In 2008, I moved from New York City to New England farm country to embrace its ethos of sustainability and local farming. My photography explores people's passion for maintaining rural traditions and preserving natural resources despite the challenges of agribusiness, climate change, and technology. The individuals I photograph always work directly with their hands and often with nearly obsolete tools or technology. These individuals demonstrate a powerful yet intimate connection as they work in tandem with their environment: beekeepers, wearing no protective clothing; trainers at a wolf sanctuary; and catfish "noodlers," capturing seventy pound fish with their bare hands. The title Bare Handed refers to this manual approach to work that resembles a form of meditation. Often, I photograph vanishing industries—the last sheep shearer to use hand shears, shrimpers struggling to keep their boats out, the only weir fisher folk in New England, and the final crops of cigar tobacco before the barns are dismantled for floorboards. In contrast to the images of rural hardship created by WPA photographers, Bare Handed celebrates the spiritual conviction and resistance of the trend towards mechanization that these individuals possess. To depict heroes rather than victims, I draw inspiration from the Hudson River School, religious paintings, and iconic tales of struggle.
My project has expanded beyond New England to other distinct, rural areas of the United States. This is a portrait of our relationship to nature as Americans in the face of an increasingly technological world. Fascinated by the effects of historical events on the development of agriculture and the landscape in these distinct regions, I explore how that history helped to determine current local industry and pastimes. Currently, I am continuing this investigation by creating new photographs in many additional regions of the United States, each with unique agricultural histories yet linked by shared challenges.