Planting Roots, Growing Community is a visual portrait of the powerful connection between the land and our local neighborhoods. In a world that often feels fast-paced and disconnected, community gardens and family farms offer us a sense of belonging, of being grounded in the soil and history of the places we call home. These green spaces represent not only the growth of flowers, crops and shared harvests, but also the growth of our relationship with the land and with each other. These four photographers, Greg Heins, Ellen Harasimowicz, John Rich and Leann Shamash, through their lenses, share the quiet moments, the landscape and beautiful detail of our shared landscape, discover the roots of our local farms, and to celebrate the growth of the communities that tend them.
Greg Heins – Fall in the Garden
“The photographs respond to the sucesses or failures of the ones that came before. The process is visual. The artistic impulse may be driven by age and loss, anger and regret, by a need for play and freedom but the statement is the photographs.
We do well to remember that there is no part of our equipment and materials – cameras, printers, ink and paper – that is untouched by the exploitation of others. And that our opportunities were not always granted to others of equal or greater abilities. So it behooves us to create work that is as true and honest and faithful to ourselves as it can be. And to remember that the freedom to do this must be seized again and again.
Greed, hatred indifference and love – in wildly unequal proportions – have given us the world in which we live. Soon enough we will be gone from it, individually and collectively. And yet: can it be that something, like an echo, will remain of our attempts to give sense to it all? We must believe it true.” – Greg Heins
Ellen Harasimowicz – Living Like Grass
“We all live in nature, but some live in it more intimately. Small-family farmers make their mark on the land, and the land provides nourishment and income for their families. They are the backbone of American agriculture, but earning a living wage is difficult, and finding hired help is nearly impossible. Operating expenses are rising, weather extremes are causing erratic crop yields, and farmers are aging out. For many, this way of life is vanishing.
I’ve been coming to Willard Farm in Still River, Massachusetts for almost three decades to buy sunflowers, corn, tomatoes, and pumpkins. For nearly 350 years, nine generations of Willards have lived and farmed here, rooted in the same soil as their ancestors going back to the Nashaway people. But three years ago, I noticed fewer offerings at the farm stand. Today, the primary farmer, Paul Willard, is 80 and moves slower. He shares the family farmhouse with his brother Wendell, a cabinetmaker, and Wendell’s wife, Elizabeth, a poet. The title of this project is from one of her poems.
For the last 20 years, I’ve photographed the farm, interested not only in the legacy of this land but also in the details of farm life. During the pandemic, when just about everything shut down, farmers still planted crops, and farm stands remained open. Willard Farm became my refuge and my muse. When I asked Paul what his plans were for the future, he said, “I don’t have any real plans. I think I’m just going to wind down. Keep doing what I’m doing, but less of it, and slower. And someday, slow will be indeterminable from still. And then we’ll be done.” That was three years ago. This spring, Paul sold vegetable plants that he grew in the greenhouses. Then he received some discouraging news from his doctor. Today, the fields are fallow except for a small kitchen garden. Their farm stand has closed. A few months ago, no one, not even Paul Willard, imagined the end was so close.” – Ellen Harasimowicz
John Rich – A Year Above the Gardens
“What I did during the pandemic (from mid-first wave through the Delta variant), was photograph the community gardens near my home in Brookline, from above, every two weeks for one year.
With their promise of growth and renewal, the gardens were truly an oasis for me during the isolation of lockdown. I piloted a camera/drone to shoot the terrain from the identical vantage point each time, showing the gardens in moments of bloom, decay, and rest.
By focusing on a landscape transformed through seasonal change and human intervention, these images allow us to connect to the earth and perceive the affirmative power of change.” – John Rich
Leann Shamash – Community Gardens
“A piece of land, 12x by 12x, in the midst of other similarly parceled spots.
What to do in this puzzle of growing spaces? Community gardens are for growing things. Some use the space for bushes and small trees, some for fragrant herbs and many for vegetables. Some grow a few flowers and add a chair to create a living space in the midst of the field.
Community gardens are for gardeners, a special breed of people, who each year attempt to defy the odds and grow vegetables, despite attacks of unpredictable weather, insects, disease, and animals that tunnel and jump over fences. Gardeners are eternal optimists, who love to share their challenges and successes with one another.
I love to garden and to see how things grow, knowing that I fail more than I succeed at growing things. I love to observe what gardeners bring from the world outside of the garden into their spaces to uniquely individualize their space, for isn’t that something we all do in our lives?
Last, gardens, both community and private are nothing more than canvases which we can design and paint how we wish. These canvases offer us quiet and an escape from the world outside the garden, truly a place to meditate and a place to grow.” – Leann Shamash