Life on a small farm can be reflective and beautiful. Each season provides a new canvas for natures art combined with a farmers influence.
The end of winter can be trying as the final fits of snow and weather delays the birth of spring. Appreciation of the landscape can be overshadowed by daily chores, worries, and an endless list of things to mend as nature takes its annual toll.
And when I received Sandi Haber Fiflield’s “Between Planting and Picking” photo book in the mail, I was treated to an artful, reflective view of small farm life that allowed me to pause and enjoy her images.
Haber Fifield has found the hidden beauty of small farms and shares 54 artful images of the time between the promises of spring and the reward of autumn’s harvest. These are fresh images, most likely familar to the farmer and new to the non farmer. These scenes are captured from spaces reserved for those who work and relish the work of the land.
The images are best viewed in print, a computer screen can only do them so much justice and the book is a sample of the gallery show which opens March 3 and runs through April 16 at Rick Wester Fine Art in New York City.
Haber Fifield’s project began in June 2009 and continued through the fall of 2010. The artist photographed family owned farms spanning New England to the West Coast and the Pacific Northwest. Teeming with the verdant and lush colors of these fertile fields, Haber Fifield made pictures that delicately balance the geographic with the geometric, while using the agricultural landscape to create a complex vocabulary of visual associations. Less documentary in nature and more about challenging her own vision, she finds in the unending cycle of growth and harvest a metaphor for her own image-making.
The monograph includes essays by Dominique Browning and Leslie K. Brown. Their insight and discussion of the images put words to the feelings and emotions captured by Haber Fifield’s work.
Josh Viertel, President of Slow Food USA writes of the book, “Here are pictures of small farms, where food is grown with integrity, and of simple places that are beautiful because of the work that is done there.”
As I turned the pages, I found Haber Fifield’s images combining the order and chaos of a field: a collection of tools, an improvised electrical box, or tools and chairs, as if the inanimate objects were patiently awaiting their owner’s return.
Her images take the viewer to private places: images of a journal/lunar calendar, a solo goose bathing in a tank, behind-the-scenes wash rooms, and laundry blowing in the wind. There are no people in the collection, yet their influence is shown and felt with the turn of each page.
Many of the images also include barriers: fencing, crop netting, and make-shift backstops.In real life, these barriers keep out predators and protect crops and livestock. In the photographs, they serve to keep the troubles of the rest of the world at bay, while the viewer enjoys the art of the small farm.