The number following the place-name is the total number of hay images for that place in the database. Click on that number to see all the images.
In a procession to celebrate a the completion of a water project, Ecuadorians near Tabla Rumi, Chimborazo carry bundles of hay, possibly straw. The material they are carrying adds contrasting texture to the uniform indigenous costumes enduringly characteristic of the high Andes near the Equator.
Egypt’s agricultural and transportation systems have for millennia followed the course of the Nile. That course, of course, was dammed and deflected by the creation of Lake Nasser behind the Aswan Dam. These women are boating themselves and a small load of hay across the artificial lake.
I have tracked down or created almost 600 images of English haymaking, ranging in date from the 11th century to the summer of 2004, and in counties from Cumberland to Cornwall to Kent. I considered subdividing this category into counties, but resisted the urge to avoid ethnocentrism and unnecessary complexity. The price of this large, simple set is the difficulty of finding a single emblematic image from one of the several phases of English haymaking history. Should I select a painting? By a household name like Reynolds, Stubbs, Turner, or Constable? Or a hay genre specialist like David Cox? Should I return to a great hay painting already used, like the anonymous panorama of Dixton Manor? It would be a pity to “waste” a selection on a photograph, when there are so many other works from which to choose. Yet so many great photographers have pictured English hay (Emerson, Taunt, Breckenridge, Brett Weston, and dozens of others) that they all deserve consideration. And I keep returning, again and again, to one of the world’s photographic treasures, taken in the first decade of the medium, in Wiltshire a few miles from my sister’s house. Fox Talbot’s famous image precisely defines the time of year, this time of year, with late April light. The angle of the ladder’s shadow is outlined on the roughly textured surface, ideal for modulating the light on every projecting fiber. And it is still simply a magnificent, traditional haystack, half-cut for winter fodder.
This group haymaking portrait is the only hay image available for Estonia. It was culled from an online collection of oral histories with the perfect titles for our eccentric purposes. The title of the image is "All the village like one family in haymaking;" and of the collection: “The farm as the symbol of the state: Metaphoric depictions of the nation and state in the childhood memories of older Estonians.”
Lurking under the large hay halo, behind the R and B of the Corbis watermark, a young woman's eyes look out at the photographer, Caroline Penn. Her burden is a treasure, since all vegetation is precious in this country of mountains, desert and uncertain climate.
In agricultural style as in climate, latitude often imitates altitude. These staked haycocks in a Finnish field close to the Arctic Circle have a very similar form to the Austrian “Heumannschen” (literally, hay manikins) which we’ve used to epitomize that Alpine country. The weather is unpredictable; storms and Baltic clouds come scudding in to challenge the stacking and drying skills of the haymakers. And so, until the hay is safely in the shed, it must be shaped to shed the rain.
As with England, we have hundreds of French hay scenes from which to select our landscape epitome. Had we not already used “Les Tres Riches Heures” in other contexts, that lovely view of haymakers and chateau would have been an easy choice. But how can we not draw on the wealth of possibilities from the nineteenth century, from Barbizon School to Post-Impressionism? Several genre painters like Veyrassat and Lhermitte specialized in the landscapes of hay and other harvests; and Millet, Julien Dupre, Pissarro and Gauguin produced dozens of works which celebrated the worker, especially the woman peasant, in the hayfield. However, since we have yet to use the work of a woman painter, we’ve chosen the ox-drawn hay wagon of Rosa Bonheur, set in the Auvergne, a region less frequented by the better known artists than was Britanny to the north and Provence to the south.
In our pull-down menu there is only one Georgia. On the map of the world there are at least two, a former Soviet Republic and a state in the US south. Each have two hay images in our database. Of Georgia the country, both are by the same artist, Rusudan Tozashvili, both too abstract to be of much topographical help. The one shown depicts an untidy but decorative meadow, half-mown and with several brightly dressed women bending to the hay.
Until April 2005, my choice from among the German hay images would have been from the Renaissance (Durer or Altdorfer) or from twentieth century expressionism (Nolde, Beckman, Dix or Munter). Each of the latter, especially Emil Nolde along his native coast of Friesland, painted brilliantly colored stacks into their visionary landscapes. However, for several weeks, a cherished Santa Cruz friend loaned me an original hay painting which I must include here, even though the artist, Desiree Thomassin was born in Austria, and though the region and date are uncertain. The lively realism and the sensitive depiction of clouds and clothes and the hay itself recalls nineteenth century realism. But other Thomassin works, almost identical in content and composition to this one, are dated about 1916. "Munchen" often appears below her signature. While the topography is too flat to evoke Bavaria, and the folk costumes seem older than the twentieth century, the number of women working in the field give credence to a wartime date, when German boys and men were dying in the trenches to the west.
Of the two hay pictures available for Greece, one shows a photograph of two Santorini donkeys laden with what may be straw, and the other, reproduced here, has a huge barge, laden with hay-bales, moored at Vathi in Ithaca. This contrast expresses the tension between modernity and tradition in contemporary Greece. I chose the latter because it conveys the continued importance of water transportation through the history of this pelagic nation.
The contrast between the two photographs of Greenland hay is also interesting. One by Wolfgang Kaehler, found in Corbis, shows a modern tractor-drawn swather mowing neat windrows on a sunny slope that might as well be in Montana. The one I chose depicts the ancient mowing method using the scythe. Evidently such nostalgia was intended by its (online) publisher to promote tourism to the thriving municipality of Qaqortoq. As is usual with such intentions, the technology is traditional and the scenery grand, during the short summer season when this island nation lives up to the color in its name.
