Southern Crossings 2

Cross Garden, Autauga County, Alabama

About an hour north of Montgomery, Alabama, at the bend of a two-lane country road, is an eroded section of hillside covered with cast-off appliances, sheets of rotting plywood, toilet seats, and telephone poles. The assembled junk provided a palette for the faith-based folk art of W.C. Rice, who, until his death in 2004, inscribed the messy slope with his fire-and-brimstone Christian message. Hundreds of hand-painted crosses punctuate the landscape, and white letters scream “HELL IS HOT, HOT, HOT!”

Holy Rosary Cemetary, Taft, Louisiana

The one hundred-mile stretch of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is one of the most blighted landscapes in the American South. More than fifty petrochemical industries are located there, and the residents of the communities that straddle the river — Convent, Diamond, Ella, New Sarpy, Taft — live in a toxic gumbo. The petrochemical industry refers to the region as “Chemical Alley.” Locals call it “Cancer Alley.” It bears the highest per capita toxic chemical load in the United States. The public health threat is compounded by the threat of biochemical terrorism. I was intent on making this image of a cemetery when I heard revving engines and spinning gravel. I peered out from beneath the black drapery of my camera and found myself surrounded by law enforcement personnel. It took a few hours to sort it all out, they took some of my film, and I was requested to immediately leave the premises.