Work Title: American Farmer: The Heart of Our Country
Work Author(s): Katrina Fried and Paul Mobley, photographer
150 full-color and b/w photographs, 10 " x 13", 264 pages, Hardcover $50.00
Reviewer: Jessica Higgins
"Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous," Thomas Jefferson said. It is this vigor, virtue, pride, and diligence that Paul Mobley sets out to capture through his collection of photographs in American Farmer. The collection creates a quilted pattern of American life on the modern farm. From Arizona to Alaska, Mobley's lens does more than simply produce still life images of these farmers and their families---his pictures tell a rich story of the land and those who are married to it.
The vivid photographs frequently focus on the bright greens of John Deere, and the emerald landscapes that serve as backdrops for many of the individuals featured; these greens are startlingly contrasted by the brick red of International tractors or the blue of many farmers' denim. The effect of such richly colored portraits is dazzling, especially when such color is featured next to intimate black-and-white close-ups of weathered farm faces. Such contrasts are most artistically moving when Mobley situates color and black-and-white on the same page, sometimes forcing the reader to see greater parallels between generations.
An example of this striking parallelism is a young boy, Trey Lacina, who is featured on the left in full color with green grass and brown cows in the background. On the right-hand side of the same page, Lacina's grandfather, Keith Nelson, is pictured in black-and-white, hands shoved in his pockets in the same stance and with the same expression as his grandson. The contrast between young and old, color and black-and-white, reinforces a key theme in the book: despite change and modernization, there is the permanence of the land, and the occupation itself. Thus, many pictures feature farmers not as individuals, but as families and as generations, like the book's last picture of the Bell family.
The Bells are organic dairy farmers in Maine, and the photograph features the entire family perched atop rough looking rocks with Maine's crisp blue sky in the background. All together, there are seventeen Bells present in the picture and each one of them is focused on the camera with the...