March 15, 1996
We send our warmest greetings to you. Actually, the thought of anything warm is foremost in our minds as we have experienced one of our worst winters here. The snow and ice have been unrelenting. In our secluded setting on a hill overlooking a stream and between two fords, we have been, once again, landlocked. We walk through the fields of snow and ice (and occasionally mud) to a neighbor's house that accesses a paved road, and where we've overstayed our welcome with a vehicle parked there—our only means of getting to the post office and occasional provisions, and for carrying out the shipments—as well as carrying everything in. Sometimes the snow was even too deep and soft for our makeshift sled. Our property was, however, very beautiful as it was unadulterated by the traffic of anything larger than a foot. It was beautiful to see all of the wild animal trails crisscrossing the pristine blankets of snow.
We are confident spring will happen again and are more than eager for it. During all of this we continued to have visitors who braved (and even enjoyed) the long walk into our property, and we spent many darkroom hours printing our new work. Our darkroom assistant (Filip Skalak, from Prague, who is here studying with us), made the two-mile walk every day (sometimes in knee deep snow) to get here for darkroom duty (he's renting a room in nearby Ottsville), and he often walked home in the snow and ice after midnight. We do work long hours, and Filip, fortunately, understands our unconventional lifestyle and demanding work load.
To bring you up to date on some of our activities: We will soon be launching our grand project, and our first joint project—photographing rural America in all fifty states from the back roads. We are eager to begin as we have been in the throes of preparation for over two years now. But, before we do, we have other bodies of work to complete.
Paula will be traveling back to Texas in April to finish her series of photographs of the farm where she grew up on the High Plains of the Texas Panhandle. This body of work, for which she was awarded two grants, one from the Summerlee Foundation (Dallas) and one from the Texas Historical Foundation (Austin), will result in a new book, a traveling exhibition, a film, and a portfolio. And Michael, who was also awarded a grant last year (from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts), will be returning to California this spring to complete a series of portraits of the students of Deep Springs College where he taught for six weeks last fall.
Deep Springs College is the most unusual college in America. And it has been rated by many as the best one, too. Located on the high desert in eastern California and forty miles from the nearest gas station, Deep Springs is so far from a post office in California that the mailing address is in Nevada. This two-year, all-male school has an enrollment of only 25 students who are selected from among the top two percent of College Board score achievers. The school, founded in 1917, is based on a most rigorous academic program, mainly in the sciences and humanities; a labor program—the students take care of the college, the ranch, and the organic farm; and self-government—the students hire and fire the faculty, select the curriculum, and choose the incoming students. Tuition is free. Students are intense.
Some of the writing Paula has done for High Plains Farm describes the nature of her project—"The farm where I grew up on the High Plains of the Texas Panhandle is typical of the dwindling number of family farms sprinkled throughout this vast region and not unlike many of the family farms and ranches throughout the United States. My parents are in their mid-eighties and still farm their 1,100 acres of land all by themselves. In photographs and writing, I have composed a portrait of the habits, ethics, and value system that embody the spirit that made this often harsh and arid territory an acceptable and even desirable place to live. It is a portrait of a way of life that is fast vanishing—and little else in our modern times will approach or even resemble it.
"In making these photographs of subject matter that I am so intimately familiar with and emotionally connected to, I was challenged to photograph with the same sense of discovery and excitement that I have for new things and places."
High Plains Farm, the book of Paula's new photographs will be published to coincide with the opening of the traveling exhibition that will originate at the Amarillo Museum of Art on November 9th. kacv-tv, the public broadcast station in Amarillo, which has an outstanding reputation for the documentary films they have produced on Georgia O'Keefe, the FSA photographers, and other well-known artists, is making a documentary film about Paula doing this project. In addition, Paula will be producing a unique portfolio of the High Plains Farm photographs.
For those who have requested this information, here are current prices for prints. Michael's prices for recent photographs are unchanged. However, his 8x10 photo-graphs made in 1975 or earlier are now individually priced, starting at $1,500. The prices for Paula's photographs have gone up slightly.
Michael 8x10 $1,000 Paula 8x10 $600 8x20 $1,200 5x7 $450 18x22 $2,000 4x5 $450
The price for Michael's 2'x5' enlargements, direct from his 8"x20" negatives remain at $3,500, except for one print for which half the edition has sold. That print is now priced at $5,000.
We will be heading out on the road soon and hope we will get to see you. We'll return home in late spring, and expect to be here much of this year. Do come and visit if you get this way.
With warm regards,
Greetings from Michael and Paula
uvÄ the pristine blankets of snow.
for six weeks
e are current prices for prints:hanged. However, his 8x10 photo