Why Does Photography Matter in Agriculture?

Reader question: “I would like to ask the farmers why they believe photography has a place in agriculture. Where and how can they see it being used to help farmers and educate non-farmers?” — Lyndsey K.


Photo by Marla Thrall

Photography is my favorite creative past time. I love capturing the everyday moments and our life on the farm is a huge part of our family’s life. In the beginning, I took farm pictures solely for our own enjoyment, but over time I’ve realized that a lot of people enjoy seeing rural life. I think it’s important to give consumers a view of what real farm life looks like. It isn’t always stunning landscapes (although those are my favorite); sometimes it’s dirty boots and oily jeans. In a world where it’s trendy to be anti-ag, I feel like I’m doing my part in sharing the realities of modern farm life.

– Marla Thrall; Live, Laugh, Farm


They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and it has been so since the first photos were made. I love seeing old photos of farmers and farming – what a historical record of the people, the animals and the equipment and land they farmed!  When I look back on old photos I am so thankful they were taken. Back in those days it required everyone stopping and being still long enough to capture the image. ‘Candid’ shots were many years away.

Why do I love agricultural photography?  As a farm wife and a mother it helps me record memories of us farming. Those family memories are precious moments in time that can trigger other memories about the year, the season, the equipment.  They take us down a special family memory lane.

As an advocate for agriculture I see the photos I take for more public consumption a bit differently.  They lose their super personal candid nature and become a statement about love of land, love of animals, love of agriculture. A celebration of the culture of agriculture, a starting point to chat with non-farming folks about why we do what we do, why it is a vocation and a passion.

Having taking promotional, safety and customer choreographed photos has given me an insight into how different aspects of agriculture are portrayed through photography. And like so many things images can be manipulated, staged or even cropped to say something different than the original shot said.  I proudly shoot truthful images that I can stand behind, even when they are hard truths like livestock losses or farmers facing a lost crop.

As agvocates we have put ourselves, and our images, in a place where they speak for an industry, for our family, friends and community. They speak to a larger community within and outside of our industry – and the messages need to be clear, truthful and from the heart.  And they can be light hearted, after all there is a lot of humor in ag! And they can be serious, after all there is a lot of a person’s life invested in the land, the animals, the culture. And they are our historical record, more than any time in history, we are recording where we are in ag. What we do, why we care to do it and how we represent it so passionately.

When I take photos I am thinking of who sees them tomorrow and in the future – will the message still be clear?  Will it carry the same 1000 words?  I hope so.

– Shanyn Silinski, Photos by Shanyn

About Marla Thrall

Marla is a married to a forth generation farmer and lives in the beautiful Oklahoma panhandle. They grow wheat, corn, alfalfa and milo and are expecting their first baby. On her personal blog, Live Laugh Farm, she showcases a little bit of their farm life.

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