What exactly was "The Farm" commune in the sixties?

I unexpectedly ran into was a large group of some thousands of young people listening to a man who spoke of non-violence and spiritual beliefs that was not one sided towards his personal brand of wisdom.

I thought Stephen Gaskin was an honorable man trying to help young folks understand why any of us were personally going through these trying and experimental times of youth and unrest in the country.

It took the killings at Kent State and a turning towards a question of violence in retaliation that made a large group of preachers around the country look at Gaskin as a spokesman for non-violence and an understanding of a more peaceful direction young people could take to answer society’s questions about the war and other cultural happenings.

So, The Caravan was born by invitation that anyone who wanted to go along and be a part of the cross-country visits to these churches and Universities should get a school bus to live in and be part of this movement.

And off it went for nine months around the country, with Gaskin speaking to thousands of young people about the better ways to be in a society so upset with itself.

Why photograph this community?

My training in photography came from a very unique person in San Francisco who was as good a photojournalist as I have ever seen.
We used to run around San Francisco and just “shoot” and I learned how a street shooter could see, find and capture life’s stories with vision, skill and purpose.

This is what I brought to the community and I became a photojournalist for the community full time.

Did I have a direction, or a standard format?

Not really. I was always a part of the community and always felt that what was going on at the time and where we stood in the greater society’s eyes was part of my storytelling responsibility.

At an early stage I also handled the PR, press and media visits and Stephen Gaskin’s media relationships.

I also gained a partner in our early video venture and we went on to capture a lot of farm life and our non-profit charity group, Plenty International’s ventures world-wide.

Photographing births is quite a different atmosphere, how did you navigate it?

During this time frame we were very strict about honoring the marriage vows and remaining loyal as husbands and wives. So along came hundreds of babies over the years, all delivered by women who became highly trained and trusted midwives.

Stephen Gaskin’s wife, Ina May Gaskin, started the The Farm’s home birth program out of necessity. 

There were babies being delivered constantly and there had to be a support system with a pregnant woman’s clinic, a trained and 24-hour EMT and ambulance crew, and a local physician, Dr. Williams, who helped develop the protocol needed for handing so many deliveries.

We needed more documentation and ways to present what it was actually like to have a safe home birth.

Along with some of the women photographers, I attended the clinic on a regular basis to shoot the pregnant women’s coming for their exams during their terms.

I became a trusted person who could be a good observer, keep “my vibes” together, and be invisible at the birthing’s I was invited to.

We video-taped many births and edited and produced learning programs that went to teaching hospitals and midwifery centers around the world. The sales of the tapes supported our efforts and we did more of them over the years.

What was it like to capture such intimate spaces? 

There were times when I only shot pictures, and captured those intimate moments of childbirth shared between a mother, husband and midwives.

I felt privileged to be part of this team of women who could provide such a safe and loving environment.

As a man, it changed me. I saw women doing something as ageless as all history.

I am just the messenger of what transpired over all the years that The Farm was a vibrant community with so many young families working and growing together.

The gift I share is the feel of who these people were during those years.

You see them, you can feel their nature and their spirit.

Tell us more about the picture you took with the gathering of midwives.

The picture of Ina May Gaskin teaching the midwives at the clinic is the reason why the births were safe.

The midwives had a protocol that every pregnant woman have regularly scheduled check-ups to track progress.

One of the midwives was from the South Bronx and the other two were from Guatemala.

We raised our children well and taught them that their happiness and security was in having family and friends to surround and love them.

Perhaps this is why we were often described as a family monastery.

A unique name but in practice, every society teaches the basics of raising your children well.

Sitting Bull was wise in telling his people..."Let’s put our minds together and see what kind of life we can build for our children."
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