Tall Timbers Plantation Project is a personal photographic and oral history project that emerged out of my curiosity about the few tenant farmer dwellings still standing on plantations in north Florida and southwest Georgia. When I discovered that Tall Timbers Research Station in Tallahassee, Florida, had restored a tenant farm house and obtained oral histories from former Tall Timbers Plantation tenants and their families, I became motivated to meet and photograph these individuals. I felt compelled to tell their story and to honor the important role their families played in the survival of the plantations after Emancipation, and the contributions they made to the history of Southern agriculture.
Although the portraits were the most important component of my project, I realized early in the process that I could not tell the whole story without also photographing the Jones Family Tenant Farm, the landscape, and the Beadel House (former plantation house).
I elected to create the portraits of the former Tall Timbers Plantation tenants and their family members in a place that was of importance to each individual. I also photographed each person with an object of his/her choice that held a special significance to him/her. Lastly, I recorded each person’s comments about the significance of the special object they chose. I found that supplementing the photograph of each individual with an oral account of the importance of that object imparted a richer understanding of the person.
Beate Sass discovered photography and developed a passion for the art form in her mid-forties. She is drawn towards visual storytelling and is particularly interested in documenting the history and culture in the Southeast region where she lives. Beate is fascinated with the people she meets, their experiences growing up in the South, and their connections to the land. Through her photographs, she strives to capture the essence of those experiences and the context in which they exist.
Beate’s Tall Timbers Plantation Project is currently being exhibited at the Southeast Museum of Photography’s Lyonia Gallery at the Lyonia Environmental Center in Deltona, Florida. The project also was exhibited at the Atlanta Photography Group Portfolio Show at the APG Gallery in Atlanta, and the LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts in Tallahassee, in 2011.
Beate earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Southern California, and a certificate in Physical Therapy from the University of California, San Francisco.
After living 21 years in Tallahassee, in 2011 Beate relocated to Atlanta, where she currently lives with her husband and two children.