Elliot Ross is an professional photographer and visual storyteller, who was born in Taipei, Taiwan and currently based Brooklyn, New York. He recieved his BFA in photography from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Elliot worked with photographers like Mark Seliger and Annie Leibovitz. For his new series “The Reckoning Days”, Elliot documented the Mertens family makes their home on thousands of acres of wheat in Northeast Colorado. The family is faced with many dilemmas – one of which is poverty due to an ever changing industry and fluctuating weather.
The Reckoning Days
As the velvety black settles around us, the crickets’ song finds full crescendo in between the cut and uncut rows of perfectly planted wheat. We’re thankful that the thunderhead trailed to the North this time, though the storm, I suppose was uncertain of its own trajectory. The breeze steadies, the great combines swallow and thrash, all the while lightning strobes us with unnatural frequency.
This is the time to cut. We cut until Mother Nature or God directs us otherwise. This has been a wild year A year of plenty, no doubt, but also a year of doubts. Mid -March, the rains came and stayed. Pasture dams ran over, lakes sprung up in our fields and the dirt roads turned to muddy smears that eventually vanished all together. Isolation reigned as the homestead became an island in a sea of flooded prairie. Its the first time in our lifetimes we can remember asking Him for dry weather. Make the rain stop.
After a few weeks, the sun returned and revealed God’s new kingdom. Never have we seen such an abundance of rabbits, antelope, toads, nor wheat. The wheat! Even the eldest cannot recall a time of stalks waist high and heads bent under the weight of grain. It’s a majestic, yet fearful sight. Imagine if you would: a million and a half dollars of grain sitting out there spread over 3300 acres, swaying in the wind. Mind you, there’s already three quarters of a million invested in this crop and that’s not counting the hours of toil that the six of us have put in over the last ten months. This hazy dream, a scenario where we reap hundreds of thousands of bushels, fill all our bins to the top, and maybe even the basement of our home with wheat, could be erased at a moment’s notice. All it would take is a tornado, fire or hail. It’s happened before and it makes our gut sink to know that it’ll happen again. So for now, we pray, we cut, we cut, we pray, and we worry. That is the rhythm of our existence until we, by the grace of God, harvest all our wheat. This may be the year of plenty. but these are the reckoning days.
Over the last year I have been exploring the idea of isolation through observing the lives of those who toil M the far-flung regions of the Earth to make ends meet. Deeply inspired by the lifestyles of the rural working class and informed by the empathetic eye of the FSA photographers, namely Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, I set out to create a visual reaction to the hardships and wagers of wheat harvest in the rural high plains of Northeast Colorado. The work is less of a document and more of a lyrical journey into the deep sense of faith, family, and connectedness to the land that these farmers hold closely.
In a time of instant gratification with social media and overnight shipping. I am left spellbound by the foresight. prudence and patience of these remarkable men and women. Society is generally removed from the processes in which bread and hundreds of other products reach our baskets. As a result, farmers- the epitome of the trustworthy, hardworking American- have been increasingly marginalized. We must protect, nurture and celebrate the salt of the earth.
– Elliot Ross