Living in Vermont, photographer Corey Hendrickson feels lucky to have easy access to both local, organic food and the farmers themselves. When he was in high school, Hendrickson worked at an organic farm picking vegetables and that experience has always stuck with him. It was a physically demanding job and he loved it.
Hendrickson grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts. He earned a B.S. in Forest Biology at the University of Vermont and worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado and Alaska. After college he worked as a wild land firefighter on the Pike Hotshots, spending winter off-seasons in Utah and the French Alps. While visiting the Tetons on a fire assignment, Hendrickson rented a cabin sight unseen from the classifieds. He moved on to Jackson, Wyoming, and it was there his life began as a working photographer. He eventually returned to Vermont and received his M.F.A. in photography from the Academy of Art University in 2009.
Hendrickson’s portraits and documentary style work have appeared in such prestigious publications as Food & Wine, AARP Bulletin, Huffington Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, Runner's World, Fortune Small Business, Bicycling, Men's Journal, Continental, Organic Gardening, Food Network Magazine, Der Speigel, Entrepreneur, Outside Travel, LIFE, Boston, New York Times, Yankee, Esquire, Wondertime, Ladies Home Journal, Americas Quarterly, Skiing, Smithsonian, Thrivent, CMYK and PDN.
With his background steeped in the land, Hendrickson can truly be called a photographer who knows and understands nature, the landscape, topography and how people fit in with their environment. His early farm-picking work was enjoyable and very impressionable, and he attributes much of that to the people. “I worked with a bunch of Jamaican guys who would come to farm for the summer. I don't think I realized at the time how difficult it was for them to be away from their families, but they were great to me, for some reason they called me ‘Uncle Corey’.” That interest in picking fresh food and the kind of exhausting work it is inspired Hendrickson to create his latest personal project.
He has put his skills to work manually, as well, to photograph Vermont's newest business start-ups and surprisingly they are not coming from technology, manufacturing or tourism. Vermont, which boasts the highest percentage of people who buy locally grown food, is seeing a surge in small farms run by a new generation of young farmers who love the land and the hard work. This new generation is made up of men and women in their early 30s. They come from the cities and suburbs and are going back to one of the oldest professions—organic farming. They have a concern for the safety of food being shipped across country, which has spurred a new growth in local organic agriculture and also helps at protecting the environment with cut backs in the use of gasoline.
Hendrickson’s subjects are very open to having their operations photographed in stark contrast to the many factory-farming horror stories from the book Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer. Photographing these young farmers in Vermont started out as a documentary, a quick and light project with just a 35mm camera. “I try hard to keep out of the way and to not waste their time. I usually set everything up and then have the subjects, work their way through, or stop briefly for a few images,” says Hendrickson. Seeing so much amazing work being done around the farms and the actual physicality of farming, his concept evolved to a more produced and, perhaps, heroic look with his own brand of lighting to complement the portraiture. The early 20th century German portrait and landscape photographer August Sander became a great source of inspiration to Hendrickson on his farming project. Like Sander, Hendrickson also presents a cross section of society that includes farmers, skilled trades people and the land they work. It shows the hard and exhausting work and the pleasure from manual labor.
For his personal projects, Hendrickson tends to be a crew of one with his trusty dog Jake at his side, who refuses to carry light stands. His challenges are mostly physical since he has to lug equipment around and be careful at the same time not to step on any plants. Investing in a good, "all-terrain" gear cart was critical to the work. He shot with a Canon 1DsMark III and his Dynalite location kit of strobes, beauty dish, soft box and battery.
These new small farms are already beginning to see some success and much of that is due to a rising consumer demand for local, fresh produce, an increase in green markets sprouting all over the country and community-supported farming programs to help farmers. Hendrickson also sees great potential here for his own editorial and commercial projects and would be thrilled to produce more of it under commission. He enjoys creating this kind of imagery and has always been drawn to capturing people at the labor and industries they embrace and how they fit into the spaces they create from that work. “I also just love working with real people, and in my mind it doesn't get more real than farmers,” he adds.
For now, Hendrickson is still producing the work and editing it down for model-released stock. Eventually, he plans to license the images through his agency Gallery Stock.
Hendrickson currently lives in central Vermont with Jake, his assistant dog, and works throughout New England. You can see more of this portrait project and other assignments for Corey Hendrickson at his site and blog, www.coreyhendrickson.com.
© Corey Hendrickson