During the Civil War, when food was scarce and meals needed to keep for days, Union soldiers subsisted on an inexpensive, dense, cracker-like ration known as hardtack. A mixture of water, flour, and sometimes salt, hardtack became a metaphor for survival—soldiers found creative ways to eat the unappealing, dry mass, dipping it into their coffee or mixing it with salt pork.

Much like its namesake, Hardtack, a monograph by Austin artist and photographer Rahim Fortune, explores the triumph and adversity of Black communities in Texas and the American South. Drawing on nearly ten years of portrait photography, Fortune, whose work was featured in Texas Monthly’s 2021 feature on Lydell Grant, juxtaposes intimate landscapes with a diverse array of subjects—from his grandmother’s wrinkled hands to expressive praise dancers to sullen bull-riders—to emphasize the connections between culture and land. A stark, black-and-white image of a broken gas pump enveloped by overgrown shrubbery might accompany a tender portrait of a man holding a child, who is surrounded by a similarly “unfinished” environment.

Fortune’s work has been featured in exhibitions around the world and also in permanent collections at the High Museum in Atlanta and the Boston Museum of Fine Art. Loose Joints Publishing released Hardtack on March 28.