I had the great pleasure of meeting Sandi Haber Fifield when she was visiting Los Angeles a few months ago. She shared with me her new book, Between Planting and Picking, published by Charta this year, and another lovely monograph, Walking through the World, also published by Charta in 2009. Sandi looks at the world in an organic and gestural way. Her new series, Between Planting and Picking, reveals the essence of farm life that is contemporary, yet timeless. Through her images of various farms, we can hear the whine of summer insects, smell the grasses and the harvest, hear the snap of the clothes left to dry on the line, and witness the details of a life grounded in the earth.
Planting trays and vines, 2009
Sandi lives in New York and has been making photographs since she received her MFA from Rochester Institute of Technology. Her photographs have been widely exhibited and included in exhibitions at The Art Institute of Chicago, The DeCordova Museum, The Museum of American Art, Museum of Contemporary Photography, The Museum of Modern Art, The Oakland Museum, The Southeast Museum of Photography, and The St. Louis Art Museum.
Sandi also recently opened an exhibition at KMR Arts in Washington, CT, titled Earth /Clay, with photographs from Between Planting and Picking coupled with terra cotta sculpture by Frances Palmer. Rick Wester Fine Art in NYC will be taking her work to Pulse LA (September 30-October 3rd) and Pulse Miami, (December 1-4th).
Between Planting and Picking explores the quiet moments and unexpected beauty that reveal the simple life of a small farm. Inspired by the rapid ascendency of the local food movement and the knowledge that the industrial food pipeline is not necessarily the best way to feed ourselves, I spent two seasons photographing small farms, many of which have been owned and cared for by families, some for generations. Although I was not on a search to document farming per se, the farms allowed me to balance the geographic with the geometric and they gave me a place for exploration within the unending cycle of growth and harvest.
All images courtesy Rick Wester Fine Art
Beginning in Northern California at Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center, where farming is part of the Zen practice, to Beetlebung Farm in Chilmark, MA; from the orchards along the Mississippi River in Brussels, IL, to the grapes grown on Guy Beardsley’s eco-garden in Shelton, CT, I chronicled many places that, although far-flung, share a tangible spirit that is communicated in the most ordinary of details. There is a lot of sublime “waiting” in this project. I’ve purposefully looked at the seemingly mundane things we take for granted—all the better to convey the hard work that goes into nature’s bounty. I’m drawn to the authenticity of small farm life that congregates along the margins in myriad cast-off moments: sunlight on muslin seed bags, wooden crates, plastic mesh, buckets, pots, hoses, a lunar planting calendar, quirky signage. As I made more and more pictures, the candid beauty and improvised quality I discovered in the unkempt edges of these small farm environments became a focus. I hope it is within the banal details, unsuspecting and unnoticed, that a narrative unfolds, showing the beauty in the randomness and the re-purposing. To me, there is a metaphor in the unending cycle of growth and harvest for my own image making.
These photographs also began a visual retreat from my previous (and ongoing) bodies of work which explore relationships between multiple image configurations. Compressing images into one frame at a time was a departure.