The sign in the above photo by Austin, Texas-based Lifestyle photographer Jody Horton, refers, I’m pretty sure, to shooting guns. But a few weeks ago we were first exposed to the idea that taking a photograph of a farm, while you are in a public place, could get you 30 years in jail. This was part of a bill proposed by Florida Senator Jim Norman; a similar law has been in consideration in Iowa. The rationale behind this bill is not entirely explicit, but it becomes clearer when we consider the difference between the farm pictured above and larger industrial farms. Smaller farms are on a human scale—we see the farmer, his livestock, and the produce. We are flooded with pastoral sentiments, imagining a closeness to nature worthy of the poets.
The industrial farm, on the other hand, tends to be less pleasant; crops are grown in monotonous rows, animals are crammed together tightly and messily. Sure, a talented photographer can find a combination—take a look at the photo below by St. Louis-based Portrait photographer Mark Katzman’s assignment for Monsanto. But even in this case, it looks like the farmer is growing cotton, rather than food, so the complicated emotions that arise when we consider our food supply are absent.
With some changes the bill was eventually passed in Florida. We’ll see how this pans out, and whether we’ll have access to images that show where our dinner comes from.