About this project
I have always been drawn to the closeness of Vermont’s past.
This is a collection of black and white photographs that I took 40 years ago. They were primarily done with my 8x10 view camera, back when I was young enough and crazy enough to haul such a cumbersome beast over half the state’s countryside to document the last of Vermont's family farms – the ones that time forgot.
My hardscrabble neighborhood wasn't sure about modernity.
When I moved to a small village in the northeast corner of the state in 1971 and began to photograph the land and its people, I sensed that Vermont, especially my hardscrabble neighborhood, wasn’t quite sure about modernity. Here the twentieth century was stretched more thinly over its predecessor than elsewhere, and with curiosity and persistence it was possible to catch glimpses of the nineteenth century lurking just beneath its surface.
I thought I'd died and gone to photographer's heaven.
Much of the Northeast Kingdom was still a land of small hill farms and vast tracts of timber.
It was a world of Jersey cows and Belgian work horses, wood-burning stoves, and dirt-floored basements full of canned applesauce, mustard pickles and stewed tomatoes glinting in rows on sagging wooden shelves. Autumn mornings, when the sharp fragrance of woodsmoke and rotted manure laced the air, when the frost was thick on the land, and the maples began to blaze, I thought I’d died and gone to photographer’s heaven. I would set out before dawn, no map, no plan. The idea was to get lost – to get lost and maybe end up somewhere before 1900, or at least where it still looked that way.
A harsh land made starkly beautiful by nature and by man.
I was searching for those unique moments – moments that look backward not forward. For the briefest interval, a window is opened and the spirit of Vermont’s past – granite hills cleared and farmed, hard lives lived and lost, struggle and endurance, a harsh land made starkly beautiful by nature and by man – is palpable. In a sixtieth of a second, the blink of an eye, the click of a shutter, the past and the present collide and the image that glows on the ground glass is captured forever in silver.
From U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy:
In The Last Of The Hill Farms, first impressions from these remarkable images give way to second, third and fourth appreciations, as all of the elements of Richard Brown’s rich compositions are caringly revealed.
Vermont’s quilted patchwork of hard-scrabble Hill Farms, and the flinty Vermonters who scraped livings from them, are defining elements of Vermont’s heritage, deserving of this superb documentation.
Carefully and skillfully setting fence stones and roof shingles one at a time, with weather-worn hands, these Vermonters helped forge our working economy and the fabric of our society, infused with the ethic and character of their New England persistence.
They took pride in their land and what they achieved with it, and Richard Brown’s unforgettable images help us to take pride in them. All Vermonters can know their history is here. I value Richard Brown’s gift to us all.
For the past few years I have been working with my wife Susan McClellan, an accomplished book and magazine art director, to create this book. Now we're collaborating with David R. Godine, a masterful publisher known for producing exceptional photography books, to ensure that The Last of the Hill Farms is top notch.
The book is 134 pages, hard cover, 9" x 11", printed in rich sepia duotone on matte 128 gsm paper. There are 90 images, 15 essays, and a foreword by Tom Slayton, Vermont Life Editor Emeritus.
Richard W. Brown is an editorial and fine art photographer based in Vermont. His work has won numerous awards and a Vermont Endowment for the Arts Grant. Exhibits of his images have been held in Vermont's major museums and galleries. He has taught many landscape photography workshops throughout the country. During his 45-year career, over 25 books of his photographs have been published in the U.S., Europe and Japan, and his work has appeared in leading American magazines and corporate advertising campaigns.
“Mr Brown is my favorite upcountry artist with a camera. His photographs have such a crisp luminosity I think I would recognize them anywhere. Uniquely, he captures the quality of northern light, whether it’s the beatification of a curly Dorset sheep or the stunning blow of sunlight hammering the east face of a snowed-in farmhouse. . .”
--- Maxine Kumin, The New York Times Book Review
As a thank you to people backing at the $15 level, we offer the Heartfelt Thank-You Photographer's Proof Reward. It is one small (5.5 x 8.5) working proof, printed on the same fine paper as the finished prints. These are the result of years of proofing images for many different books and shows, and will be randomly selected. (see Rewards column)
New Book Bundle
The new Book Bundle Reward includes two earlier Richard W. Brown books (My Kind of Garden: Photographs and Insights on Cultivating a Personal Garden, and Pictures from the Country: A Guide to Photographing Rural Life and Landscapes) bundled with The Last of the Hill Farms. (see Rewards column)
One-day Photography Workshop and Happy Hour on the Porch
Photography Workshop Reward: Join us for a one-day farm and fall foliage workshop in Peacham with Richard, who taught master classes at Maine Photo Workshop for over 20 years. We'll start the day getting acquainted, then take pictures at a few favorite locations, and learn how Richard approaches his craft. Late afternoon wrap-up with drinks and refreshments on the porch with Richard, Susan and Bernie and a free-wheeling discussion on the art of photography. Plus, a bonus copy of Pictures from the Country, A Guide to Photographing Rural Life and Landscapes. October 7, 2017, details to follow. (see Rewards column)
Book publishing has changed dramatically over the last two decades. In this new world, unless you're a celebrity author with wide-ranging appeal, you will have to foot most of the bill. It's gone from publishers asking "Is that enough of an advance?" to "How much can you chip in?"
Producing this book has been a major focus and expense for Susan and myself for several years.
Kickstarter is our way of reaching a wider audience of people who appreciate high-quality books, and respect the grace and fortitude of these farmers. By ordering books and prints here on Kickstarter, you're helping us bring this book to fruition and honoring a unique way of life in a beautiful and remote corner of rural America.
Risks and challenges
This book has been a labor of love for years, so it's exciting to be close to having a copy in hand. We expect all to go smoothly – our publisher is on schedule and the prints will be created by us, in-house. Thanks for your support.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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