I knew when I embarked on this project that I wanted to make a handmade book from some of the images, one day, when I could put the camera down for a while and concentrate on it.  And that’s what I have been doing for the past few weeks.

I thought about all the sites I’ve visited and felt them trail along behind me, fluttering in the dim past, connecting me to whatever was out there before I existed.  The more I considered that idea the more an accordion book seemed suited to the way I was feeling.  So I put together a folding book of eight photographs, earthworks from northeastern Louisiana that stretch from approximately 3600 BC to AD 1650, the longest span of time for earthen mounds anywhere in the US.  The title of the book is simply groundwork.


When opened fully, the book is roughly 4 feet long with hard covers at each end.


The interior pages are printed using smooth uncoated Fabriano Artistico paper, a creamy yellow paper that feels old in my hands.  Unlike traditional coated inkjet paper, the Fabriano allows the carbon ink dots to bleed a little giving the images a soft, not quite sharp appearance.  That’s how the mounds feel to me, never fully seen and understood, always a bit mysterious.  Also, since the Fabriano paper mill was established in Italy in 1264, it seems only fitting to use their paper for this project.

There is a timeline running the length of the book starting with the period before moundbuilding began, then to Watson Brake, flowing through the earthworks, passing through me and on and on and on.  I added a bit of text at the end that reflects my connection to these sacred places and my wonder at what we are leaving behind for those who follow us.


Designing this book, making mockups, messing them up, redoing them, trying again and still finding slight imperfections no matter how careful I tried to be only serve to remind me of how fallible we are.  And that makes the continued existence of these earthworks and the artifacts recovered from them, after so many thousands of years, that much more remarkable.

I am slowly making more copies of this book and have them on my website here.  Eventually I plan on making another book about Poverty Point as well as one on Watson Brake.  They won’t be accordion books but what they will be, hmmm, I’m not quite sure.  But I’ll post them here, one day, whenever I figure that out.

Thanks again to everyone who has made this project possible.  You know who you are.

About Jenny Ellerbe

I am a photographer living, and working, in northeastern Louisiana.
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7 Responses to groundwork

  1. Amy Ouchley says:

    Jenny, I like your tale about the making of this book. The details of it appear to fit perfectly with the holiness and mystery of these sites. I want to see the book.

    • Thanks Amy. I spent weeks trying to design the book in a way that would honor the mounds and the way I feel about them. Maybe I’ll have one with me next time we run into each other.

  2. Lovely thoughtful post.

  3. Tim says:

    Your creativity and attention to details never cease to amaze me Jenny. “Book” sounds just too modest for what you’ve created.

  4. I can’t wait to see. I can’t wait to purchase. Thank you for devoting so much of your effort and time to such a worthwhile project.

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