The Vermont Farm Work Project
An important and ongoing focus of my work in photography and printmaking is The Vermont Farm Work Project. The project is an ongoing photographic exploration of farm work, farm workers and the work place on Vermont farms.
Whether I'm photographing goats in the milking parlor or giant brush piles of pruned apple wood, "my aim is to draw the eye into the image, while provoking the mind to ponder its significance."1
John Szarckowski, in the introduction to his book, Mirrors and Windows, uses the terms romanticism and realism as the endpoints on the continuum describing the essence of a photograph. Windows equate to realism. We are, as it were, looking through a window at the subject, and the subject is easily defined. Mirrors, at the opposite end of the spectrum, are the romantic vision where "the meanings of the world are dependent on our own understandings."2 All photographs exist somewhere on this continuum.
The Vermont Farm Work Project is my way of showing not just the farm or the farm animal or the farm worker. My goal is to make a picture that shows you both an easily recognizable activity, scene or object and offers a psychological depth as to the relationship between the subject and its setting. For example, the image Stepping into space, Darren prunes apple trees, March shows us a pruner at work. The dense pattern of overlapping tree branches produces a tangled, impenetrable pattern that gives the viewer a sense of what it must feel like to be that pruner in the tree. To the experienced pruner, of course, the branches appear much more orderly. But the sense of what it's like working, and sometimes wrestling, your way through 30 - 60 trees a day becomes tangible.
I did not know it at the time, but The Vermont Farm Work Project actually began more than 40 years ago.
After graduating from Middlebury College in 1971 with a major in studio art, I worked in a Vermont orchard for the apple harvest. I began taking photographs with the Rollei B35 camera. Because of its very small size, I kept the camera with me during the workday and photographed many aspects of the harvest process. These images were intended, at the time, as reference material for future paintings and prints. Gradually, as I saw the potential for photography to better tell the story I wanted than paintings or prints, I began to make photographs as the final product.
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. My family had a camp in a rural area with many farms. Growing up we spent most of the summers and many weekends at the camp working on various projects. I remember being fascinated by the large fields of corn and soybeans planted in perfectly straight rows that flashed like cards in a deck as we drove past them, and the brightly colored farm equipment, each machine with a specific function. In the summer, we helped a neighboring farmer make hay: hot, hard and itchy work. I thought how special this experience was, something my friends in the city knew nothing about. Now, more than 50 years later, I’m using photography to bring farm work within the public’s eye.
1, Karen Halverson, photographer, karenhalverson.com
2, Szarckowski, John. Mirrors and Windows, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1978.
Brent Seabrook CV
Brent Seabrook graduated from Middlebury College in 1971 with a major in studio art. He has lived in Vermont for 23 years and currently resides in Marlboro.
Arts Connect, regional juried exhibition, Catamount Arts Center, St. Johnsbury, VT, 2022
The Landscape, national juried exhibition, Alex Ferrone Gallery, Cutchogue, NY, 2022
Arts Connect, regional juried exhibition, Catamount Arts Center, St. Johnsbury, VT, 2019
20th Annual Frances N. Roddy Competition, Concord Art, Concord, MA, 2019
Solo Exhibition, Putney Public Library, Putney, VT, 2019
New England Collective X, regional juried exhibition, Galatea Fine Art, Boston, MA, 2019
Arts Connect, regional juried exhibition, Catamount Arts Center, St. Johnsbury, VT, 2017
Solo exhibition, The Vermont Farm Work Project, Vermont Center for Photography, Brattleboro, VT, 2017
18th Annual Frances N. Roddy Competition, Honorable Mention, Concord Art, Concord, MA, 2017
17th Annual Frances N. Roddy Competition, Honorable Mention, Concord Art, Concord, MA, 2016
Arts Connect, juried regional exhibition, Catamount Arts Center, St. Johnsbury, VT, Awarded Best in Show, 2015
Solo exhibition, The Vermont Farm Work Project, Kunstflecken 2015, Neumunster, Germany, 2015
Botanical Society of America, St. Louis, MO, 2001, Macintosh Apple Development Poster, print run of 5,000, 1995
McGraw-Hill Education, New York, NY, 2007 - 2016, Macintosh apple development photographs, Concepts in Biology, editions 1 - 5.
Lakewood Public Library, Lakewood, OH