Between Planting and Pickingsam
Beginning in June 2009 through the fall of 2010, Sandi Haber Fifield photographed family-owned farms spanning New England to the West Coast and the Pacific Northwest. The languid photographs in Between Planting and Picking (Charta 2011) of farmers’ tools resting along fencing or a lone pumpkin standing sentinel to rural crossroads bring to mind the term “slow photography.” Certainly the slow food movement has gained momentum, and these images pay homage to the hard work that is involved in eating local.
It is learned that Haber Fifield’s inspiration for this project was a visit to Green Gulch, an organic farming community within the San Francisco Zen Center. “As an observer, I could sense a direct connection between the Zazen practice and what was happening in the fields,” she is quoted as saying. There is a strong sense of mindfulness and awareness of the moment in the photographs depicted, snapshots where it appears time manages to stand still in what is actually a very active phase of growing.
The handiwork of hard-working farmers is evident in every photograph, but Haber Fifield chooses not to show any people. “Faulted Scarecrow” casually strewn in a hay field, his stuffed-jean legs twisted, is the closest image of a human that I detected. The photographer uses more subtle means: “Red, for example, shows up again and again – in a glass orb, chopped up rhubarb, or cloth hung on a pole – mirroring the Hudson River School painters’ use of this hue to point to human presence within the landscape.”
These stark, calming photographs lead to a quiet contemplation of the synergy of man and nature. Within the fields lie all possibilities that become ripe at harvest, and the seemingly insignificant moments along the way are deservingly documented in this gorgeous work.
Review by Diane Saarinen