‘In 1989, I discovered them in my own back yard, landhungry and dirt poor. They came looking for work in the vegetable fields and fruit orchards of Lambton, Essex, Kent and Haldimand-Norfolk Counties. I liked them a lot because they seemed otherworldly and therefore completely vulnerable in a society in which they did not belong and for which they were not prepared. Because I liked them, they liked me, and although photography was forbidden, they let me photograph them. That’s all there was to it.’
Larry Towell photographed the Old Colony Mennonites in rural Ontario and Mexico between 1990 and 1999. The resulting black and white photographs—accompanied by an extensive text drawn from diary notes and ‘the silt of the memory’—formed Towell’s landmark book, The Mennonites, first published in 2000. This revised and updated second edition revisits the project and includes 40 previously unpublished photographs.
The son of a car repairman, Towell grew up in a large family in rural Ontario, Canada. During studies in visual arts at Toronto’s York University, he was given a camera and taught how to process black and white film. A stint of volunteer work in Calcutta in 1976 provoked Towell to photograph and write. In 1984, he became a freelance photographer and writer focusing on the dispossessed, exile and peasant rebellion. He completed projects on the Nicaraguan Contra war, on the relatives of the disappeared in Guatemala, and on American Vietnam War veterans who had returned to Vietnam to rebuild the country. His first published magazine essay, Paradise Lost, exposed the ecological consequences of the catastrophic Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. He became a Magnum nominee in 1988 and a full member in 1993. In 1996, Towell completed a project based on ten years of reportage in El Salvador, followed the next year by a major book, Then Palestine. His fascination with landlessness also led him to the Mennonite migrant workers of Mexico, an eleven-year project completed in 2000.
Hardback clothbound, in slipcase with black ribbon
131 duotone images
250 x 185 mm