I took a small tour of the Holy Land in May, but it was all within West Virginia (which, by the way, the locals call “Almost Heaven”). First I spent a week at Bethlehem Farm near Alderson, WV, photographing a group of over 30 college students working on the farm and community members’ homes while building their own spirituality. Then I went to Nazareth Farm near Salem, WV, and did the same thing.
One of the best things about both farms is the hugs. Upon arrival, everyone gets hugged and greeted with “Welcome home!” When leaving for worksites throughout the week, everyone hugs each other with a “Have a good day!” On the last day of the week, there is one last round of warm goodbye hugs. Maybe not everyone likes hugs, but I love ’em, and it never feels artificial. If we could maintain the same sense of supportive, purposeful community throughout our lives (whether with family or roommates), I am certain we would be much happier.
The farms offer some great photographic opportunity. The setting is in the ancient Appalachian/Allegheny Mountains, smooth-topped and velvet with trees. The activity is physical labor mixed with lots of fun and laughter. The light is… can be beautiful. During my week at Bethlehem Farm, the weather fluctuated between overcast and rainy to partly cloudy – perfect light for what I was shooting. At Nazareth Farm we went four straight days without a cloud in the sky – horrible light in the middle of the day. So this, combined with Nazareth being in a steep-walled ‘holler’, became a big challenge for me to create some images. But I would say I pulled it off pretty good at both locales.
A big thank you to all of the caretakers, staff, volunteers, and community members during these two weeks for being patient, cooperative, and darn good looking. I hope these images do some good for the Farms.