[ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FEBRUARY 2016]
When I first heard that The Valentine was hosting a chicken-themed exhibit, I had a bit of a chuckle. What a quirky premise for an exhibition!
The show is focused on the growing trend of raising chickens in Richmond backyards. Is it city people trying to reconnect with nature? Is it reflecting the trend to only eat local foods? Is it part of Richmond’s very strong DIY culture? Well, after a conversation with photographer Alyssa C. Salomon, I found that it is all that and more that attracts people to the chicken-raising life.
Salomon became a chicken owner in 2009. She had wanted them for a long time, and moved to a rural place where it was okay to have them. She moved out there because she wanted a low-hassle lifestyle. So, it was fine that her chickens were tearing out her garden since she didn’t have a fancy garden to begin with. But what were people in the city with beautiful gardens in the fan, gonna do with their chickens? How was it gonna work?
That is what inspired her to start photographing Richmonder’s chickens around 2012.
“For photographers, a lot of photography is: you are taking things out of the world, you are putting them in front of your camera, and you are recreating them.” Salomon said. “That idea of taking from the world and putting back in the world to me is very much at the heart of photography.”
(”Woodland Heights, Richmond City, May 2014″ by Alyssa C. Salomon)
“The opportunity to work with a museum that is really conscious that the history of something is a mirror, and that we tell the story through our actions and objects, was ideal for me.” said Salomon.
See, in actuality, people obsessing over where they get their food is not a new development.
“When the industrial revolution hit America, people started flooding into cities. Food factories started up, and people started wigging out about their food quality.” Salomon said. “All these ideas about what is healthy living, health food, curative foods, and ideas around quality, content, and food sources was a hot issue. All of that really came from a fear of industrialization.”
So when you start looking at people moving into cities, leaving what they know, not knowing where their food comes from, and kind of being suspicious about conveniences, it could easily be 2015. It is an expression of our fear of the unknown, our fear of death. And that is universal.
That is what this exhibit is really all about. Connecting us to our past.
Below are some of my favorites:
(cigarette cards from 1891-92. Gift to Valentine from Mrs. Spencer C. Devan)
(Deviled Egg Plate Collection, Alyssa C. Salomon and Travis Fullerton)
Oh, and we can’t forget about the food! The second best part of going to an opening! There was a deviled egg contest featuring local restaurants–WHICH I MISSED BECAUSE OF THE SNOW MESSING UP THE CAMPUS CONNECTOR ROUTE (I’m not bitter)–and food and drink was also provided by Relay Foods and Ellwood Thompson’s!
(Pimento cheese spread, provided by Relay Foods. SO GOOD.)
“A Chicken in Every Plot” will be running until September 5, 2016!
The Valentine’s website:
Alyssa C. Salomon’s website:
Relay Food’s website:
Ellwood Thompson’s website: