Nature Through the Lens: Part 2—An Interview with Barbra Barrett, MLT’s New Development Manager
As we change from the stick season, as some New Englanders call the late days of fall, to the deep snows of winter, Barbra Barrett, Mahoosuc Land Trust’s new Development Manager, looks back on this past summer in The Habitat For All Garden.
Small Things: How long have you been taking pictures?
Barbra: I’ve been taking pictures casually since I was a kid when I started out with what now would seem like a toy camera. Over the years, my passion for photography evolved—several people told me that I had a good eye which inspired me to develop my skills and take it more seriously. During the same time, I also became a gardener. I quickly learned that flowers and vegetables were more compliant subjects unlike my kids who made silly faces every time I tried to snap a photo. It was about ten years ago when I met a serious flower photographer who changed everything. His pictures were captivating, almost otherworldly. I credit him for helping me see things differently. Adding to that, the existence of The Habitat For All Garden has provided a playground of possibility.
Small Things: What does photography show you that you would not notice otherwise?
Barbra: So many things. When you shoot with a macro lens, you automatically see the intricate details that one could easily miss. As an exploration of the natural world, my time behind the lens has trained me to be a better observer. When you visit a place like the pollinator garden regularly, you become keenly aware of the perpetually changing environment and the relationships between the plants and animals that reside there. You learn which plants will attract which insects and where to look for the elusive chrysalis. As a self-proclaimed flower stalker, I often lie on the ground, which is a sight for sore eyes, but a position that unveils countless hidden gems. I think what my pictures convey most is perspective. For me it’s not just about the subject itself, but the overall composition—especially the background. I love capturing subtle nuances of light and playing with depth of field.
Small Things: Is there anything you can share about what you have learned, done, or experienced because of your pictures in the garden?
Barbra: As cliché as it may sound, my time in the garden has created more mindfulness. It’s a reminder to find a place or an activity where you can be present. There are days I crave the garden. My photography is a lot like yoga. I spend a lot of time contorting my body to get the right angle, focus on my breath, and try to be very still. Everything else, all the other burdens I had before picking up the camera melt away. It’s a meditative experience. The garden is a perfect illustration of impermanence. Everything changes and is in a constant state of motion as life flows from one stage of existence to another. My photos simply capture fleeting moments in time.
Small Things: What closing comments do you have for our readers about how the garden and photography inform your love/commitment to nature?
Barbra: When you spend time in a garden, walking in the woods, or just being outside, your awareness automatically increases as does your connection to nature. Anyone who has spent time in The Habitat For All Garden knows when you walk through the garden gate in the summer, you’ll be greeted by the bees buzzing, hummingbirds zooming by, and butterflies fluttering past you. It’s a place teeming with life. It’s a testament to why healthy ecosystems, biodiversity, and conservation matter. Nature inspires art, art provides inspiration, and inspiration initiates hope. We could all use more hope—whatever you do, find time to spend in nature.