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How E.P. Thompson Influenced Country Music Photography


This is a fascinating interview with Henry Horenstein, photographer of country music.

I have a Johnny Cash picture, but it’s no good. Same thing with Merle Haggard. But at the time that I was shooting I wasn’t looking for the stars. Dolly Parton hadn’t yet gone out on her own yet when I shot her. I was looking mostly for the world of country music—the people.

My hero was E. P. Thompson. He was a terrific historian and a very good writer. I even went to study with him one semester in England. His kind of bottom-up philosophy of history was what I was following, and I was doing so very consciously. When I started taking these pictures, I was pretty sure about what I knew when it came to history but not very secure about what I knew about photography. So I looked at people like Brassaï and Weegie or Diane Arbus and August Sander, and they seemed to fit what E. P. Thompson was talking about, and that’s exactly what I set out to do.

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  • Richard

    Very cool, Erik. Thanks for posting. Now I need to order the book

  • howard

    Reading making of the english working class was one of the most profound experiences of my life (and henry is a great photographer!), but richard, it’s not something to be undertaken lightly!

  • somethingblue

    This is a fantastic interview.

    Today I’d do it quite differently, but I didn’t really know then how [the] world worked. Fortunately, I’m a workaholic, so even if I didn’t do it very systematically, I did a lot of it.


    At the Hillbilly Ranch, the music used to attract a lot of people who were, well, a little diminished. Maybe they were lonely, and they’d gravitate to the music.

  • Halloween Jack

    Very cool. Mother Maybelle Carter looks like she’s bringing the tablets down from Mount Sinai.

  • Getting to work with EP Thompson for a year in grad school was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The thing that didn’t come through in his works until I met him was the incredible sense of humor (and sense of the absurd) that suffused everything he did and said – whether it was his history, his anti-nuclear activism, or his WWII stories. When I reread his works, the dry British humor was there, but I’d missed it in the seriousness of the message the first time. His article “Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism” is probably the most liberating thing I have ever read – and one of the most useful things I’ve ever taught to students.

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