A Biographical SketchBook - 2000
Magnum photographer Larry Towell has spent much of the last 10 years photographing Mennonite communities in rural Ontario and Mexico. Starting with a friendship he made with a Mennonite family whom he met near his own home in Ontario, he has had unique access to their lives, gradually being introduced to the wider community and making trips to visit the colonies in Mexico. Mennonite culture does not usually permit photography, so his comprehensive study represents an unprecedented and ground breaking photographic survey of their way of life - one that may very soon have changed beyond recognition.
In addition to the photographs, Towell's own accompanying text tells, in descriptive detail, poignant anecdotes of his experiences. With an artist's eye he paints a striking picture of the intriguing lives of these people: the harshness and poverty of their rural life, the disciplines and contradictions of their religion, their hunger for land, for work, and for the freedom to live the way they choose.
The photographic content is of the highest quality and would easily justify a book of images alone. The text moreover - very atmospheric in the tradition of Steinbeck - makes the book an unusually successful and complete portrait of an entire and a vivid way of life: it signifies far more than just a photography book.
This definitive collection of Towell's most important work - 10 years in the making - has been eagerly anticipated by his followers. The book was awarded the Citation of Excellence, Best Documentary at the Photo-Eye Awards in 2000.