No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.
- Ingmar Bergman

January 27, 2014

The Talent Pool Corner presents Francesco Mastalia, Fine Art Photographer

"Organic", an exhibit of photographs by Francesco Mastalia is a must see if you are visiting Beacon anytime between January 27th and February 2nd.  

The subject matter of Francesco's work is the farmers and chefs of the Hudson Valley, farmers who are determined to continue to grow food using sustainable methods, and the chefs who support these beliefs by cooking using food grown by these farmers.

Francesco logged over 17,000 miles driving throughout the Hudson Valley photographing and interviewing over 136 of its farmers and chefs.  For his photographs, he used a technique called wet-plate collodion (originally termed "The Black Art"), a process that requires a few steps in order to create an image and also, a bit of patience because the subject needs to remain still for at least 15 seconds.

Francesco was kind in sharing with me the story of "ORGANIC" and his love for wet-plate collodion. 

Why use wet-plate collodion as your form of artistic expression? 

"I started working with the wet-plate collodion process a number of years ago when digital photography started taking over. There was a real disconnect for me working in a digital format. I always loved working in the darkroom, and felt the magic of photography took place there. Now I get to bring a portable darkroom whenever I am photographing.

The collodion process is a photographic process dating back to 1851.  It was a time when all our food was organic. It is a beautiful, mysterious process to work with; and it too is an organic process. The Civil War was documented using the wet collodion process, and the photo of Lincoln on the five-dollar bill is also a wet plate photograph. The process dominated photography for a thirty-year period into the 1880’s."

A large format wooden camera -- used for wet-plate collodion.












Why did the stories of farmers and chefs resonate with you?

Early on in the project, I was interviewing a farmer, and I asked him, “What comes to mind when you hear the word organic?” He replied, “I am not use to saying that word, because the government owns it.” I asked, “What do you mean?” and he went on to tell his story.  Driving back that day, I realized, there is a much larger story to be told.

The word organic doesn’t always means what you might thing it does; it really depends on whom you are speaking with.  

I am amazed that, as adults, we know so little about how our food is produced, or manufactured. The reason being is that our food system is designed that way. The companies that manufacture and produce this food do not want us to know.

If people are willing to spend more money on food because they think they are getting healthier, more nutritious, clean food, shouldn't we know exactly what we are getting?  As one farmer says, "There's organic, and there's organic."

When we think of organic, we think of clean food, food grown without the use of chemicals.  

Unfortunately, that is not always the case."

Lynn Faurie ©Francesco Mastalia


What has impressed you most about these men and women who are passionate about farming?

"The passion of the farmers and chefs was truly inspiring. These are a group of people who share a deep commitment and respect towards the plants, the animals, and the earth.

They share what it means to grow and live organically and sustainably. ORGANIC is not just about growing and producing food, it is about the life of the planet."





Willie Denner ©Francesco Mastalia
What's next for "ORGANIC"?

"“ORGANIC” Farmers & Chefs of the Hudson Valley is being published by powerHouse Books, and is set for release in September of this year. The 224 page book will include 100 of the photographs with accompanying text from each of the farmers and chefs." 













Francesco Mastalia
Francesco Mastalia has traveled the world photographing tribal, religious, spiritual, and indigenous people. His book DREADS published by Workman Artisan is a photo documentary on the history of dreadlocks. With travels to Ethiopia, Kenya, Angola, Namibia, Senegal, India, Japan, New Zealand, Jamaica and throughout the United States. DREADS is now in its eighth printing, sold worldwide in four languages, and includes an introduction by Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker. Mastalia’s book, ORGANIC, is slated for release by powerHouse publishing in the FALL of 2014.

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