Last summer, Feature Shoot launched The Print Swap, a worldwide project for photographers. Here’s how it works: you can submit by tagging your photos #theprintswap. Every day, we curate submissions, and we notify photographers who have been selected. It’s free to submit, but winners pay a one-time fee of $40 per image. We cover shipping and printing, which is done by our friends at Skink Ink in Brooklyn, New York. Prints are then mailed out randomly across the globe, and every participating photographer receives a surprise print from one of their peers.
In recent weeks, we’ve been looking over The Print Swap archive and putting together online group shows with the pictures in the collection. In the past, we’ve explored themes like New Topographics, Seascapes, and the American West. Here, a collection of some of our favorite photographs of life in rural places.
People sometimes describe rural living as “simple living,” but I think that’s a mistake. Those of us who are uninitiated daydream about days spent in the open countryside amongst the animals, and we’re right to believe in the magic that can found away from the cities and the suburbs, in quiet places where we can still see miles and miles into the distance. If city living is prose, rural living is poetry.
But life in rural places is hard-won. A brief look through the archives of the Farm Security Administration photographers, who documented strife on farms in the United States during The Great Depression, tells us something of the sweat, blood, and tears it takes to survive off the land. So yes, rural life is often sublime, but it’s not simple.
One of my favorite anecdotes from photographic history is a little story about FSA photographer Dorothea Lange, told by her assistant and driver Rondal Partridge.* While driving, Lange would repeatedly say, “Ron, go slow, slow!”
She didn’t want to miss a single farm or person. “Her eye would go from one side to another, taking in everything, every little thing,” Partridge said. Her work was painstaking. She and Partridge often traveled long distances in the night, switching off driving duties so they could each get a few moments of sleep.
Her words- go slow– seem to lie at the heart of all great photographs of rural life. In order to capture it in all its beauty (and its heartache), one must go at the right pace. For all of their differences, these photographs have that in common.
*I discovered this story in the book Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs and Reports from the Field by Anne Whiston Spirn.