Work of Art: Jim Smyre and family planting tobacco, Iredell County, NC
Rob Amberg
born 1947
Jim Smyre and family planting tobacco, Iredell County, NC
1987; printed 1992
Gelatin-silver print
Image: 11 1/2 x 17 3/4 in. (29.2 x 45.1 cm.)
Purchased with funds from the William R. Roberson Jr. and Frances M. Roberson Endowed Fund for North Carolina Art
© Rob Amberg, 2011

Photographer Rob Amberg is interested in the changing technology of agriculture in western North Carolina. Members of the Iredell County family in the photograph are riding backward on a tobacco setter. Tobacco plants are grown from seeds in protected beds during the spring, and by late spring or early summer, they are ready to be gathered for transplanting into larger fields. Each worker has a basket of plants to be set out. The tractor (replacing mules of earlier days) that pulls the setter must be guided with precision along straight rows. Every few seconds the mechanical parts of the setter gouge a small hole in the earth, and one of the workers must have one plant ready to insert quickly into the hole before the tractor moves along. A small amount of water from the tanks is automatically spilled onto each plant to get its roots off to a good start. A close look at the bottom of the photograph shows a plant emerging between each pair of metal wheels.

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