6. Agriculture West and Midwest Show From Plumas County Museum

26 images Created 29 May 2019

Visual Stories of a Fading Traditional Way of Life From 17 States With Special Emphasis on Sierra and Plumas Counties.

(All 110 archival color prints and black and white prints from the Plumas County Museum show will now be available here.)

My agricultural photography started with old barns, but I also saw artistic potential in the people, animals and all aspects of life on farms and ranches. In the mountain valleys of Northern California as a small boy, I milked a cow, rode on a large goat, fed food scraps to pigs, went with Mom to buy eggs and milk from local farms and learned how to get back on the horse after falling off or getting knocked off. Since inception, I have been involved in the Olsen Barn Management Group. Last year, I attended my first calf branding to make photographs of ranchers I had known most of my life rounding up calves by hand the old way before branding chutes came into wide use.

A friend’s wedding on the East Coast of Michigan in 2015 instigated me to travel for almost four months in Dad's 1984 Ford converted van, over 10,000 back road miles and over 10,000 photographs to cover 17 Western and Midwestern States. I wanted to preserve for future generations the farming methods already disappearing across the country. A reporter said the state of Minnesota alone loses more than 300 barns a year. Agriculture has changed more in the last 100 years than it did in the two thousand years previous. In 1900 there were over 30,000 million American farmers, today fewer than five million. This collection of photographs brings to light this transition, as well as some of the differences between industrial agriculture and more traditional methods.

The art of agriculture is a rich tradition going back to Monet, Renoir, van Gogh and other Impressionists. Other influences include my father Philip Hyde’s mentors such as Dorothea Lange, who captured the stark realism of the Dust Bowl, Ansel Adams, Minor White, Edward Weston, and Imogen Cunningham, who all imaginatively photographed agriculture, as well as another protégé of Adams, Morley Baer.

Dad photographed cauliflower fields and other agrarian subjects, as early as the mid 1940s. By 1948, he photographed barns and ranches in Plumas County. He also gave me my first Pentax film camera when I was just 10 years old. For many years I made no more than a few hundred images. However, when I bought a Nikon digital camera, it freed me to go on to make over 80,000 images, more than one third of which depict agrarian subjects. I produce archival prints in limited editions of only 100 from single capture master files. I utilize Photoshop mainly for the same adjustments film photographers like Dad made in the darkroom.

Many old barns and other farm structures no longer get enough use to justify the costs of maintenance. I hope my project can bring awareness and funding for historical restoration efforts. My goal is to do additional shows and release a book, which is already underway.
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