No Longer Black & White; Still Read All Over
Black & White…with a touch of red. Randolph Center artist Rachi Farrow takes her palette to the newly greening fields. She finds herself and her painting the object of curiosity among David Silloway’s Holsteins. This was the cutline as it read 20 years ago. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)
The Herald’s March 14, 1994, issue was a landmark publication. For well over a century, the paper had been printed in Randolph. Twenty years ago this month that changed; we began printing on the much larger web press at The Valley News.
There were consequences. Dick Huggard and Bruce Dickinson, our two excellent pressmen were laid off, our printing press went to South America, and the Weston Street press building was sold to the White River Craft Center.
The shift was necessary because our press was just too small to compete with larger operations.
That March issue was the first printed on the Valley News presses. The Herald’s look changed overnight. The pages were a column narrower, but that shift was small compared to the first use of a full-color photograph in the publication’s history.
Color offset printing requires the use of a separate press unit for each of the three colors (magenta, yellow, and cyan) and a fourth for the black plate, all printing on the same sheet. The Herald’s press was too small to print full color.
A Long Time Coming
This was a historic moment. I wanted the image to be worthy of the occasion.
Contemplating this image, an old riddle came to mind, “What’s black and white and read all over?” The answer is, of course, “a newspaper.” The humor depends, of course, on the speaking of it.
For The Herald’s first color photograph, I elected to create a visual parody of that classic riddle.
In Vermont, the expression “black and white” commonly references the herds of Holstein cows dotting the landscape. I could think of no better visual color pun than to have an artist painting a black and white cow red!
Finding a Holstein was easy, but who would be free-spirited enough to be pictured applying red paint to a cow?
Fortunately, Rachi Farrow, a Randolph Center artist with a great sense of humor, came immediately to mind. For decades she has been drawn to the incorporation of vibrant color in her work.
I was confident she would carry the day.
All of this is a preamble to the experience Rachi and I had that early spring day twenty years ago with David Silloway’s Holsteins in a Randolph Center field. My requisite ingredients for the shot were few: Farrow wielding a paintbrush with red paint, one of her hyper-colored abstracts on an easel, and an unmistakable Vermont farm field with rock and maple and spring grass.
Now, cue the cows.
And it really was just about that simple. Once Farrow had set up her “studio in the field,” the ladies came over to take a look. The image was fully composed, the afternoon light metered, my camera mounted on a tripod, before the first cow walked into view. Brilliantly playing the role of a landscape artist interrupted in her work, Farrow turned to the inquisitive first-comer with her brush, and we were done.
This photograph works on several levels. The pun is a clever opening, but the image takes us further. First, while I’d helped choose the painting for the easel, I was stunned upon seeing Farrow’s Johnson Woolen Mill jacket. The black and red checkerboard pattern overlaps and resonates perfectly with the pattern in the art and underscores the “red” on the brush against the black of the cow at the back.
Vermont is a beautiful state, and it’s not unusual to see painters set-up and working by the roadside. This photograph takes a playful poke at that bucolic scene, placing a riotously colorful abstract where one might expect to see a landscape painting. The massive scale of the piece also adds to the farce; a work of this size and complexity would never be executed far away from the studio in the middle of a cow pasture.
Finally, this image parodies an earlier landmark Vermont photograph. The inaugural issue of Vermont Life magazine in 1947 also featured a cover image of a woman artist with palette and brush in a natural Vermont setting. Both cover shots are also highly metaphorical. Similarities to my Herald image end there, however.
The Vermont Life image drew upon classical mythological themes. The woman, wearing a diaphanous gown, portrays the sylvan goddess of nature gracefully applying colors to Vermont’s autumn landscape.
In sharp contrast, my photograph smacks of Norman Rockwell in its composition. There is no refinement or subtlety here; Rachi Farrow brandishes her brush like a house painter!
For The Herald’s inaugural color issue, Farrow embodies the vibrant and playful personality of Shakespeare’s Puck. Her comic interaction and her amazing art are an invocation of spring and a new era at The Herald. This, the first color photograph in our paper’s long history, heralded many colorful times to come.
Keywords: Black and white, Holsteins, Rachi Farrow, Tri-X, Vermont, artists, black, color, cows, film, nikon, read, red, white
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