Jackie Nickerson began photographing Zimbabwean farm workers in 1996 as a way to change the perception that those who work in African agriculture are disempowered, unmodern people. The resulting series, Farm, focused on the unique and beautiful clothing the workers made for themselves, and by doing so highlighted the worker’s identity, individuality, and ultimately their modernism.
Now with Terrain, Nickerson turns her attention to the roles in which workers play in the production and commodification of agricultural goods. Agriculture is an unavoidable fact of African life: it accounts for 70% of employment on the continent, and 25% of its GDP. TERRAIN focuses on the synergy between cultivation, workers and the environment.
“The photographs still ripple with politics, particularly around the issues of food production, agribusiness and labor. It’s just that they are marked with a next-generation awareness of the pitfalls of photographing people. Where the liberal humanism of earlier social documentary used people as its “universal” currency, “Terrain” puts plants and work implements in the foreground. In this sense, you might call Ms. Nickerson’s work post-human social documentary.” Martha Schwendener, New York Times (January 24, 2014 pg. C29, Art in Review).
"TERRAIN is about us in the landscape, how we change the world we inhabit at every moment of our being human, and how, for better and for worse, the world that we make, in turn, changes who we are."