A big book of photos of Alabama is one of the best tributes to the state on the occasion of this bicentennial year. Rolling off the press of NewSouth Books next month is “My Alabama: John Dersham Photographs a State.”
It’s a great selection of photos from the collection of a master photographer who chose Alabama as his home after 30 years in sales with Kodak Co.
“I got into photography at age nine, joined camera clubs, was on the yearbook through high school and college,” Dersham says.
Working in a camera store in Pennsylvania led to a job as a Kodak rep.
“In order to move up, you had to move, so we got to see a lot of the country and I did a lot of photography,” he says. “Kodak ended up using some of my photos on the walls of their buildings and factories across the country.”
Dersham’s book is also an odyssey of his travels around Alabama, beginning within a 50-mile radius of Birmingham, where he landed at the end of his extended Kodak gig — at a regional office in a photo finishing factory in Fairfield.
When the digital age and layoffs hit, he and his family already had picked Fort Payne as their new home, where Dersham is now president of DeKalb Tourism.
From Lookout Mountain in his backyard, Dersham says his Alabama photography took him first to north Alabama and the Mountain Lakes region, then, as the book project took shape, on to cover “the Black Belt, then the coastal region and the Wiregrass, all 67 counties. But the book ended up being organized by seasons, not counties.”
A horizontal book suited for the coffee table, 8.5 inches by 11 inches, “My Alabama” is a big book by any measure.
“It’s the first folio book covering the whole state, in my memory,” says Dersham. “Because of the cost of producing them, you don’t see that many these days.”
This extraordinary book, which carries a foreword by Bo Jackson, is made possible with the support of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission.
“My Alabama” will be available on May 1 through local or online retailers. It is 224 pages and priced at $40. For more information visit: newsouthbooks.com.
Chris McFadyen is editorial director of Business Alabama. John Dersham is president of DeKalb Tourism and lives in Fort Payne.