When photographer and filmmaker Mike Hazard (a.k.a. “Media Mike”) moved to Lowertown in 1999, his new place was less than a block from the downtown St. Paul Farmer’s Market, so it was natural to incorporate a stop there into his routine. With all its townie charm, bustle and sheer vitality, he’s found documenting the market’s growers and regulars over the years to be irresistible. “I began by shopping for the good food,” he writes, “while making a few pictures and taking a note or two. I fell in love with the whole shebang.”
Those pictures and notes evolved into a beautiful multimedia project, “Cornucopia,” which he’s presenting this weekend, on site at the market. With his photos and poems, he says he hopes “to reflect the market as a place, as a group of people, as much as a collection of fruits and vegetables.”
“People love seeing themselves,” he says, “and taking the photos with people at the market really creates a kind of closure, community, collaboration. It’s not just about good food (and it really is good food, which has changed the way I eat.) These images, in many cases, have stories – have resonances.”
That’s likely because, as he has taken photos of these farm families over the years, he has also been hanging out with them, swapping stories. “I’ve gotten to know these growers’ families, watched their kids grow up – watched them go from being babies in strollers to rambunctious kids playing at the market, to that time when they get old enough to have jobs and tasks of their own.”
He goes on, “I want to close that circle: You see beauty, you experience it, and you create a work of art based on that – and then you give it back.” So, when Hazard takes a photo, he takes his subject’s contact information, too; he then prints the image at home and mails it off to them.
“I hear them describe that moment,” he says, “the moment when the grower hands you your food, as a closing of a circle, too.” And they love it, they’d have to, he says, because “God knows, there are easier ways to make a living. These growers are living large, and they’re living hard.”
And Hazard is convinced that knowing a bit about the people behind those gorgeous displays of produce at the market makes the food taste better. The stories he’s gathered, that deeply personal knowledge of the growers who feed him just “makes every sense of the experience of the food – shopping for it, preparing it, sharing it with others – that much richer.”
This Saturday during market hours, with support from Irrigate (funded in part by Knight Foundation), Hazard will present the fruits of his own labors: a collection of 200 photographs and poems, written with and in honor of the people of the St. Paul Farmer’s Market. The images and texts will be installed in four-by-six-inch plexiglass boxes, “so they’re easy to play with, like a cinema of stills.” Hazard will be there, too, dressed all in green, to share stories and recite poems, and chat folks up as they look through the work.
“This project is about praise,” he says, “for the people here and what they grow, and also for the beauty and good things that these people bring to my neighborhood and to my dinner.”
To whet your appetite for this weekend’s “Cornucopia,” here’s a pair of Hazard’s poems:
A Pint-Sized Child
A pint of raspberries rests
in the lap of a pint-sized child.
Lolling in her stroller, she’s
living in the lap of luxury.
“Don’t eat them,” Mom says,
as the little one begins eating,
too much; we laugh until
we grow red as raspberries.
He holds out his hands in a beam of sun.
Dirt jammed under finger nails, informed
by ceremonies of dust and mud, he teaches
“Every day above ground is a good one.”
On Saturday, September 29th from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., multimedia artist Mike Hazard’s project, “Cornucopia,” will be at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, 290 E. 5th Street, St. Paul; www.stpaulfarmersmarket.com.