Show, don’t tell

| 31 Dec 2013 | 03:44

Capturing the spirit of generosity in farm-tanned faces

It can be hard to talk about land conservation without putting people to sleep. There’s also the danger of tooting one’s own horn, if you happen to be the Orange County Land Trust, which has 4,700 acres of preserved land to toot its horn about. “Land trusts can talk about protecting our farmland, our rivers and wildlife corridors. But a picture’s worth a thousand words,” said Caroline Hamling, director of marketing and communications for the Orange County Land Trust.

“There is,” she said, “a spirit of generosity around private land conservation.”

Capturing that spirit in sun-lined faces is the latest project of social documentary photographer Robert Skinner, who is photographing about a dozen Orange County landowners who have given up the rights to develop their land.

“I want to include the human element. This is not your standard – here’s a pretty picture of a farm,” said Skinner.

The project, called “Salt of the Earth,” will be finished in the spring and displayed in a traveling exhibit that will start in Sugar Loaf and end up either in Albany or Manhattan, said Skinner. The hope is that the photos and accompanying text will become coffee table book, celebrating what the land trust does.

So far Skinner has shot a sawmill in Chester, a gentleman’s farm in Salisbury Mills, a Christmas tree farm in New Windsor – and none too soon. Bill Steidle, the Christmas tree farmer, died in November at age 66. “I’m glad I photographed him when I did,” said Skinner.

Becca Tucker