FarmHer: Focusing on women in agriculture
Flip through the ag section of your local newspaper, and chances are you'll see photos of men in the field, livestock, and machinery. But where are the women? That's the question Marji Guyler-Alaniz asked herself in February 2013.
A few weeks before this newspaper epiphany, Alaniz – along with millions of other Americans – was deeply touched by the two-minute Dodge Ram "So God made a farmer" commercial featuring Paul Harvey, which aired during the Super Bowl.
The commercial got her thinking more and more about agriculture. Alaniz, who now lives in Urbandale, Iowa, grew up in the country. Even though her parents weren't farmers, her grandparents were, so she has always had a healthy appreciation of ag.
"The more I looked, the more I realized there was a real lack of images of women in agriculture everywhere," Alaniz says. "But women are on every farm, putting the work in."
Adjusting her focus
At this point in her life, Alaniz had spent 11 years working in marketing and risk management for an agricultural insurance company. She also had a side business as a photographer. "I decided it was time to make a change," she says.
With the encouragement of her husband, Tony Alaniz, who grew up on a farm near Grinnell, Iowa, she left the insurance business behind and decided to focus on photography. This move also allowed her to spend more time at home with daughter Ava, now 4, and son A.J., 2.
Her new enterprise wouldn't be an ordinary photography business, however. Alaniz decided to combine her love of photography and her passion for promoting women in agriculture. "I knew I could do something more," she says. FarmHer was born.
"FarmHer started as a photography project to show that women are an important part of ag," Alaniz says. "I realized that people in urban areas may not know that." The idea was to photograph women doing their work, and to share those images on a website, www.farmher.com.
Alaniz began reaching out to farm women to find the right subjects. The project picked up steam, and by last summer, she was photographing one to two women per month. Her photos aren't traditional posed portraits of women with perfect hair and make-up. They show women doing real work. In some photos, the subjects' faces aren't even seen, but their emotions are still conveyed, and the audience gets a feel for their life on the farm.
Alaniz started off photographing women in Iowa, close to home. Since then, she has done shoots in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Florida, and plans to expand both geographically and by showcasing different facets of agriculture. "I try to find someone to photograph wherever I visit," she says.
Getting down to business
In October, Alaniz incorporated FarmHer. "Now I have to figure out how to run this project as a business, while still promoting women in ag," she says.