"Love and Loss" Portfolio (2013-19)
Since 2013 I have been making photographs of young people in the 4-H Club behind the scenes at the Volusia County Fair Livestock Auctions in Deland Florida. Grounded in agrarian family tradition, 4-H is a national organization with the idea of instilling responsibility and preparing children for the realities of adulthood. Children are taught how to raise farm animals from birth with meticulous care to compete for showmanship ribbons, having full knowledge that their animals, loved as pets, are to be sent to "market" and given up for slaughter at the close of “auction night”. 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. The images center on the conflict of emotions that they experience, as they must find the courage to send their animals to slaughter. Children mature quickly due to this. There is a collision of sadness, pride, vulnerability, and strength found in these unique relationships with animals. This concept drives me to return to the fair each year to make photographs that are symbolic of this dilemma. The children naturally form very close bonds with their animals while maintaining a profound acceptance for their fate. My pictures speak to the confusion experienced by both child and animal as they courageously attempt to reconcile two widely divergent concepts; love and loss. 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 their animals, coupled with the strength to repeat the process again each year, is powerful.