Every spring is naturally a season of renewal as the local crops begin growing and people begin to emerge from their more secluded home lives during the winter. Gathering at the community events and fairs, including the May Day celebrations and early spring festivals is always a time of joy and change. The pandemic has kept us more isolated than normal. It is exciting to see that the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair in Cummington will be on once again this May after two years. I have returned to the fair, where I have made images before, and photographed the rituals and people with the new perspective we have gained.
These images celebrate both the vitality of the local community and its history. The photographs I make at the fair are projected onto the historical buildings of Cummington.
Born in Boulder, Colorado and raised both there and in New York City. Her photographs focus on understanding rural communities in the United States through their agricultural history, current industry, and ritual. The images she creates underscore the importance of having unmediated experiences with the natural world. In a new project, she examines the intersection of faith, history, and the environment.
Artist Statement: The photography series “Bare Handed” presents a portrait of Americans facing their relationship to nature as technology alters their environment. Instead of portraying the effects of big agriculture on their livelihood and natural resources, these photographs depict people who honor the land through their dedicated stewardship.
This decade-long series celebrates an almost spiritual practice that goes far beyond the yields of a harvest, and highlights traditions edging toward disappearance. “Bare Handed” depicts and references movement and gesture, and its title is also literal in its description of the people featured. The individuals often work with nearly obsolete tools, and always directly with their hands. This seemingly vulnerable, manual approach underscores a passion for maintaining rural traditions and preserving natural resources despite the challenges of agribusiness, climate change, and technology. The beekeeper approaching the hive with no protection, the last New England sheep shearer to use hand shears, and shrimpers struggling to keep their boats out all show a commitment to these deliberately unmediated methods of working that are intoxicating to witness. Effortless synchronization has developed from years of being enmeshed in their environments. Their repetitive, dance-like movements captivate me, and over time, the implied danger recedes, and the meditative aspects of their practiced movements are evident.
The communities I photograph exude a quiet resilience and an unspoken pride. These rural regions have unique agricultural histories, and yet they are linked by shared contemporary challenges. The images are meant to extend beyond simple portrayals of organic farming and the false narrative of victim hood to reveal what sustainability means to those living and working in rural America today. My goal is to convey the feeling—heat, light, and even smell—of witnessing their work and rituals to evoke at least some of the majesty that motivates them.