This story appears in the September 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine.
Luck and a storekeeper’s camera phone were in play when Robb Kendrick made a new picture of two Mennonite brothers he had photographed 29 years earlier. Looking to capture the toll of last year’s severe drought in his home state of Texas, he remembered Seminole, an agricultural community he had visited as a junior in college. “I like photographing people with hard jobs,” Kendrick says. Gerhard and Peter Neustaeter, both cotton farmers, lost their entire crop in 2011. Reunited, the trio caught up on life. —Luna Shyr
Behind the Lens
Q: How did the brothers cope with the 2011 Texas drought?
A: Gerhard [at left in both photos] and Peter are like many farmers—they have a lot of faith that next year’s going to be better. If you’re a farmer, you have to constantly be optimistic. Last year was rough, but crop insurance helped, plus that farmers’ ability to put so much hard work into something they’re not in control of. Also Mennonites are very pragmatic people. They don’t cry over spilled milk.
Q: How did you find them again nearly 30 years later?
A: It was a real shot in the dark, but I went into a Mennonite farm-supply store with the original photo I took of them. The store owner took a picture of the picture with his phone and emailed it to the community. Within 15 minutes one of the brothers showed up.
Q: And you went back to their town because ...
A: For this assignment I wanted to visit places I had a connection to. In college I passed through Seminole on my way home to visit my folks. Gerhard and Peter were 13 and 12 years old back then. We had a good time catching up—Peter said we should do it again in another 29 years.