“The farm was my giant playground,” photographer Tamie Steffen-Hornstein remembers of a childhood spent in rural Southwest Minnesota. She spent her days in the treehouse, on her raft in the creek, or working beside her father.
The farm didn’t allow her to take anything for granted. Hornstein remembers waking up in the wee hours of the morning; her father often stayed up all night when he had to. “Farm animals are completely dependent on us,” the photographer says, “If we forget to feed or water them, they would go hungry.”
From the animals, Hornstein says she learned empathy and grace. Although she has since moved from the farm of her youth, she still remembers being present when the animals gave birth. “I got to see more live births than any kid in my class by the age of eight,” she reports. As it happens, she also got her first camera that same year.
Hohenstein’s photographs would be well at home amongst the Romantic landscape paintings of the 1800s; her deer could have been plucked right from J.M.W. Turner’s Petworth Park. Her skies are the skies that must have run through the dreams of Thomas Cole.
Hornstein still returns to the farm to help her father, especially during the harvest. She’s tilled and planted and photographed; she knows this place as intimately as she does her own memories.
The older, more mysterious farms always call to the photographer. She can tell from looking at a field if there had at one point been a barn that has since disappeared. She’s also seen ancient barns fall, and their secrets are buried with them.
Visiting these places, she can imagine the generations of farm kids who came before her—playing outside, recounting stories of imagination and adventure, and watching the cows give birth.
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All images © Tamie Steffen-Hornstein