The Lexicon of Sustainability

When Debi and I were about to start shooting Extra Virgin this past summer, our dear friend and executive producer Janelle gifted us with a book; “I took a bike ride to a county fair, and when I saw this I thought of you guys” she said as she dropped it in my hands.

My mom taught me not to judge a book by its cover. I personally like to fall for a publication just because of its cover, I like being lured into a book just because the cover brought me to action… In this case, a big black and white picture of farmer-ly rugged hands carrying a half dozed fresh eggs simply swept my mind away to my youngest age, when those hands could have been my grandma’s and those eggs the ones from our chickens. “SLOW, life in a Tuscan town” by Douglas Gayeton kidnapped me from the moment I laid my eyes on it; I poured a glass of wine and sat down in the kitchen for a good hour, while the girlfriends were catching up, and explored my homeland through somebody else’s experience. Douglas has lived in Tuscany for a few years and was able to capture in this book many essential features of the “natives of my country”; with incredible simplicity he conveys a powerful description of what he saw through the lenses of his camera by creating composite collages and pencil-writing the soul and the mechanics of each piece he creates.

What caught me by surprise is not just the work in itself, but its language, the way it spoke to me… in my very own language!

Now this book is a permanent feature of my dining room table, and anytime I have guests I make sure I prop it open so people will “fall into it” while passing by and visit the heart of Tuscany, even if it’s for just five minutes.

I obviously ended up on Google and tracked down Mr. Gayeton, I started following him on Twitter, and then I invited him for dinner! We finally met in person about a month ago, and drank the rightful amount of red wine that the moment deserved; that is when he spoke to me about his new project “The Lexicon of Sustainability“.

Using the same technical approach of creating composite pictures and describing them by simply writing on top of them, Douglas is introducing us to a wide variety of people that in the US are taking at heart the relationship between farmers and their crops, between honey makers and their illegal urban bee-hives, and between cowboys and methane digesters. What really “Grass Fed” means? Is there a difference between “Pasture Raised” and “Cage Free”? Heirloom Vs. Hybrid anyone?

For the past few years Douglas has been conversing with the foremost practitioners of sustainability in food and farming.They have shared their insights and experiences … and contributed their words to his rapidly growing Lexicon of Sustain Ability.  His photography project has grown to include short films, study guides, traveling shows, a book and lastly a website where people can add their own terms to this ever-evolving lexicon.

I am now a big fan of Douglas’ work and I look forward to his latest release… while hoping he accepts my invitation to write on these pages, one day!