Our instructor taught us technique and skill using black-and-white film that we developed and printed ourselves in the department’s dedicated darkroom. He also taught us art theory and history by introducing us to photography’s greats. When I studied Dorothea Lange’s work with the Farm Security Administration during the Depression, I was hooked.
I opened my commercial and editorial photography business after earning my master’s degree in visual sociology and researching people’s mental image of where their food comes from. No surprise to us in ag: Consumers’ picture is fuzzy. My research pushed me to put more pictures of modern agriculture into the world.
What is your favorite type of photo to shoot?
KNAPP: My favorite photos are captured in the moment. I prefer to shadow my subjects as they go about their normal tasks. Pretty soon, they forget I am carrying around a big camera and relax. That’s when I start shooting. When the action, light and composition all come together, I can create authentic, emotive images.
Describe your most memorable photo shoot.
KNAPP: I do not have just one shoot that stands out among the rest, but I have an annual photo trip that does. As a member of AAEA [The Agriculture Communicators Network], I am also a member of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. Each year, this group hosts farm tours around the world. This has given me the opportunity to shoot on farms in New Zealand, South Africa, Scotland and the Netherlands.
Why do you enjoy farm-related photography?
KNAPP: My work is rooted in consumer education. I am one of the lucky ones who grew up on a farm and get to walk through barns and fields on a daily basis. It is through my eyes the other 99 percent of the population can see a farm. I am very thankful my clients help me create these important images.
What are one or two tips you would give to an amateur photographer who wants to take a great picture of people and/or animals?
KNAPP: As the saying goes: Learn the rules before you break them. I always start creating an image by using the rule of thirds, focusing on the subject’s eyes and keeping the horizon level. Then I decide what to adjust to make the image great. The other tip I have is to shoot as much as possible. Nothing has improved my skill and eye like the year I did a photo-a-day project.
PHOTO 1: Morning chores at VanderMade Dairy near Sherwood, Ohio, were picturesque on this crisp October day. The photo was taken on assignment for Purina Animal Nutrition.
PHOTO 2: Redhead Creamery cheesemaker Alise Sjostrom prepared a platter for lunch after a long morning making cheese on her family’s dairy farm outside Brooten, Minnesota.
PHOTO 3: Michael Johnson’s two sons help him do chores at Trailside Holsteins outside Fountain, Minnesota. This photo was taken on assignment for Midwest Dairy. Photos by Katie Knapp.