by Rankin in various Southern states, including Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Virginia. Includes 16x20 inch unmatted vintage chromogenic prints (box 8) and 11x14 inch black-and-white gelatin silver prints in 16x20 inch mats (box 9). Arranged in original order as received. All titles were created by the photographer.

Sonny Boy Williams grave, Tutwiler, Mississippi, 1991
Box 8
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0083
Columbus, Mississippi, 1991
Box 8
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0084
Crystal Springs, Mississippi, 1991
Box 8
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0085
Oakley and Manuel, Sunflower County, Mississippi, circa 1991
Box 8
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0086
Atlanta, Georgia, 1989
Box 8
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0087
W.C. Rice Cross Garden, Prattville, Alabama, 1988
Box 8
Folder 3
Image RL-10043-P-0088
Sunflower County, Mississippi, 1991
Box 8
Folder 3
Image RL-10043-P-0089
Near Litton, Mississippi, 1991
Box 8
Folder 3
Image RL-10043-P-0090
Meridian, Mississippi, 1989
Box 8
Folder 3
Image RL-10043-P-0091
E.T. Wickham statue, Palmyra, Tennessee, 1987
Box 8
Folder 4
Image RL-10043-P-0092
Hand-painted window, Indianola, Mississippi, 1990
Box 8
Folder 4
Image RL-10043-P-0093
New Hope Church, Shelby, Mississippi, 1989
Box 8
Folder 4
Image RL-10043-P-0094
Ichauway Plantation, Baker County, Georgia, 1993
Box 8
Folder 4
Image RL-10043-P-0095
Mary T. Smith's house, Hazelhurst, Mississippi, 1986
Box 8
Folder 4
Image RL-10043-P-0096
Mary T. Smith scarecrow, Hazelhurst, Mississippi, circa 1986
Box 8
Folder 5
Image RL-10043-P-0097
W.C. Rice's Chapel, Prattville, Alabama, 1988
Box 8
Folder 5
Image RL-10043-P-0098
Hand-painted windows, Indianola, Mississippi, 1990
Box 8
Folder 5
Image RL-10043-P-0099
Jewell Thomas, Carrollton, Mississippi, undated
Box 8
Folder 5
Image RL-10043-P-0100
Manuel, Sunflower County, Mississippi, circa 1991
Box 8
Folder 5
Image RL-10043-P-0101
A.M.E. Church, Indianola, Mississippi, undated
Box 8
Folder 5
Image RL-10043-P-0102
Stanford Boyd at home, Louisville, Kentucky, 1980
Box 9
Image RL-10043-P-0103
Andrew Jones, Ripley, Tennessee, 1981
Box 9
Image RL-10043-P-0104
Portrait outside Geronimo's Bar, Texas, 1980
Box 9
Image RL-10043-P-0105
Marlow at home, Linden, Tennessee, 1982
Box 9
Image RL-10043-P-0106
Roanoke, Virginia, 1980
Box 9
Image RL-10043-P-0107
Man with Chevelle, Highway 86, Orange County, North Carolina, 1980
Box 9
Image RL-10043-P-0108
Fred Rushing, Benton County, Tennessee, 1981
Box 9
Image RL-10043-P-0109
Ed Hunt, Tennessee River, near Savannah, Tennessee, 1982
Box 9
Image RL-10043-P-0110
Garvin Tuberville, at home with mussel boat, 1982
Box 9
Image RL-10043-P-0111
Near Linden, Tennessee, 1982
Box 9
Image RL-10043-P-0112

4. Other Photographic Work, 2001

Series houses a gelatin silver 11x14 inch print of North Carolina author Tim McLaurin. Original title supplied by photographer.

Tim McLaurin at home with George, African Spur Foot Tortoise, Hillsborough, North Carolina, 2001
Box 2
Folder 2
Image RL-10043-P-0113

5. Manuscripts and Recordings, circa 1980-2013

14 boxes, 1 mp3 file

Professional papers, including correspondence, writings, teaching materials, and other documents, stemming from Tom Rankin's long career in teaching and documentary arts, and serving as Director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Includes a digital audio recording of his opening talk on February 27, 2008 at the Duke University Libraries exhibit of his work, Near the Cross: Photographs from the Mississippi Delta. This file has been mounted on the library server and is also available online through the Duke Libraries digital exhibits website. The papers have been given basic processing.

Professional files and recordings, circa 1980-2013
Box 10-25

Four Women Artists, 1977

Directed by Bill Ferris and produced by Judy Peiser, Center for Southern Folklore, 1977.

16mm screening print, color, optical sound, 1977
(850 film feet, Color faded.)
Box AV 1
Film-reel RL10034-16mm-0001

Dance Like a River: ODADAA! Drumming and Dancing in the U.S., 1985

Directed and produced by Barry Dorfeld and Tom Rankin, Oboade Institute for African Culture, 1985.

16mm screening print, color, optical sound, 1985
(1500 film feet)
Box AV 1
Film-reel RL10034-16mm-0002
 

Historical Note

Tom Rankin served as the Director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University for three consecutive five-year terms until 2013, and is a Professor of the Practice in the Arts and Director of the Master of Fine Arts program at Duke University. A documentary photographer, filmmaker, writer, editor, and folklorist, he has been documenting and interpreting American culture, particularly in the South, for nearly twenty years. His photographic work has been published and widely exhibited. His most long-standing work has been to reveal through the documentary arts the culture and society of the Mississippi Delta region, where he also served as a faculty member of Delta State University and the University of Mississippi. He has returned many times since the 1980s to photograph the landscapes and people of the Mississippi Delta, most recently in 2011 after the great floods of that year.

His books include Sacred Space: Photographs from the Mississippi Delta (1993), which received the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Photography, 'Deaf Maggie Lee Sayre': Photographs of a River Life(1995), Faulkner's World: The Photographs of Martin J. Dain (1997), and Local Heroes Changing America: Indivisible (2000).

He received an MFA from Georgia State University and an MA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. American Photo Magazine named Tom Rankin as one of the 100 Most Important People in Photography, May, 2005.


Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.

Provenance

The Tom Rankin photographs and papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as gifts and purchases from 2007 to 2013.

Processing Information

Photographic work was processed and described at the item level in February 2017 by Paula Jeannet Mangiafico and Alex Cunningham. Titles of photographs have been updated by the photographer, and some box numbers have changed. A previous collection guide version exists in the library's collection control files.

Addition of film reels encoded by Craig Breaden.

Originally processed by Rubenstein Library staff, December 2008

Originally encoded by Paula Jeannet Mangiafico and Matthew Warren, April 2014

Accession(s) represented in this collection guide: 2007-0028, 2007-0046, 2007-0134, 2008-0021, 2008-0060, and 2013-0114.