It’s likely that Thomas Zimmerman sees the farming world in a way no one else does. And if he’s doing his craft just right, the images he captures on his camera are as stirring to you as they are to him.
“It’s a difficult thing to be in a moment, with a lot behind it, and have other people feel what you feel when they look at your pictures, to have them feel what you felt the moment you shot it,” said Zimmerman, a farmer and art photographer in Western Kansas.
Zimmerman, whose business is cleverly named The Farmin Artist, wasn’t raised on a farm, but his grandparents grew up on farms, and his father was a diesel mechanic who worked on tractors, combines, and all sorts of farm equipment. Zimmerman loves agriculture, and is keenly aware of how much the people in America’s Heartland love it, too.
“I enjoy taking those feelings that we’ve all had in agriculture and making photographs that people can relate to and connect to,” he said.
The self-taught photographer fell in love with shooting the first time he picked up a camera, and he showed such natural talent that it wasn’t long before he and wife opened a portrait studio. However, long, tedious hours, especially when it came to editing wedding photography, grew tiresome — photography was on the verge of becoming more work than joy.
His art photography, and the freedoms it allowed, saved him. He became skilled in a style known as High Dynamic Range imagery, where multiple photos of the same scene are shot using different shutter speeds. Those photos are then combined so the lighting brings out the details and highlights of the varying parts of the frame.
“That’s what kept me in love with photography, and I grew that to the point where I could walk away from the portrait studio,” said Zimmerman, who began farming on a corn, wheat, and cow-calf operation with his in-laws a little more than a year ago.
An image called “Wicked,” which showed a tornado threatening an aging prairie house, was Zimmerman’s first internationally recognized image. From there, he’s gone on to produce compelling images of agriculture and rural life.
Zimmerman goes for a natural look to his artwork, one that connects the viewer to a sense of place, instance, or passion.
“Usually it makes you feel something, if you’re before a scene that stirs your soul,” he said. “I’m trying to take what I feel and make that feeling be conveyed in my photographs.”