Image Analysis: ‘Fake Farms’
Produced by John S. Prichett
For this analysis, I have chosen, ‘Getting around zoning laws – Fake Farms Agricultural Community’, produced by John S. Prichett. My chosen site, the Community Garden of Mount Olive, is a place where residents can interact with recently implemented local ecology, but I take issue with the town and the site’s ability to discourage residents from doing just that. While this image has no correlation to any specific race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, culture, creed or color, my selected site does and it is what withholds my fellow townspeople and I from truly feeling comfortable there and being socioeconomically-abled to do so. This analysis will not discuss these perspectives. What this analysis will include is a more extensive interpretation of the image itself and why it was chosen for discussion.
Produced by John S. Prichett for the Honolulu Weekly, this image is in both color and monochrome print, although I found it more enchanting in black and white. The image was produced in mid-2008, when an increasing number of zoning law cases began throughout the United States. People began using their land for commercial or industrial purposes, which resulted in laws implemented to discontinue their preferences in order to prevent oil and such businesses from affecting residential areas. This image exhibits just that, but in a reversed, satirical manner.
From the first glance upon this image, I was immediately drawn to the foreground, where lies a sign written, ‘Welcome to Fake Farms Estates Agricultural Community’. In my perspective, the sign was the brightest and one of the larger objects in the image and it reminds me of my own town sign driving in and out of Mount Olive, one of the first things you see coming into town and one of the last things you see going out. The intricacy of the writing in different sizes, styles and shades is what hooked me. Just beside are what appear to be cardboard cutouts of livestock, trees and farm tools, creating the beginning of ‘Fake Farms’ for the audience in highly contrasted black and white tones. I found this to be a particularly humorous moment in connection to my site because 1) it reminded me that although the Community Garden and a few other local farms exist in my town, we are still suburban living, and 2) in the background of the image, one of the cardboard cutouts is facedown, fallen over, revealing its fakeness.
The artist leads down a dirt road path to the ‘agricultural community’ of residential homes and cars tucked away, with a vast expansion of mountains lining the background. I think the idea that they aren’t very detailed in comparison to the foreground objects brings focus to what is most important: the foreground. But what truthfully caught my attention here was the sideways orientation of the cardboard cutout trees, revealing their facade. Wouldn’t the people of the community think to face the cutouts toward the entrance of the road for newcomers? To me, I feel that blatant discontinuity and disregard on behalf of the people within that community feel like the same discontinuity and disregard people and the townspeople of Mount Olive have for other residents and their impact on the environment. The garden itself isn’t necessarily an environmental justice when it just perturbs the previous ecological system and includes only those who can afford, with time or money, its resources.
In a total glance at the image again, I realized the scale and perplexity of the objects was a little contrasted. The largest objects in scope are the sign and the cardboard cutouts. They also happen to be some of the more detailed objects. It makes perfect sense, the idea of telling the audience the ‘farm’ is fake and also showing it. But what is unclear is whether I am even perceiving the image the intended way from the author. Maybe the inclusion of people would help, seeing what they are wearing, what color they are, what they potentially are saying, an emotion, something to help me better understand from the side of the perpetrators against zoning laws. To some extent, that’s how I also feel about my town sometimes, the Community Garden is there, it exists, but the information regarding its history and participation are scarce. The town doesn’t always feel for the people, especially when we as a group don’t share a widely universal perspective or even have a grand space for discussion on hot topics (i.e. climate change, human rights, etc.). So, one can only hope their perception is the reality.
On the whole, this image tells a story, the artist leads from one point to the end in a fluid path with a whimsical approach to facades, both in color and monochrome prints. As I have interpreted it, there are some components or objects missing, but the overarching point is quite direct. Like many other places, Mount Olive included, people feel they can do as they will, but do a poor job covering up the truth and so results in a great exhibition of lies. The Community Garden is nothing more than a profit for the town, which similarly to those disobeying zoning laws, is a cover for selfishness. It isn’t to promote community oneness or environmental benefit, but to help people make money. For the environmental justice movement, this means the big corporations who have disadvantaged, suppressed or ruined the lives of many people across the United States since the post-World War II era for the same reasons, selfishness and greed.
Focal Point: My eyes are first drawn to the sign in the forefront of the image. It is a welcome sign like one would see coming in and out of districts with different size and style fonts. It is satirical because it is making fun of those attempting to evade zoning laws.
Direction of Movement: The depth of the picture means to traverse the viewer past the sign and into the community down the road. But my eyes next go to the trees and animals that are wooden cutouts. I think the artist means to introduce the idea of ‘Fake Farms’ to the audience, including images that show people capitalizing on land ownership for a mass residential market.
Spatial Relationships: I would think that the mountains in the far back of the image are meant to depict the residential homes tucked away behind the facade of an agricultural landscape in the forefront.
Color: This image is in black and white, although the producer highlights contrasting points of view. The cow next to the sign in the forefront appears to be the brightest shade of white in the picture, most likely to attract the audience’s first glance to that section. In the same regard, the darkest shade in the image is within the cardboard cutout tractor’s tires. I believe this is because the artist intentionally grouped these contrasting components together for first-glance attraction value. This image has also been produced in color, with not many contrasting colors but the standard color scheme (i.e. green in the grass, red tractor, blue sky, etc.).
Scale/Size: Because the tractor would respectively be large in real life, its dark shade and large size also attracts attention toward the same area as the cow and the sign, which are the other two largest components of the image. ‘Fake Farms’ appears to be the largest text in the imagely, most probably because: 1) titles of towns/districts/regions tend to be largest on signs, so people know where they are and where they are headed, all in real life, and 2) the author wants to have the audience understand at first glance what information they are perceiving and what his image is depicting. Lastly, I would say the mountain range and the group of homes takes up a decent portion of the image, in all likelihood to emphasize the magnitude of people swarming to regions with illegal zoning codes for some reason.
Contrasts: I see several components that play off one another. Having an area being introduced with a sign written, ‘Fake Farms’ in the same area as cardboard cutouts of trees, livestock, and farming equipment that idea bounces back and forth for me when processing the rest of the image. After this point, I begin wondering what ‘Fake Farms’ is referring to. Following down the dirt road path, I can see the grouping of homes and that ‘Fake Farms’ is making a joke about how people fake whatever they wish to achieve their goals, even if illegal or not plainly the truth.
Individual Actors & Details: I can say I actually laughed out loud when I approached the background of the image, when I noticed one of the cardboard cutout trees had actually fallen over. It was funny for me because it was clearly placed by the artist as blatant discontinuity to reinforce the previous idea of ‘Fake Farms’.
Absences: If the people of this area were trying to make their most believable ‘fake farm’, they would have put out a few more cardboard cutouts. What farm only has one chicken and one cow wandering? It also has me perplexed the way the cardboard cutout trees are facing; If one is traveling down that path, wouldn’t they see each individual side profile of those ‘trees’?
Values & Meanings: I think given the infrequency of the appearing animals, the obvious inversion of the cutouts and the generic poorness to the façade of the people, the artist is trying to provoke the poor ability of the people who attempt to go beyond their rights within zoning. I think the artist is trying to portray how hard it probably is to functionally go around zoning codes without getting caught.
Where to go Next:
- Land use cartoon, agricultural land zoning, fake farms cartoon, zoning laws, luxury housing development, political cartoon, Honolulu Weekly Pritchett editorial cartoon