I find I have a fascination with farms -- not farming, but just the visual aesthetic of the farms themselves. Well, yes, I grew up in Illinois, spent countless summers racing down the backroads between the cornfields, approaching most intersections blind because the corn was so high. On any given night, my friends and I might be out there, parked along the side of the road drinking a few brewskis and discussing the meaning of life -- life as such, only as we knew it in our rural midwestern cocoon. We would use these roads to smuggle illegal bottle rockets and cherry bombs back from Missouri, across the state line where miles of fireworks stands extended along each side of the highway. We even found ourselves lost on occasion driving back from all night drinking down by the Mississippi River to avoid being pulled over by the cops out on the main highway. It wasn't unusual that we might stop for the night, passed out in the back of the car, and proceed onward in the morning once we knew where the sun was coming up. This didn't really happen all that often, but there is a clarity about how well I remember these moments and how, in those infrequent times when I get to reconnect with my old pals, that these are the moments we share, and that they remember too.
In Nevada and Colorado, there are fewer farms than there are ranches, and the topography of, sage, hills and mountains don't lend themselves to the same aesthetic -- the feeling is just as rich, but different in the desert, though similarities are present. The sheer vast and open space, for one, or the presence of agri-business that still shapes the intent and purpose of small towns across the playa. However, it wasn't until I ventured into northern California with my camera, along state routes 70 & 49 near Chilcoot, Vinton and Loyalton, that I felt this incredible place of peace crisscrossed with the roads that separated the fields of wheat, alfalfa and hay. I was at home among the barns, cattle, irrigation canals -- almost the same as in Illinois, except that the mountains still stood in relief on the horizon and the soil was anything but the rich black dirt back home. I found I would return there often to shoot again and again, lost in the patterns of fields, canals, old and new barns with scattered, perhaps abandoned, implements of agriculture. It was always best when the light broke in the morning fog off the canals, or in the colors and shapes the clouds made at sunset -- serene beyond compare.
I guess, for me, it symbolizes a place of youthful acceptance, safety, and freedom. Places where we all would hang out on the warm summer nights away from parents, teachers, structure and law -- secure in the knowledge that out in this vastness, no one could sneak up on us. It was a refuge of sorts, as restless as we were, often with a sense that all there was to ever do was "eat, sleep, fuck, drink, and watch the corn grow." How little we knew that that was heaven at the time. Where the sweet grassy smells of the fields would waft over us like a warm blanket, cicadas and frogs playing their nighttime symphony, while lightning bugs flickered on by, illuminated in the thickness of our dreams. Oh, how we dreamed.