When professional photographer Paul Mobley’s 100,000-mile journey through America’s farm country brought him to the South last fall, it seemed only fitting that he visit two east Alabama farms.A year later, the peaceful image of World War II veteran Tom Ingram relaxing on the porch of a historic Lee County home as Old Glory waves overhead is among 200 photographs that grace the pages of Mobley’s new book, <i<American Farmer: The Heart of Our Country (Welcome Books, 276 pages).Another portrait depicts Chambers County farmer Prather Slay perched patiently on a hay bale warmed by afternoon sunlight filtering through cracks in the barn. There’s also a black-and-white photograph of Mr. Slay with wife Lillian and son Phil as well as a striking close-up of J.D. Briskey, who works for the Slays.In all, Mobley visited 35 states during three years. The result is the first portrait collection of modern American farmers ever published. Mobley’s images are accompanied by first-person narratives, told in the farmers’ own words and edited by Katrina Fried. Together, they offer an intimate look inside the hardships and joys of farm life.In the afterword of American Farmer, Mobley comments that the farmers he met on his journey renewed his faith in people and provided inspiration for his work.”With every farmer and rancher I met, I was newly astonished, humbled and deeply inspired by the generosity and warmth shown to me,” Mobley wrote. “I often felt that I had stepped into a fantasy, where freshly baked pies sat cooling on kitchen sills, backdoors were never locked and neighbors relied on each other for as little as a cup of flour and as much as a hand with summer branding.”Early on in the project, Mobley contacted the American Farm Bureau Federation for help in identifying subjects for his lens. AFBF Public Relations Director Don Lipton said state Farm Bureaus across the country were involved in coordinating Mobley’s visits.”It was clear from the outset that Paul had an unusual passion for agriculture and its people, one that grew stronger as his journey progressed,” Lipton said. “It took some persuasion to get people to help Paul, but once they met him, worked with him and saw his work, word spread that this was a project worth participating in.”Singer and songwriter Michael Martin Murphey met Mobley at the AFBF annual meeting. In his introduction of American Farmer, Murphey called Mobley a “kindred spirit” who is “taking the powerful truth of American farmers and ranchers to the public – delivering a message of honesty, integrity, passion and daily painstaking labor…”Paul Mobley’s photographs convey a sense that his journey into the heart of America will never be over. His work will pass on this intuition to others, and perhaps they will be inspired to better understand the sacred connection between the food they consume and those who provide it,” Murphey wrote.Willard Scott, who became famous as the weatherman on NBC’s Today Show, shares Murphey’s praise for the book and for farmers in general in the preface.”Farmers and ranchers are the backbone of our country, indispensable providers of the food, and now energy as well, that has enabled the United States to remain stable and strong throughout history. From the heart of our farmlands have come many of the nation’s greatest leaders, inventors, innovators and caretakers of our natural resources,” Scott said.”They are America’s true patriots and pioneers, who stand for the ideals that most of us hold dear. American Farmer pays glorious tribute to these ordinary heroes, and reminds us of just how extraordinary they are.”Mobley began his training as a photographer at Detroit’s Center for Creative Studies, and apprenticed at renowned New York studios for many years before embarking on his own career. He has successfully worked with a broad range of corporate, advertising and editorial clients, including American Express, Sony, Citigroup, Ford, Compaq, Max Factor, Chevrolet and Microsoft.Mobley lives in Michigan and New York City with his wife, Suzanne, and their two daughters, Camden and Paige.A 10-percent discount coupon for an autographed copy of the new book is now available for Farm Bureau (Alabama Farmers Federation) members on AFBF’s Web site at www.fb.org. The book’s sales price is $50 and the discount is for Farm Bureau members only.For more information, visit, welcomebooks.com/americanfarmer.
Federation Members Featured in ‘American Farmer’