Dominique James, Photographer

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30474

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30474

Gazebo By The Lake

In the fall of 2007, I migrated to the United States from the Philippines. I moved in with my family in the small town of Vidalia in Georgia.

My stay in Vidalia lasted only a couple of months. I went on to travel to several other American cities in both the East and the West coasts. Eventually, I settled in New York City.

By way of Interstate 16, Vidalia is nestled somewhere midway between Atlanta and Savannah, approximately three and two-hour drive each opposite way.

Vidalia’s zip code is 30474. It is one of two assigned to this somewhat sleepy American southern municipality. If you must know, the other is 30475.

Vidalia, the principal and largest city of a micropolitan area (as opposed to metropolitan area) in Toombs and Montgomery county, has a population of 10,971 living in a total land area of 17.4 square miles—that’s according to the year 2000 census, the latest available. It is serviced by one Wal-Mart superstore, open 24 hours, in a location rumored to be where the first sweet Vidalia onions were grown.

Yes, if there is one thing Vidalia is famous for, and appropriately recognized by the food channel and the cooking network, it is the sweet white onion. Vidalia’s sweet white onion is in fact guaranteed by an official trademark. From historical accounts, we have farmer Mose Coleman to thank for, who in the early 1930s, made the observation that the white onions he was growing in Vidalia was much sweeter than any grown elsewhere.

Each spring, around mid-April, in honor of Coleman’s discovery, the annual Vidalia Onion Festival is celebrated. This year, it will be its 37th—with a parade, a rock concert, a cooking contest, and several other onion-themed activities—all in sweet anticipation of the bountiful harvest of the state’s official vegetable. Of course, Vidalia is also very well known for pecan and tobacco, but somehow these two other crops have been eclipsed in popularity by the incredible sweetness of its white onions.

Compared to a lot of other American cities and towns, there isn’t that many pictures of Vidalia, and the ones that you will most likely come across are typically of obscure historical nature. Very, very few, if any at all, are pictures of contemporary Vidalia. It’s as if people just didn’t bother enough to take any picture at all for quite some time. There is a palpable gap.

And so, after returning from New York City where I lived for almost 4 years, I decided to undertake a personal project: to take pictures of Vidalia. I went around a few days merrily snapping away with a pocketable Leica, all the while doing my best to ignore the often curious stares of locals peering out of trucks, perhaps baffled by what it is exactly I’m doing, pointing and shooting at all directions and all angles. In any case, my primary goal was to give Vidalia its cache of contemporary images.

From this, I was able to produce a modest collection of color images of present-day Vidalia, my personal photographic ode to a city so named by Central of Georgia’s president, William M. Wadley, at the time when the town was first founded in the 1880s, in honor of his daughter, Vidalia Wadley.

The resulting collection of Vidalia photographs from my little excursion is by no means exhaustive. I don’t even have a picture of onions! There’s more to Vidalia than a few days worth of photo go-arounds in a single season by a single camera-toting individual. What I came up with is a glimpse of what and who she is. I’ve managed to capture only a facet, so to speak. Hopefully, Vidalia residents and visitors alike with cameras will be inspired to follow suit and take pictures in order to come up with a bigger, more complete picture. For sure, and in time, many fascinating, intriguing things will be revealed.

There is one song you may have never heard of that pays tribute to Vidalia—the city, not the daughter—a 1996 song by Sammy Kershaw entitled, what else but, Vidalia.

Hopefully, though not musical by any means like Kershaw’s tribute, but through a visual essay, I am able to pay tribute to Vidalia as well.

So, come and take a look at my pictures of Vidalia, here.

[Note: All photos from the Dominique James Photography website are now available for download and print order for personal, editorial, and commercial use.]

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