Istvan Csok’s painting has been compared to the more famous painting by Bastien-Lepage (ID 673 in our database), of haymakers at rest (a common sub-genre which deserves and will receive its own essay later). But the utter exhaustion of the girl in the earlier French painting is replaced here by gentle relaxation, and the Hungarian folk costumes are more tidily ethnographic than in the French work. The texture of the windrow on which the girl is lying is very well depicted.
Although there are several nineteenth century drawings and engravings of Icelandic haymaking in the database, I’ve chosen Ted Spiegel’s 1967 portrait of three brightly dressed children raking hay, because so little had changed, forty years ago, from the medieval technology of the earlier prints. The rake handles against the distant volcanic cliffs make the composition seem almost contrived. Two other photographs in our virtual collection document the adoption, by the 1990s of modern, plastic-wrapped silage, in the uncertain climate of the north Atlantic.
Almost half of our pictures of Indian “hay” are more likely bundles of rice straw, energetically captured on my behalf by two young friends who went to India to be married in 2003. None of those looks as much like hay as does the material being boated along the Keralan river in this anonymous photograph. The landscapes of India are so diverse that no single image can do them justice, but this one vividly represents the tropical jungles of the southwest.
Since only one Indonesian image is available, we take the Corbis caption at face value and accept that this Javanese farmer is carrying “hay” in the baskets on the pole across his shoulders. Equally plausible, given the small size of the loads, is an inference that the visible material may simply be grass packing for something of higher density and value.
Roger Wood’s focus is on the Kurdish women at the center of his frame. But at their side and beyond them, among the stone buildings of the Kurdish village of Ghara Kilissa, are several conical haystacks. Until there is an independent nation of Kurdistan, this will have to be considered Iranian hay.
Butow’s other photograph of Iraqis making hay in the year 2000 (ID 1878) shows more hay but less interesting socio-economic detail. Here, a goggled youth smokes a cigarette while haymaking near Irbil. One of the tines of the fork he is holding has been crudely repaired. The tractor in the background suggests transitional technology, or perhaps residual progress from before the first Gulf War and the subsequent disasters.
Two visits to the west of Ireland have raised the number of available images above the century mark, both by my own camera and in several postcards which illustrate not just the ancient process itself but how important it is to the Irish Tourist Board. Among them is a photograph by an author better known for his plays, J. M. Synge, excused from duty here by its presence in two other essays on our site. The dozens of images with which Dorothy Lange documented Irish haymaking are not well enough reproduced to justify their selection here. Rather than put my own work before hers, I’ve chosen a recent work by Tim Connor, illustrating the characteristic cocks of Connemara, capped against the frequent Atlantic storms. Connor’s own annotation is relevant here: “If I had to choose one photograph to represent what Ireland ‘feels’ like to me, this would be the one.”
The geometric regularity of the field, corduroy in its texture, and the chopping and blowing method of hay harvesting reflect both the advanced technology of modern Israel and the the swift dessication which is possible in a desert climate. This aerial photograph by Richard Nowitz might have been taken in the intermontane western United States. The other Israel photograph (ID 1695) shows children playing in the hay in 1982 Gaza during happier times.
The most famous flowering of Italian art, during the medieval, Renaissance and Baroque eras, was far more expressive of religious narrative and allegory than of the rural and urban ways of life which so interested artists and patrons in the Low Countries during the same period. In Italy hay appears mainly as a flimsy cushion in mangers of the Nativity, until the emergence in the nineteenth century of an aesthetic movement which celebrated Italian folkways and provincial landscapes. I Macchaioli, as practitioners of this school were called, often included in their work the beautiful cone-shaped stacks, built around poles, that can still be seen, especially in the Apennines of Tuscany and Umbria. Although the twentieth century has also been a productive period for the painting and photography of hay – even the great Giorgio Morandi, better known for his minimalist, obsessively repetitive still-lifes, contributed two to our collection, and Sotriffer’s Heu und Stroh has dozens of fine examples – I have chosen a work by the mid-nineteenth century artist Raffaello Sernesi, in which a row of haystacks, some half-built, others complete, pose with what can only be called Morandian stillness against a Mediterranean horizon.
Fulvio Roiter specializes in women carrying “hay” – often, as here, probably straw – in various parts of the world. But hay pictures are so rare in tropical Africa, and Roiter's theme is the only choice for Cote d’Ivoire.
These haycocks on Mount Aso, on the southwestern Japanese island Kyushu, photographed in 1986 by Gary Braasch, show both the universality of haymaking and the regional distinctiveness of its forms.
Beware the casual Corbis caption! The title for this image “Samburu dancer leaning on hay” implies that it depicts a haystack, but it is evidently a hay-thatched shelter, possibly even a small dwelling, of some kind. Nevertheless, it is the only photograph of Kenyan “hay” in our collection.
Enthusiasm for the hay-in-art project has infected several of our friends including our Santa Cruz neighbors, Bijoy and Joya Chatterjee. While traveling in Central Asia last year (2004) they spotted several haymaking and hay-transporting scenes. This is one of them. The Kyrgyz hay wagon is loaded low rather than high, so low that the wheels are barely visible. Equally notable is the traditional Russian-style yoke and the driver's hat which is remarkably similar to the headgear worn at the far end of the old Soviet Empire in Romania (see, for example, ID 2133).