There is a moment I prize in the act of work, a place where mind and body mesh. This confluence of mental acuity and bodily motion is one of our finest accomplishments. The intelligent use of the hands, the focus of the eyes, the subtle shifts in weight, the intuitive use of force, the living act of concentration needed to carry out the tasks of work are among our greatest pleasures. You need time and practice — years of experience — to master the skills of a trade. But once you are there, you are… there. In that moment, at the pinnacle of this graceful application of effort, I find my subject. In these pictures, the workaday falls away and I am in a perfect trance, close companion to the almost mythic beings who make our world go round, doing my work as they do theirs.
Noun: The transference of energy produced by a motion. Activity in which one exerts strength to do something. Sustained physical or mental effort accomplished by exercise of skill. Synonyms are labor, toil, travail, and grind. Activity of body, of mind, or machine, exhausting to mind or body.
Adapted from the new Merriam Webster Dictionary
Meet Rick T, DVM. He’s been an equine vet for 30 years. His Dad practiced in the same area for 34 years before him. We spend the day driving from one barn to another, Rick in constant touch with “base” through his CB radio. At one place he gives a physical to a pregnant mare, at another he x-rays a lame horse, at another he pulls a wolf tooth. Rick begins by sedating the horse. You can tell that a horse is sedated when its head hangs down. They remember the needle, he says, and don’t like it, so you have to be fast. He is so fast I can never make a good picture of him doing it.
Elkhorn, Wisconsin 2007
These photographs were made as a result of a commission I was awarded by the Wisconsin Arts Board in 2007. They are my contribution to a larger study of labor in our state. They were exhibited at several venues in Wisconsin, including the Watrous Gallery in Madison.
All images and text © Dick Blau
By Dick Blau