Photographic: Exhibition

"Brent Seabrook: The Vermont Farmwork Project" at Vermont Center for Photography, 49 Flat St, Brattleboro. Photos of farm work, farm workers and the work place on Vermont farm on view

through Oct. 1.T

The primary focus of Seabrook's current photographic work 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 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."

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." All photographs exist somewhere on this continuum.

"The Vermont Farm Work Project" is Seabrook's way of showing not just the farm or the farm animal or the farm worker. His 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 to 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.


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