Rebecca Bloomfield loves to help things grow.
That may seem like an off-beat way of introducing a talented photographer who is gaining local notoriety because of her work on Small Town Big Talk currently on display at the David M. Hunt Library in Falls Village, CT, as well as on the library’s website. It is, however, the truth. Growing on many levels is very much at the heart of Rebecca’s career journey.
Born and raised in Cleveland, OH, Rebecca and her two sisters enjoyed the intriguing balance of having one parent who is a physician (her father) and one who is a well-regarded novelist (her mother). The balance of caring and creativity has had a profound influence on all three Bloomfield children.
Rebecca chose to attend college in Canada – she has dual citizenship – and explored “Development Studies,” with a focus on emerging Third World cultures and economies. Growing.
With an introductory experience at Camp Isabella Freedman in Falls Village, working in their organic farm, Bloomfield found her way to Berkeley, CA, and the ”Edible School Yard” project at a public middle school – Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School – in that community. With a curriculum tie-in through both science and humanities, the Edible School Yard project has for 25 years engaged students and community in planting, harvesting, cooking, sharing. Growing.
The journey was far from over for Rebecca. With organic farming becoming a passion, she went to Michigan on an educational fellowship to be part of the Michigan State University organic farmer training program. Program completed, she was off to Canada, once again, to establish her own organic farm outside of Ottawa. Growing.
With understanding, experience, and an unbridled passion to become fully engaged in a community dedicated to growth, Rebecca returned to Camp Isabella Freedman, this time to work for six years as a fellow in the Adamah program.
When Rebecca felt it was time to write the next chapter, she acknowledged that she felt very much at home in the Litchfield Hills, “where I can reach the Appalachian trail in five minutes by foot, and Grand Central Station in two hours by train.”
Her decision to stay was more than a physical decision, it was emotional and spiritual, as well. “I wanted to honor the artist part of me,” she says with great conviction.
Those of a certain age may remember the quiet revolution begun in 1989 when Martha Sinetar published Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow: Discovering Your Right Livelihood.Rebecca Bloomfield could be the 21st century model for that affirmation.
Where did photography figure in this story?
Throughout the adventures that have been aggregated in Rebecca Bloomfield’s life until now, the notion of storytelling has been a strong undercurrent. Armed with a camera, she’s been able to document the magic of a group of middle school students in California learning the mysteries of planting, growth, harvesting, and cooking. Throughout the process of acquiring and running an organic farm in Canada, there was the presence of the visual diary, the cryptic notes of narrative. As she approached her next adventure, the allure of being a full-time, professional photographer … a visual storyteller … emerged as her focus.
There are many “schools” of photography in the sense of approaches, goals, techniques and disciplines that professional photographers have developed since Louis Daguerre successfully harnessed centuries of experimentation to present, in 1839, the first true photographic image. Landscapes, portraits, architectural studies, news reporting, event documentation … each has an infinite number of shadings and stylistic options.
For Rebecca, the focus of her work was very clear. “I approach photography as a visual listener and storyteller. I aim to illuminate authentic moments of human connection and to spark emotion and meaning. I love working with clients who are excited to be surprised by their photos, who want a collection of candid and unfiltered moments.”
Legendary photographer Diane Arbus was celebrated for her approach which was, at the time, revolutionary. “By befriending, not objectifying her subjects, she was able to capture in her work a rare psychological intensity.” (Tessa DeCarlo in Smithsonian Magazine, May 2004).
For Rebecca Bloomfield, that practice of befriending her subjects is a beautifully unique approach that has resulted in a portfolio that presents families being who they are. Children are not posed and set against a staged background. They wander and walk, play and cling to their parents in images that will be fondly recalled for years to come.
Imagery as transportation
At its heart, transportation is about movement. At the heart of Small Town Big Talk is transportation … movement … growth. As an art installation, it is an amalgam of portraits of the residents of a small town in northwestern Connecticut. The black and white images are crisp, the faces resolute and the effect is calming. Everything in the town must be, basically, good.
Embellish those images with the quotes selected by interviewer Adam Sher, and the portraits find their voices. The effort has been made to take a selection of the population and allow them to share Big Talk, not small talk. This is more than “Hey, how are you?” It is a moment of revealing the soul behind the face … and within the town.
The value of the project? On a primary level, it gives voice and face to a community. On a longer lasting trajectory, it encourages dialog and understanding. It celebrates a place and its people and eagerly welcomes the civic and societal growth that comes with deeper conversations.
The project as presented both on the Hunt Library Art Wall and in the accompanying book, which is for sale at the library to benefit its operations. It was created as a civic art project supported by a grant from Bridging Divides, Healing Communities a fund of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. So, it would seem that this project has been a logical, engaging extension of Rebecca Bloomfield’s enchantment with growth.
Work and life for most everyone was changed immeasurably by the impact of COVID-19 on bases both global and local. Artists who thrive on having their work seen and appreciated by others have tried to be resourceful in utilizing social media and creating display opportunities that went from foreign to commonplace in a matter of days.
For Rebecca, the isolation demanded by the pandemic inspired her to turn her camera on herself –
to create a visual poem of life in isolation and, because her talent is not limited to photography, add a musical score that selects a cut from an album of her singing that she had previously recorded at The Music Cellar in Millerton, NY.
Presented on her website, rebeccabloomfield.com, Home Alone documents her sequestered life with charm, intimacy and – here it comes – growth. The soundtrack she selected presents a very lyrical, softly elegant presentation of Bob Dylan’s 1974 song Shelter From the Storm. Dylan’s poetry seems truly appropriate to the journey Rebecca Bloomfield has taken and to the direction she has chosen going forward.
“She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns
‘Come in,’ she said, ‘I’ll give you shelter from the storm.’”
Caring, creativity … and growth. •
Currently on display at the Hunt Library in Falls Village is the product of Rebecca’s photographic art. “Small Town Big Talk” is a collaboration with Adam Sher and Meg Sher. Visit rebeccabloomfield.com to view the project, her portfolio and to reach out to her.
Are you an artist and interested in being featured in Main Street Magazine? Send a brief bio, artist’s statement, and a link to your work through the arts form on our “arts” page on our website.