I ate dinner with my four brothers and sisters every night at 5:30 pm. We’d eat, and my father would say: Let’s talk about the garden at the cottage. He’d say this every single night. It was a joke between us because at some point in the meal my dad would invariably put down his knife and fork and say: Let’s talk about the garden at the cottage.
Séamas, 20x24” Gelatin Silver Print
He’d look at each of us and ask: You - what’s your job going to be this summer? What are you going to grow? He’d go around the circle of his family and strategize next year’s harvest. A farmer had agreed to plow for us an adjacent field. It was a huge garden. My father’s plan required that each of us commit to raising a different crop. While my friends back in Chicagoland may have spent their summers playing baseball and going to camp, I could be found 200 miles north, sequestered in rural Wisconsin with my brothers and sisters. We spent endless days together, pulling weeds, swimming in a polluted lake, and getting chased by farm kids.
We still see each other in the summer. But now we bring our 17 kids, miniature versions of our past. In their faces I see us as children, reenacting the condensed dramas I knew as a child, sifting the dirt of our garden, growing up. In them, I see myself; I see my parents, still dreaming of their garden, and making plans for spring. These photographs tell the story of my father’s garden. They tell the story of what he grew.
See the Cultivator series here
Selected works showing at the 50th and Lyndale Avenue Starbucks, in South Minneapolis.