The Vermont Farm Work Project
The primary focus of my current photography 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 19 years and currently resides in Marlboro.
McGraw-Hill Education, New York, NY, 2007 - 2016, Macintosh apple development photographs, Concepts in Biology, editions 1 - 5
Botanical Society of America, St. Louis, MO, Macintosh Apple Development Poster, print run of 5,000, 1995
17th Annual Frances N. Roddy Competition, Concord, MA, Honorable Mention, 2016
Catamount Arts Gallery, St. Johnsbury, VT, juried exhibition, Awarded Best in Show, 2015
Solo exhibition, The Vermont Farm Work Project, Kunstflecken 2015, Theodor-Litt-Schule, Neumunster, Germany, 2015
Solo exhibition introducing The Vermont Farm Work Project, Green Mtn Orchards Gallery, Putney, VT, 2014
Vermont Center for Photography in Brattleboro, VT, group shows, 2009 - 2016
Lakewood Public Library, Lakewood, OH
Maple syrup fact sheet
Maple syrup is a syrup made from the sap of the sugar maple tree. In cold climates, these trees store starch in their trunks and roots before the winter; the starch is then converted to sugar that rises in the sap in the spring. Maple trees can be tapped by boring holes into their trunks and collecting the exuded sap. The sap is processed by heating to evaporate much of the water, leaving the concentrated syrup.
Maple syrup was first collected and used by the indigenous peoples of North America. The practice was adopted by European settlers, who gradually refined production methods.
Maple syrup is often eaten with pancakes, waffles, French toast, or oatmeal and porridge. It is also used as an ingredient in baking, and as a sweetener or flavoring agent. Culinary experts have praised its unique flavor, although the chemistry responsible is not fully understood.
The production of maple syrup is one of only a few agricultural processes in the northeast United States that is not a European colonial import.
Maples are usually tapped beginning at 30 to 40 years of age. Each tree can support between one and three taps, depending on its trunk diameter. The average maple tree will produce 35 to 50 litres of sap per season, up to 12 litres3 per day. This is roughly equal to 7% of its total sap. Seasons last for four to eight weeks, depending on the weather.
Maples can continue to be tapped for sap until they are over 100 years old.
A large number of technological changes took place during the 1970s. Plastic tubing systems that had been experimental since the early part of the century were perfected, and the sap came directly from the tree to the evaporator house.
Improvements in tubing and vacuum pumps, new filtering techniques, "supercharged" preheaters, and better storage containers have since been developed. Research continues on pest control and improved woodlot management.