Sunday, March 27, 2011

Making Time : Eric Marth

Do you have a day job? What is it?

For the past few years I've worked as a clerk and bibliographer at a small used bookstore called Riverby Books. It's a bright and busy store in my hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia. The shop is owned by a lovely family, and I'm one of a few employees. We stock the shelves (and the stairs) with good books, reading copies of interesting and classic titles. We're interested in rare and unusual books as well, examples of fine printing and binding. Paul, the owner of the shop, is a bookbinder and keeps busy with making and repairing books for our customers, and putting things together for projects of his own. It's been a very good place to be and a great place to work.

In the growing months of 2010 I worked on a produce farm in Westmoreland County, Virginia called Blenheim, the ancestral home of the Latane family, who farm there today. Blenheim is part of a series of farms on Potomac River once owned by the Washington family. Their place was first the home of William Augustine Washington, the nephew of President George Washington. The farm is very near to Wakefield, President Washington's birthplace.

Blenheim is about four hundred acres, with something like a dozen acres in produce. Much of the farm is woods, and a wonderful place for bird hunting. There's a lot of delicious stuff growing out there, strawberries, asparagus, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbages, elephant garlic, apples, peppers and a lot more. This summer we wrapped up work on a big hoop house and the Latanes grew lettuces and tomatoes during the winter. The family sells at a few markets here in Virginia, and offers weekly shares of produce for about ninety families close by.

Work at the farm slowed as the growing season wound down. This winter I've had a handful of small jobs: sorting cattle for a livestock auction, working some odds and ends for a friend of mine who is a builder, and I'm doing some studio modeling for a life drawing class at the University of Mary Washington.

Do the people you work with know you are a photographer?

Yes, I'm lucky to be close to a lot of the people I work with. My friends at Riverby, at Blenheim, and my friend Jason the builder have known me for a long time! The students at UMW know that I photograph, too.

Does the work you do during the day affect your personal work?

Working at Riverby has put me in contact with a lot of great photography books. And tracking books down for customers has made it easier for me to find the work of photographers I'm interested in. Most of what I've learned about photography has come through books, by studying the work of other photographers.

My recent work has been made on farms in Orange, Franklin and Westmoreland Counties here in Virginia. Working with the Latanes at Blenheim I've had the occasion to make a lot of photographs of their farm and of the family at work.

If you could rearrange your time, what would be the ideal balance between your personal and professional work?

I'm looking forward to the coming of Spring and to working again at Blenheim. Being with people who make a living from caring for their place has been a pleasure, and the work itself has yielded some good photographs.

Images: Eric Marth

See also: New Twine