Eric Bookhardt Reviews The Sugar Mill Sessions



Long before Louisiana struck “black gold” in the form of oil, there was a thriving “white gold” industry in the form of sugar. Both have sooty histories, but burning the cane fields at harvest time is a tradition that lingers because it is still the most efficient way to strip the stalks of their leaves on their way to the mill. Consequently, harvests can look almost apocalyptic, as we see in David Armentor’s photographs. The New Iberia native’s images encompass landscapes and industrial views of mill facilities like Sugar House (pictured), as well as portraits of cane workers, a varied assortment of Cajuns, Creoles and Hispanics. In his portraits, the workers appear in somewhat plutonic looking shrouds of cane smoke, as if the descendants of Longfellow’sEvangeline had entered the realm of Dante’s Inferno, reminding us again that we live in a strange state where exquisite natural beauty coexists with industrial incursions. Armentor’s images illustrate sugar’s infernal, yet almost romantic, legacy.

- D Eric Bookhardt