George Bedirian’s Palouse Country is a handsomely produced volume of over 100 duotone photographs. This revised WSU Press edition contains many previously unpublished images that provide an eloquent insight into a premotorized age of magnificent barn structures and the towns that supported their production.
These striking photographs of agricultural architecture are reminiscent of the photographic style of Wright Morris and Walker Evans. They are juxtaposed with the magnificent temporal seasonal landscapes of the Palouse. Bedirian has produced this volume of images as an insightful mythology to farming and the grandeur of this exceptional region. His images reflect a visceral appreciation and an understanding of the culture of the land.
In the introduction Bedirian recounts a historical perspective of the sweeping changes that have taken place on the Palouse since the last quarter of the 19th century. He then points to alterations in the social fabric of the region that were accompanied by corresponding changes in the architectural landscape. More recent changes in this fabric have also focused the energies of the region’s agricultural community into reconsidering strategies in the long-standing battle with erosion of the fertile topsoil and overreliance on chemical fertilizers.
Palouse Country also includes an insightful afterword by Terry Lawhead entitled, “Restoring the Myth of Locale.” Lawhead perceptively suggests that these photographs let him Back to a personal set of experiences and appreciation he has had with the land. He offers that in these images Bedirian has captured a portrait of himself. In these photographs Bedirian takes great pleasure in what he sees and allows us to experience a sense of great depth in the commonplace.
A list of plates provides additional specific documentary information of place and title of each image. Information on some entries alarmingly chronicles the demolition of the architecture since it was captured by the photographer’s eye. One wonders—and hopes—if this might be the idea for another magnificent series of photographs that Bedirian might produce in the future.
– Bill Woolston, faculty member, School of Communication, University of Idaho, and author of the photographic book, Harvest: Wheat Ranching on the Palouse.