Monday, December 6, 2010

598 miles

598.  It's a good thing I like driving my little pickup, because that's how many miles I put on it this weekend.  I left Boston Thursday morning, heading west to Open View Farm to continue photographing as the weather turns colder and we are officially entering winter here in Massachusetts.  As always, being at the farm was a wonderful experience and I left with a bag full of exposed film.  It is interesting to look back at the photos I've made so far and see how much everything has changed.  I don't notice the changes so much from trip to trip, but looking back at the contact prints from the summer makes it drastically apparent how much things change season to season.  I photographed many of the daily farm activities, such as feeding animals and gathering sheep for worming, but I also took some photographs that I'm particularly excited about of Emmy and one of her neighbors making wreaths for a craft fair.  There were evergreen clippings everywhere and it smelled absolutely wonderful!  It excites me to include activities like this in the farm project, as it is about much more than the actual farm work.  It is about the sense of community that is both intentional and essential to living on a rural farm in Western Mass.  This sense of community is what drew me to the farm originally and what continues to make it a place I love.

On Saturday, I drove from Western Mass to a town right outside of New Haven, Connecticut to photograph a group of people for my trans project.  I am usually the one seeking out subjects for my project, but in this case, the subjects found me and asked to be included in my project (a huge thanks to Jesse for organizing the day!).  I am always looking for new people to photograph, so of course I said yes.  They took it upon themselves to organize an entire day of photo shoots and even made a huge pot of delicious chili for everyone to eat!  Most importantly, I had a great time getting to know 8 wonderful people.  I am truly humbled that I am invited into peoples' lives in this way and thankful for the opportunity to keep making my work.  Many of them told me how important they think my trans project is because it puts a positive and accessible face to an often marginalized and overlooked community, which I found very moving.  At the end of the day, this is the goal- to show trans and gender variant people to the world in a way that allows others to see and connect with who we are and to begin to bridge the gap of understanding.  It is also so important to me that the images resonate with other trans folks, and I'm honored that people find the images validating and are excited to be a part of the project.

I am very actively working on this project and will be showing my work at the First Event Conference this January in Peabody and also plan to attend the Trans Health Conference this June in Philadelphia.  I am interested in photographing anyone who identifies as transgender or gender variant as well as the providers that work with our community, such as surgeons and gender therapists.  If you are interested in being photographed for the project, or in hosting an artist talk or exhibition, please e-mail me at jesstdugan@gmail.com.

After this amazing day of photo shoots, I drove back to Western Mass for my last night at the farm.  I went with Emmy, Puja, Violet, Jennieke (and the farm dog, Puppy!), to church on Sunday morning to photograph.  I am thankful to the church congregation for being so welcoming to the guest from the city lugging around a big tripod and camera.  I try to change my film while the choir is singing so nobody hears the click click click of the film advance lever, but I'm sure I still don't go completely unnoticed.  In the afternoon, I photographed Emmy choosing which sheep will go to slaughter next week before packing up my truck with far too many camera bags and a huge bag full of vegetables and heading home.  When I was unpacking my film holders last night, back in Boston, I was overcome with the smell of campfire coming from my photo bag, which left me with a huge smile.  I can't wait to see the new photos.

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