Folklife Center: Catalogue, 'Messages from a Small Town'
Messages from a Small Town: Photographs Inside Pawlet, Vermont Neil Rappaport with Nellie Bushee and Ella Clark
Neil Rappaport was a documentary photographer and teacher (27 years at Bennington College) who lived in Pawlet, Vermont for 30 years. He was obsessed with recording how life in one small rural town was changing and being changed in the latter decades of the twentieth century. When he died suddenly in 1998, he left behind thousands of images: the town’s well-known slate quarries, its farms that were rapidly declining in numbers, and its pastoral landscape. But most of all, he photographed its people – individuals, families, groups – at work, at play, and at rest, in settings of their own choosing.
For this volume, Susanne Rappaport has selected the best of her late husband’s work. She has juxtaposed them with historical photographs taken by two Pawlet women from the early years of the century, and with selections from oral histories she collected from some of the subjects of her late husband’s portraits. In addition, she has added her own poignant recollections, mixed with excerpts from Neil’s writings. Richly illustrated with Neil Rappaport’s remarkable photographs, Messages From A Small Town is a powerful and personal portrait of the residents of Pawlet, Vermont, from the 1970s through the 1990s. The Folklife Center mounted an exhibit of Rappaport’s work at its gallery in Middlebury, VT in 2005 and the Bennington Museum in 2006.