At 81 years old you wouldn’t expect to hear that Gerald Hitchcock is still working his ranch. But ask him anything thing related to his farm and he’ll smile and answer proudly.
Gerald is actually my step-dad’s father. So, this blog is a bit more personal since I don’t typically post a lot of family related things here. However the fact that he’s 81 and still gets up every day to work his ranch is just an awesome story in itself.
The portrait I shot of him is quite simple, really.
“I have the ranch cuz I had the tractor (bulldozer)” he told me when I asked about the large piece of equipment. He pointed out that over the years it was the the tractor that made the money to allow him to get the farm and feed the family. Mrs. Hitchcock, his wife who still hosts family gatherings at the holidays cooking tons of food for everyone, even told me “Oh that’ll be good (gettin a photo with the bulldozer). That tractor has been the backbone of our economy (for the family).”
I wanted to keep the image simple and straight forward. And while I originally thought of just having a standard shot with his ranch/property in the background, it quickly became obvious how integral this piece of machinery was to the family.
As I’ve gotten older and progressed in my career as a photographer since my college days, I’ve realized more and more how important personal images are to me. And, with that, the importance of photos of my family. I’ve since started a personal project of creating portraits of my family members, starting with my own grandparents. I will probably share those in a later post. But, when talking to my step-dad about his parents, I knew his father would be an awesome portrait to take simply because he’s still working and doesn’t seem as old as he is when you talk to him.
Jim Grissom is the nephew of Gerald Hitchcock (above).
Jim was born and raised in Tennessee; he owns and operates Mountain Farm Dairy in Van Buren County.
I met up with Jim on a hot afternoon when he was busy working to repair one of the farm’s tractors. He was covered in dirt and laughing at the idea of me wanting to take his portrait. But, that was exactly what I was hoping to capture… him in his element.
Dairy farming is a hard job. A 15-16 hour work day, seven days a week is something that most people would never do. Jim and his family are proud farmers though – he and his sons have degrees in Agriculture and all returned to the farm after completing school.
Jim, while calm in these shots, was actually laughing quite a bit at my choice of location for the photos. But, being a very bright day I needed him in the shade so I could capture a nice shot of his face and eyes.
I’ve always had a lot of respect for farmers. I think it’s one of the most under-appreciated jobs in the US. So meeting people that are proud of what they do like Jim and Gerald – family or not – is humbling. So when you start whining about your office being too hot/cold, or complain that you have to put in an hour of overtime one day… remember that there are people out there working twice as hard. And they’re proud to do it.
I’ll be continuing this series over the next couple weeks. So check back those of you who are enjoying these portraits.
Also coming up will be more modeling photos. So, I may shift over to a different extreme in photography and be posting beach model photos in the next week. Haha. We’ll see…