Of Farms and Fables combines the efforts of professional and non-professional artists by engaging artists in farm work and farm workers in storytelling and acting. The result will be an original performance in October of 2011 which will engage performers and audience in dialogue about local agriculture, farming, and the future of small family farms in Maine.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Growing Stories: Growing A Photo Show (Claire)

Earlier this year, I pitched an idea to the Maine Farmland Trust Gallery in Belfast. I had been looking over some of the photos I took last summer and began to notice that some of them were actually pretty good. What if I took some of those pictures and put them together with blog posts we have accumulated over the past months (yikes! almost a year now!)? Do you think we could make Farms and Fables into a gallery show?

Fortunately for me, they were just as excited as I was and their wonderful gallery director, Anna, helped me focus my ideas and booked us to open Growing Stories: Photos and Writing From The “Farms and Fables Project” on May 6th. (Mark your calendars!)

Ever since then, I’ve been looking back through the blog, through the thousand or so photos I took... Its been quite an

adventure. Let me tell you.

First of all- I’m not a trained photographer, nor have I ever organized a gallery show. So

when the deadline I had set for myself started looming large in my mind, I gathered my ruler, tape and cardboard and built a scale model of the gallery. Its cardboard walls are scarred from tearing off and re-taping little paper scale sized “photos”.

Most of the time, it sits under the coffee table and holds the 70 or so photo kiosk prints that comprise my “rough draft” edit of photos. When it’s in action helping me plan out just how many pieces can fit where, it often hosts gallery patrons collected from the shelves of the apartment. (see 'em? Its like the beginning of a bad joke: the little mermaid, a flying pig, The Buddah and his african finger puppet girlfriend go to an art gallery...)

When I’ve got an hour or two, I pull it out and start laying out the sets of photos I’ve already chosen and commence playing a complicated game of mixing and matching to help me figure out which piece of this puzzle comes next.

Fortunately, I’ve had the good luck to be able draw on the incredible eye and generous spirit of my friend and roommate Lizzie. Thank god she doesn't mind coming home to find me sitting in the middle of a flurry of photographs having minor breakdowns about which picture of a cow I should choose.

She’s also one of the smartest people I know. After mulling some images over with me yesterday, she said, “you know- you’ve got a pattern here. There’s the people who do the work, the work being done and the stuff you work with. Try thinking of it that way”. Clouds part. The sun shines down on me. All is clear. I think, “Its as simple as beginning, middle and end. Close up, middle distance, depth of frame. Worker, work, worked on”.

For a moment- I am enlightened. Then I get caught up in the cow picture conundrum again.

I’m getting down to the wire. I’ve given myself until April 1st to get all my ducks in a row- to get from 1000 photos to 18. To condense almost a year’s worth of journaling, blog posts and essays in 8 8x10 inch plaques.

On that day, I’ll pack all these things up in a big digital package and send it out to a printer. And when they come back I’m pretty sure it will be better than Christmas. I’ve had dreams in which I’m holding the large print (18x24) of Jennie chasing a cow and I can feel the weight of the gatorboard in my hands.

By then, I’m sure I will have gotten used to the idea that all my favorite photos can’t be in the show, but right now I’m haunted by them. Every image that is eliminated feels like such a betrayal. I don’t just betray my longtime favorites, but also the images I’ve grown to love as I go through the process of evaluating them. There are so many more favorites I didn’t know that I had- making it even harder to turn them face down on the carpet and move on to the next one.

In their honor, I’m dedicating this blog post and maybe a few more to come to show off the really great images that just don’t fit into the big show in Belfast. Maybe this can be their moment in the sun they so highly deserve.