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Huddleston book captures the eternal in everyday landscapes

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Posted on March 21, 2013 |
By John S. McCright



healinggroundice.jpg
JOHN HUDDLESTON CREATED this ring of blue ice, five feet in diameter, by adding water to a form on a tree and removing the form after the liquid had completely frozen. This was created on the Old Thompson Farm in 2002. Photo by John Huddleston

ADDISON COUNTY — Weybridge photographer John Huddleston has released a book of compelling images that capture the quiet grandeur of the Champlain Valley’s landscape. “Healing Ground: Walking the Farms of Vermont” features more than 60 photos that illuminate what is unique in ordinary things, and what is beautiful in the places that we drive past without noticing.

“They are everyday things, not idealized images of Vermont, not sunsets,” Huddleston said.

As a reviewer said on the book jacket, “Huddleston records agricultural cycles of life and death and the seasonal transformations of the fields with democratic attention.” Some of the photos, like tractor tracks on a freshly manured field or a lonely gravel road with Bristol Notch outlined in the distance, thoughtfully frame a quotidian scene.

Others, sounding a note from the artwork of Andy Goldsworthy, show shaped or sculpted features set in the landscape.

One example is a series of four images, made during the four seasons of the year, of a corn circle on the James Farm. The circle, 90 feet in diameter and the plowed or snow-covered field that surround it, present an interesting quartet. As with all of the images in the book, Huddleston includes a note with this set of images that not only describes what is shown, but also puts it in the context of historic, even geologic, time. His notes often talk about human beings’ relationship with the natural world.

The book also features Huddleston’s essays on sustainable agriculture and farming in Vermont.

Appropriately, “Healing Ground” features a foreword by Bill McKibben. The internationally acclaimed environmental journalist praises favorably compares Huddleston’s work to that of the small farmer, who notices things, who has a great attention to details.

Huddleston, who is a professor of studio art at Middlebury College, is also the author of “Killing Ground: Photographs of the Civil War and the Changing American Landscape.” In that book he pairs historic black and white photos made of Civil War battlefields with his own modern day color images of the same locations. He said it was a pretty sorrowful project, and when he finished he was ready to work on something more uplifting.

Huddleston is showing his new book far and wide, but he suspects it will have a keen audience closer to home.

“Most Vermonters have a feel for our environment,” he said.

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