Waking up at 6:45 am, I walked a few blocks from home and marveled in all the fresh produce and smiling faces selling their own creations. Open only on Wednesdays and Saturdays, I visited my favorite local in Kerry Town, the farmers market. This block on Detroit Street would be a great place to find a great cast of people to photograph. I talked with many of the sellers and learned that most were farmers who have been working the same job their whole life. These family owned businesses have been coming to Ann Arbor every week for decades. Everyone had a great Midwestern hospitality and was encouraging when they saw me with the camera. Some were even eager and asked me to take their photo if I passed their stand. It seemed that I was their morning entertainment. The enthusiasm of my subjects allowed me to talk to them with ease. I learned about their families, their farms, and where they were from. I absorbed all they had to say, really capturing their personalities through the photographs. I met Nicole, a young adult who works at Zingerman’s and plans to for the rest of her life, Dwight, a farmer who has been working his stand since the age of 10, Les Able, who claims he grows the best garlic around and could teach me how, and many other amazing people.
A good portion of the time I was just speaking with the subjects and smiling. I realized how strong their family ties are. I learned that talking to people and getting to know them brings out their true personalities in my images. I was genuinely interested in what they had to say. I feel I was successful in casting my subjects. This didn’t seem like an assigned project; it was a rather enjoyable morning. I would have loved to spend more time with each individual and see their farms, meet their families, and get a better insight into the lives they briefly shared with me. When I return to the market, I hope to be welcomed with open arms. I asked for all of their emails and promised to send the pictures. Since most are there every week, I plan to print photos for all of my new acquaintances.
I ran into a few struggles at first. I needed to figure out how to initiate conversation, however after talking to a few people I realized I had nothing to worry about. Also, some sellers saw the camera and began to pose for the photos, asking if they should smile or hold fruit. Some evens starting waving their hands. I explained the aspects of documentary photography to them and they understood no posing would be necessary. I wish I had experimented more with angles and composition. I was very distracted with the social aspect of documentary photography, that I became less conscious about the artistic qualities and surroundings that make photos interesting.
After all, I had a great experience with this assignment and feel more connected to my community outside of the University of Michigan. I think I captured the subject’s personalities and had a fun time.
- Nikki Horowitz