Jacques Lowe, untitled, c. 1960

Jacques Lowe (1930-2001), untitled, c. 1960, gelatin silver print. Middlebury College Museum of Art. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Stephen Nicholas, 2015.120.

Jacques Lowe’s photograph of a farm boy bringing cattle along a fence on a snowy field feels familiar to those of us who live in Vermont, where diary cows frequently symbolize an idyllic existence far from the seemingly pernicious effects of urban life. However, when it comes to the land and issues of sustainability, rural agricultural practices raise as many questions as they answer.

Lowe’s photographs often focus on the innocent pastimes of children, although in this instance the boy participates in a larger dialogue about labor on the land.  The wire fence that separates the child and cattle from the space in front of them reminds us of complexities of raising livestock, which some scientists have shown are major contributors to air and water pollution.