Rotan Switch - Missy Finger
Project info

In 1979, I began to document life on my grandparents’ cotton farm, Rotan, at Rotan Switch, located on the Mississippi River in Northeastern Arkansas. (Rotan Switch is the railroad switch where the cotton bales were loaded onto the trains traveling northeast to the textiles mills.) These vernacular images of every day life depict my family’s heritage, struggles, and celebrations, as well as the lives of many African Americans in the rural south.

As a local photographer, I have the unique perspective of being both an insider and an outsider.
I am welcomed into the local homes, cafes and churches to capture images, which reflect the memories of my childhood. I hang out at the honky-tonks and join the town’s people who meet to relax after a hard week of work. It feels natural to photograph these endeared friends doing ordinary things. We share fried chicken and black-eyed peas. We sing “Sweet Jesus Carry Me Home” at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church. I spend many hours wandering the fields and local towns documenting the world around me.

Sometimes the hardest stories to document are our own. Taking photographs is my way of participating in life’s moments. I take photographs when my world falls apart, like my brother’s battle with his addictions, which he ultimately lost. I also take photographs to celebrate life, honoring my relationships with the people in Rotan. These photographs shine light on this community that raised and molded me and is interwoven with respect, love, compassion, and integrity.