I like to try a little of everything while I’m out and about with cameras, so I shoot some digital and some film, but my passion is the film work. Colour negative, black & white, slide film, they all find their way through my cameras. 35mm and medium format. If I’m hiking through the brush or in rough areas I usually take my Nikon F5, which is my workhorse.
I rely on autofocus with the small viewfinder image of 35mm and the F5 has proved time and time again that it can take the knocks. When things are calmer I like to bring out my Pentax 6×7 and take my time (mainly convincing myself that I’ve found focus!) and let the tripod do its work.
So, while photographing various aspects of my mother’s family’s farm over the seasons and years, I was drawn to the things that were left behind, so to speak. It was both sad and edifying to see that regardless of how much man may produce or build, or how honestly it is designed and created it matters not a whit to those two guardians, Mother Nature and her relentless henchman, Father Time.
On a large, working farm there is not a lot of spare time for the caretaking of old “stuff.” When something is no longer of use, it is just set aside. The old maple sugar shack in frame two is a prime example. Maple sap hasn’t been harvested there for over 60 years and the pails are rusted, the sleds are piled out of the way and forgotten, the roads through the bush are overgrown and the shack is gradually collapsing.
If you seek out the shack in the summer when the trees are full you can’t see it until you’re right on top of it. During the winter it is easier to find but you know that when the snow melts and the spring rains return the wooden walls will have rotted some more, the roof will leak in a few more spots and those two sentries of eternity will nod, smile, and turn their attention to the next bit of “stuff” that was once useful, but is now surplus to requirements.
An old tombstone lies on the ground in the corner of a back barn. It got damaged standing at attention at the cemetery and was replaced, but it just seemed wrong to toss the original one away. So, it rests there, slowly sinking into the ground; ground on the land that was once farmed by the person honoured by the stone. It sinks, moss finds a home, the cracks widen and spread allowing plants access to what little light they can find and the ragged edges are gradually consumed.
No one alive today has any memory of that man or the life he lived. Yet, the stone that marked him is there in testament.
~ Wyman Pattee
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