Nicole and Mark Lewis were the initial inspiration for the New American Gothic series. They had posted a selfie with their rooster, Fricassee, that made me laugh so hard, I knew I had to photograph them and THAT ROOSTER! We had such a fun time on this shoot, I loved having Mark’s mom on hand to assist. The only direction that I give the farmers, is that I want them to hold something that represents them and/or their farm and I’m looking for a few pops of red in the photo. Other than those two requests, I don’t “style” their outfits. I may help them chose “this shirt or that shirt” “this prop or that prop” and spread out a wrinkle or brush off a chicken feather, but I want the photos to reflect their personalities (and the personalities of their animals). When Nicole asked if she should put a Bow-tie on Fricassee, I cracked up, because Nicole is known to have a thing about bow-ties (just ask Junior, the cat.)
Nicole and Mark are a creative duo with a flock of chickens, a heard of cats, and a livestock guardian dog named Earline, who I witnessed playing with the chickens like they were puppies. Earline and Fricassee take their protector jobs seriously, sounding an alarm when a predator approaches, allowing the chickens to take cover. I love the way that Nicole described the dog barking and the rooster cackling, “The whole show is quite impressive when you see it working all together…one of the many fascinating things that humans have lost touch with – the instincts and natural functions the Mother has built into its inherent structure.” This level of protection allows the chickens to be pasture raised, inspiring their slogan…happy hens lay healthy eggs.
Like all of the farmers featured in this series, the talents extend beyond the borders of the farm. Nicole is a graphic designer and decoupage queen with an eye for style. Her business Fondue Vintage Homewares specializes in switch-plate covers and lampshades covered in vintage wallpaper. I’m only slightly jealous of her awesome collection of vintage wallpaper. You can see and purchase some of her creations on her Etsy store. Mark plays the guitar, brews beer (with their homegrown hops), cooks a mean cornbread and wrangles chickens in addition to his day job at The Ranch, a world class recovery and rehab facility in Hickman County TN.
Prints from the New American Gothic Series will be on display at Toyzini Gallery (Stop #15) on the Arts & Ag Tour of Hickman County, May 27-28. More info on the tour can be found at the Arts & Ag Website.