•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Milk of Contentment

HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON: "We seldom take great pictures. You have to milk the cow a lot and get lots of milk to make a little piece of cheese."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The Dream of Carnation Farm

E. A. Stuart found added butterfat in contentment and founded Carnation. He sold us a life style with our morning coffee, and many followed to the Pacific Northwest where happy cows grazed lush meadows, but who are these ungulates whose contentment we emulate before we hurry off to work, and whose milk we now powder and can and send over the moon? We have lived with them since the dawn of civilization, and I'm not sure we've learned a thing. What do they think about when I pass with my tripod on my shoulder or when I follow their worn path and set it in their pasture? They turn their heads and watch, and some walk over, and I'm not privy to their secret glances or to the politics of the herd. When the weather is brisk and they're charged on cowgetations one, wise, old Jersey may moo horsely and then so many faces turn and hundreds of eyes track my every step.

It's a bit unnerving because I know it's important, that bovine knowledge they are sharing, but I know they mean no harm to a lone photographer with a feather in his hat, retreating up the hill. They're wise to the ways of the pasture. When I look back many have put their heads back down and returned to ruminating herd hearsay: the poor quality of clover this spring, the disgracefully low price of Grade A Prime, the best way to instruct young calves about the electric fence, and why Elsie's stopped grazing with Bess.

It was 1907 when E. A. Stuart proclaimed the virtue of contentment. When asked how he came up with the name, "Carnation," he said he got it from a cigar he used to smoke.