I love sunflowers, with their incredible varieties, colors and sizes. I admire the way they stand tall, strong and proud, beaming back at the sunlight. I love that, no matter the time of year, when I create a sunflower print, it takes me right back to summer.
The story behind many of my sunflower pictures begins one particular summer, in a sunflower field in Branford, Connecticut.
I'd been driving by this farm since 1989, and I finally decided to stop to find out more about its history. I found out it had been in the family for three generations. The first generation, the grandparents, had seven children; six girls and one boy. The one boy lived to the age of 105 and passed in 2015. His niece was gracious enough to let me photograph the farm and tell me a little about it.
The organic farmers explained, “We take the good with the bad.”
In the 1930s, DuPont started selling chemicals that they boasted could increase a crop’s annual yield by 30%. The owners of this particular farm in Branford were proud of their sunflowers and reluctant to use chemicals to boost their crop.
Still, curious about this new development, the family’s grandmother went to see a fellow farmer in North Branford and asked if she could see this concoction. She reached in, grabbed a handful and took a big sniff. It burned from her nose to her lungs. She went home and told her family, “Even though it would help us produce bigger crops, we will never use these chemicals!” To this day, the family abides by the grandmother’s wishes and follows all organic farming techniques.
Even when the children suggested they build greenhouses to lengthen the growing season, the first generation would have none of it. The grandfather said greenhouses would bring mold and white flies, which they’d then have to spend all their time fighting off. The woman who showed me around explained that, to her family, organic farming also includes living by the weather. Some years are better than others, they’ve found, but when Mother Nature cooperates, the result is truly astounding.
This was certainly one of the better years to photograph the sunflowers.
I captured my images in a time when the sunflower field was really showing off. I offered to pay for my time in the field, but the family refused. They said they’ve welcomed many people to shoot in the field throughout the years, including a particularly memorable group of twelve magazine photographers from New York. They walked off into the field and disappeared, and the family was starting to worry that the photographers were in the middle of a bad Star Trek episode and Scotty had beamed them up! When they went looking for them, they found the photographers lying between the rows with their cameras pointed to the sky.
My host also recounted stories of some uninvited guests, including an entire wedding party found making a commotion in the sunflower field at 5 o’clock in the morning. But she understands the pull that these beautiful pieces of nature have on people. The family actually photographs their crop themselves - every bloom, every variety, every year. They are happy with the end results and still 100% organic.
Sunflowers aren’t just beautiful, they are very important for the bees, wild birds and a great source of vitamin E. Our sunflower prints are a great way to bring these little rays of sunshine into your home, no watering required!
What is your favorite flower to photograph? Have you ever found yourself lying on your back in a sunflower field? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments.Capture and Connect,