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Talking In Pictures: A Lexicon of Sustainability

Unless we are outside traversing a nature trail, we are continually inundated with words and images.  These messages point the way, give directions, attempt to sell products or ideas, tell stories, and inspire us.  Artist Douglas Gayeton understands the power of images and words to help us understand, inspire us, and give us direction.  He recognizes that in order to work toward sustainability in the world, people need to understand what sustainable words mean; that people need a Lexicon of Sustainability.

He and his wife Laura Howard Gayeton set out on a three-year journey across the United States, meeting with the foremost thinkers and practitioners in the sustainable food and farming movement.  He recorded their stories and their images, patiently taking thousands of pictures and stitching them together to form a solitary image.  He then took the stories and ideas of his subjects and overlayed the pictures with handwritten annotations to create “informational art”.  The result is a collection of beautiful photographs that stimulates ideas and discussion. 

Douglas Gayeton visited our partner farm Angelic Organics in 2010 and recorded Farmer John Peterson and the crew.  John was impressed by Gayeton’s skill at listening and illustrating the images from the farm with John’s words, unminced, unadulterated.  John expressed, “Gayeton was very concerned to have my voice in the photos. Many people in media put their own voice into a project and say it is the voice of their subject...not Douglas. Back and forth our correspondence went, with Douglas making sure that the final images represented my standards, priorities and values. He has my admiration for this process.” Gayeton’s voice comes through only in the stunning compositions and the writing, directing and narration of the videos. 

Gayeton has developed this project into short films that PBS has picked up, calendars, an upcoming book, a website and a traveling slideshow.  His Lexicon describes sustainable concepts like Biodynamic compost, Mobstocking, Biodiversity, Pasture-raised Livestock, Guerilla Gardening by movers and shakers in the movement such as Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, Will Allen of Growing Power, and Alice Waters of the Edible Schoolyard Project. 

On his website, he explains, “Words are the building blocks for new ideas.  They have the power to change and transform societies.”  His large-scale images are composed of the building blocks of the many images he takes during his session to capture the vitality and movement of the people and places he visits.  The result is work that is both educational and inspiring.  The very nature of the compositions speaks to the power of art to create transformation and of words to change the world.