When I was about 15 or 16, my father announced he was thinking of moving the family to our country house permanently. My mother, my sister and I were aghast. As far as we were concerned, we were city dwellers, and moving to a house a mere 30 minutes out of town was akin to moving to Siberia.
How was I going to idle afternoons away, walking through the center of town with my girlfriends, checking out boys? What of the impromptu movies and get-togethers and million other social activities just outside my doorstep? What of the freedom of coming and going as I pleased? We presented a united front and such a move was never mentioned again.
I have always considered myself a city rat. The bigger the city the happier this rat. There are very few metropolis I visited I wasn’t charmed by or, at least, found redeeming qualities in: Athens or Mexico City and others that wouldn’t immediately bring beauty to mind, I found a way to love. It must be the energy and the multitude of humanity teeming about.
But time passes and people change. The only way I can love the extra-large city I now live in, Los Angeles, is by keeping it at a bit of a distance. The canyon where I live, one of many, is bucolic: in the morning I am greeted by chirping birds and at night I go to sleep serenaded by owls and coyotes. No skyscrapers, no sirens, no loud motorcycles. If a move to the countryside was ever suggested, I might even consider it. Briefly.
As a child, there were many things about the country I loved: picking fruit straight from the trees; stealing eggs from under the chickens’ butts; lying on the grass watching clouds for hours; sitting in the shade to read; bringing home stray animals. And scarecrows. Knowing nothing at all about agricultural practices, I saw scarecrows as a throwback to a time long gone, a time I would never know, and I found them quaint, amusing and lonely.
I hadn’t thought about scarecrows in a very long time, until I saw the photographs of Peter Mitchell who, for the last 40 years, has been photographing scarecrows around Leeds, where he lives.
Peter Mitchell is a well-known photographer whose work has been at the center of many exhibitions, none of them having to do with scarecrows, which have always been a private passion of his. Until now, Mitchell had never shared the photographs, taken in all seasons, depicting happy scarecrows, seated scarecrows, tattered or well-dressed. Some scarier than others. Lonely figures trying to do their job. I was immediately drawn to them.