"4-H Youth" Portfolio (2013-15)
These images are part of the collection, “Of One and The Other”, where I examine complex human-animal relationships. Since 2013 I have been making photographs of young people that participate in 4-H Club at the Volusia County Fair Livestock Auction in Deland Florida. The 4-H Club is focused on family tradition, with the idea of instilling responsibility and preparing youth for the realities of adulthood. Children are trained to raise farm animals from birth, which they do with meticulous care, having full knowledge that they will have to give them up for slaughter in a couple of years. The children are dedicated to the care of their animals, as they seek to place well and take home a cash a prize for their livestock. There is a collision of sadness, vulnerability, pride and accomplishment found in these unique relationships with animals. The images center on the conflict of emotions that they face, as they must find the courage to send their animals to slaughter. Children mature quickly because they form very close bonds with their animals despite knowing what is to come. I seek to capture the emotional complexity and dedication as their attention turns inward on auction night and the reality of parting with the animals begins to weigh heavily on them. Having formed such a deep connection with an animal coupled with the strength to repeat the process again each year represents a palpable conflict for anyone let alone a child.