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J.C. Coovert Photo Galleries

Click any of the Galleries below to see the full images!



Coovert's panoramic photographs are held in the Library of Congress among other institutions. They are often entitled "Cirkut" photos, which refers to the Cirkut camera, first manufactured in 1905. Coovert used the "Cirkut" as well as other banquet cameras out of doors. Perched on a 15 foot tripod used to photograph conventions in Memphis, Coovert directed vast farm scenes in the countryside along the Mississippi River, as the workers, bosses, and animals waited patiently for the slow exposures. He retouched landscapes to tell a dramatic story of cotton.

Cotton figures in the very first mention we have of Coovert as a photographer: a gold medal at the Paris Exposition of 1889. The medallion given to him and his partner Patorno for "Best State Views," showed an image of an overflowing basket of cotton. Coovert returned again and again to the subject of cotton: its transportation, growing, harvesting, and especially the workers in the field.

Coovert's view is at times celebratory and fanciful, and at times respectful and straightforward . His vision went throughout the world and established for millions the very idea of the cotton South.


Mississippi River floods were a way of life. Inundations, occurring over thousands of years, deposited the rich alluvial soil that nourished the cotton plant. The soil was so rich that Deltans said "even a fencepost will sprout leaves."

The floods also caused much hardship and loss for the plantation owners, farmers and tenants. "High water" sometimes stayed for weeks, spreading sickness and waste among humans and animals. Spring floods also occurred in the middle of the crucial planting season.

Health Department