Apr 30, 2013
04:30 PMConnecticut Today
Uncle John: Portraits of a True Yankee Farmer
For 16 years, photographer Georgia Sheron chronicled her neighbor “Uncle John” Ludorf and his passion for the land on his farm in Southbury. Sheron’s photographs capture a simple man, an American iconoclast who chose to plow his fields with horses and milk his cows by hand well into his nineties. This intimate look at the daily life of a farmer and the landscape is humbling to say the least, and celebrates a bygone time.
Uncle John’s father, Julius Ludorf, emigrated from a small village in Poland in 1880 at the age of sixteen. After working in the mines and on an orchard as a farmhand, Julius met his future wife and bought enough land to start the farm where he raised John and his sister.
Some of Uncle John’s memories showcase the hardships experienced by the greatest generation. In the book, he recalls when as a boy he was able to open his first bank account after a winter of trapping muskrats and skunks, depositing a hard-earned $16, which was a good amount of money at the time—and which he still claims to have. Other memories remind readers of the luxuries we enjoy today that were not available at the time. One day when handling a loaded gun in the kitchen, a visiting blacksmith accidentally shot John’s sister in the side. As a result of the severity of the injury and the rural setting, she unfortunately passed away.
Through the challenges of everyday life, John enjoyed simple pleasures and spent time playing the violin and even dancing. He recalls many “kitchen dances,” when the neighborhood would get together at someone’s home and dance until three in the morning. Cold chicken and cheese sandwiches would be served—a treat, as far as he was concerned.
This compilation of photographs and the accompanying interviews are a true example of rural American life, and ultimately a time capsule for future generations. Sheron expertly evokes an era where the simple things in life mattered most, such as homemade wine during Prohibition or new shoes during the Great Depression. Uncle John’s experiences, as well as his deep respect for the land and family are a paradigm of what it means to be a Yankee farmer.
On May 18 at 2 p.m., Sheron will be at Uncle John's farm in Southbury, signing copies of the book.
For more info and other book signings, visit georgiasheron.com.