- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - More than 40 years after he wandered through Mississippi snapping pictures of people and places, William Ferris says each photograph teleports him back to that moment.

The smiles, the frowns. The heat, the cold. The buildings, streets, towns and people that made Mississippi a special place to him and others.

“When you take a picture it imprints it in your memory and it all comes back. Each picture is a story,” Ferris said. “You remember the weather, the birds, the people, the conversation. Some people I knew intimately my whole life. Others I met for just a few minutes.”

Ferris, an acclaimed folklorist and photographer who was born and raised in Vicksburg, is now sharing some of those photos and stories in his new book, “The South In Color.” It features 100 color photographs the now-74-year-old shot as a young man in the 1960s and 1970s.

Published by the University of North Carolina Press, the book has photos from across the South, but most are from Mississippi and many feature people and places in and around Warren County. This is the third book to feature Ferris’ photography, but the first two used black-and-white images. He said the combination of color photos and the connection to home made this his most personal work.

“The more I got into it, the more I got into the places I grew up with in Vicksburg,” Ferris said. “Everything I do as a folklorist started there. It’s a homecoming and a return to my roots.”

Ferris is currently the Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. In February, he’ll receive the Mississippi Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts at the Old Capitol in Jackson.

Though he has traveled the world, Ferris said he enjoys reconnecting with the place that inspired him.

“I keep coming back to them to recharge my batteries and reconnect. I usually come back four or five times a year, at least,” Ferris said.

“The South In Color” includes photos of his family members and friends, as well as residents and sites of Warren County. The first chapter opens with pictures of Rose Hill Church and its congregation before segueing into pictures of the family farm.

The rest of the book features portraits and scenes from other Mississippi towns. Most of the photos are from the mid-1970s and were digitally restored by a team of Ferris’ assistants.

Ferris’ black-and-white archive contains about 80,000 images, while his color archive has nearly 6,000. He said the lower number, and the fact that the color photos had not been seen publicly, led to the decision to make his third book a collection of color photos rather than black-and-white.

“My friend Tom Rankin, who teaches at Duke, said, ‘Why don’t you do color? These have never been published, and you have about 6,000 images, which would be easier to work with.’”

Ferris and his team spent about five years combing through the archive to choose the 100 photographs in the book. He said it was impossible to pick his favorite.

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Information from: The Vicksburg Post, https://www.vicksburgpost.com

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