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2021 SPE Annual Conference: Imagining Legacy: Archives, Collections, and Memoria

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Amanda Breitbach

Land/People

Friday, October 07 - 9:00AM to 9:50AM
Lindell Room C - Chase Park Plaza

In a deeply personal way, the project Land/People has been a way for me to resolve an internal conflict about my relationship to my family and to the family farm.


Over the past two years, I have used photographs to explore my feelings about the future of the farm and my status as a sort of simultaneous insider and outsider to the place where I grew up. My hope is that the series makes larger, universal concerns about the decline of family farming and the eroding human relationship to land visible through my family’s and my own experience. The project combines panoramic and aerial images of my family’s farmland in eastern Montana with intimate photographs of family members and domestic spaces. Many of the images are visibly constructed, using multiple photographs with exposed seams and overlapping edges to create a sense of multiple perspectives or shifting truths. By using multiple photographs to create a single image, I suggest that no single view is adequate to capture the entirety of this vast landscape and the complex culture that depends on it. Each image can offer only a piece of the larger picture. These formal elements also remind the viewer that these photographs are constructed – not transparent or objective, but carefully framed and presented by a particular person with a specific point of view.


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The framing of these views reflects my personal experience as a woman who grew up on a multi-generational family farm and ranch owned and operated by men, developing a deep love and respect for the land while knowing that I would never inherit it. It is my position as an insider to this culture that sets my work apart from other art about agriculture. By exploring a single farm and family in depth I intend to tell a complicated and specific story, one that reflects the changing nature of agriculture and critically questions its future. These may be the last images of a farm in slow decline. Photographs of homes that no longer house families and aging men doing all of the farm work tell the viewer that the farm’s heyday is past. There are no children in my photographs, because there is not a next generation interested in farming. The sorrow and grief in my images is contrasted with the magnificence of the sublime high plains landscape, and it is in the landscape that I find comfort and hope for the future. I never set out to find resolution through this project, but somehow the process of photographing the farm, trying to preserve and share the most important elements of a place that is precious tome, has helped me find peace.

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Amanda Breitbach
Amanda Breitbach

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