2020 (first published) reprinted in 2021
Highly commended, Aoteraoa Photobook Awards, 2022.
Mother Lode is a beautiful example of what can happen when production, photography, design, and text come together in service of the same goal. It is visually beautiful, the type of book you fall in love with immediately and completely. The relationship between the drawing, the photographs, and the additional piece of fiction is excellent and brings together Shelton and Munro’s practises perfectly. This is a poetic take on the themes of growing, planting and ecology. The illustrations lead you into these themes through repetitive layouts and branching elements that come from a centre. Adam’s words really highlight the narrative potential of the imagery while the colours and design elements pull everything together and the aerial photograph at the end provides a sense of perspective. There is a feeling of completeness. The choice of font, heavy with symbolism, sets the tone really well; this is a symbolic piece of work that has grows out of all of the shapes in nature that people have created stories from for so long.
mother lode engages an inspirational site: a small farm that ameliorates climate change and stands for food security and food ethics. Wairarapa Eco Farm is an oasis, a tiny salve on the open wound of the climate emergency. Disrupting our aesthetically based relationship with garden landscapes and the Edenic heritage of such manufactured notions of nature, this group of images engage with the history of gardens and their representation in an art historical context. Taken at Wairarapa Eco Farm, they oppose the formulaic and crafted nature of the gardens we have come to regard as beautiful and which have long populated our art historical frame. This garden is a wholly different aesthetic beast where groupings of kale can just be seen emerging from clumps of grass in late summer, and trees, herbs and all kinds of plant matter co-exist and thrive.
This patch of ground is where my vegetables and eggs have been produced for the last thirteen years. The farm operates under the political structure of Community Supported Agriculture, which allows farmers to rely on a predictable income through the advance payment of shares in return for a season’s produce. Oppositional to the monolithic and monocultural farms that surround it, Wairarapa Eco Farm offers an alternate model for food production and supply. mother lode the artist book also includes a group of digital drawings – a collaboration with designer Duncan Munro – which are generated from elements of the photographs, referring to unseen aspects of the farm eco-system: the machinations of microbes, soil, and living organisms of all types.
— Ann Shelton
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