Monday, June 7, 2010

New Project: Open View

I have recently begun working on a new project that I am very excited about. For the next year and a half, I will be documenting daily life at Open View Farm Educational Center, an amazing place in Western Massachusetts owned by a good friend of mine. The farm's mission is as follows:

"In the context of a working Fiber farm, Open View Farm Educational Center is committed to creating an environment where interpersonal understanding across race, class, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national identity, and religion is valued, artistic expression is nurtured and avenues towards Peace and Justice in our communities and in the classroom are explored."

Open View is, in short, an incredible place. Though I have been visiting the farm for years, and even making photographs there (such as "Barb holding a lamb," "Feeding goats," and "Michael"), I have always wanted to do an in-depth photography project over the course of at least one full year. Last month I took my first trip to the farm to make images, shooting only with my 4 x 5. I loved the images that I made, but in looking at the contact prints, I realized that there is a vitality to the farm that is impossible to capture exclusively in large-format. On Sunday, I returned to the farm armed with a 4 x 5 and a Mamiya 7.

I left Boston early in the morning, driving somewhat against my better judgment out the Mass Pike in the rainy, overcast weather. I wondered if I would even be able to photograph; the forecast predicted an 80% chance of thunderstorms. But, I reminded myself that my goal is to capture the farm in all of its seasons, all kinds of weather, and during every kind of activity. So I went ahead with the day of shooting, and it turned out more magnificent than I could have imagined. Luckily, I remembered my raincoat, which proved to be an essential tool for keeping my film dry.

I arrived at the farm around 11 am, and the hillside was covered in steamy fog, which made for an absolutely breathtaking scene. The sheep and the llama live on the hillside, and without realizing it, I quickly took 5 rolls of film of them against this foggy, steamy backdrop. Over the course of the day, I went along with the farmers as they did their daily activities and captured barn cleaning, a tractor driving lesson, bringing the lambs into the barn to get them away from the impending thunderstorm and tornado, checking the mail, feeding and watering the animals, etc. I also took many portraits of the people on the farm, who are all incredible (more on that to come once the photos are developed and ready to be shown).

One of the farmers, Dan (pictured below), arrived mid afternoon among a rainstorm and was decked out head to toe in yellow raingear. I couldn't resist the opportunity for a portrait, and he generously stood in the rain for me (again with the hillside in the background) while I made four 4 x 5 exposures of him as my camera slowly got soaked. I can't wait to see these images, as Dan is a natural at being photographed, the scene was absolutely perfect, and I know they're going to be great.

In two weeks, I'm going back to spend the day photographing the farmers as they harvest their crop, wash it, and take it to market. I'm looking forward to slowly witnessing more and more aspects of life on the farm and am very grateful to the farmers who have welcomed me with open arms.

Below are some of the images from my first shoot. I'll be sure to post newer ones as soon as I can.

Suzi carrying bags of fleece


Kyla and Dan planting potatoes

Kyla and Dan planting


Dan on the tractor

Thank you note (I found a egg)


Emmy making a basket

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