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Adrián Arias

Harvest of Man

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This story is about the everlasting relationship between man and land. I was always fascinated to see how such ancient labours have survived through the ages in such difficult conditions for their workers.

“Harvest of Man” is a portrait of the population of potato growers in the areas of Cot and Tierra Blanca de Cartago in Costa Rica, creating a link between the life of workers in the field and their family life. My intention was to use the camera as an excuse to get into the daily lives of these people. Each of the visits to the area led me in a particular way, putting aside preconceptions about this population. As a result, the photographic process is a testimony to the relationship I had with the potato growers.



Adrian Arias was born in Costa Rica in 1982. He currently works as a photographer of Colectivo Nómada in Costa Rica. He has worked as a contributor to Costa Rican newspapers and magazines, such as La Nación and Soho. He has attended photography workshops with Bruce Gilden, Antoine D’Agata, Kosuke Okahara of Agence Vu and Essdras Suarez of the Boston Globe, and participated in international exhibitions in Argentina, and Toronto and in various exhibitions of documentary photography in his country.


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Editor’s note:

Please only one comment per person under this essay.. Further discussions should take place under Dialogue..

Many thanks… david alan harvey

30 thoughts on “adrián arias – harvest of man”

  1. Wonderful, an inspiration. I think the focus on the one family works very well. Rather than getting bogged down in repetitive images, each shot reveals something new. A couple shots leave me wondering why, but I think they work within the set as a whole.

    I can’t help but wonder if the shot with the kids appearing through a window in the wall was set up. It works so well either way, but I’d like to think it just happened. I also love the shot of the baby on the carpet, because in it’s simplicity it reveals something else — the beautiful, soft carpet that contrasts so much with the dirt and hard work outside.

    I’ve got to get out and do some real work and stop hanging out on the fringe.

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  3. Is there no color in Costa Rica? Why shoot this in B&W?

    My main problem is that, perhaps because the essay is too short, it does not tell a coherent story about these potato growers. It feels like a few “greatest hits” from a shoot strong together. There is just something missing that would tie it together.

    You’ve got a good eye. But this edit doesn’t do it for me.

  4. Great use of Black and White photography Adrian: excellent technique! I do hope that you return to this story often as it has the potential to become very special. Jim Richardson (Nat Geo) has photographed Cuba, Kansas, for decades and has produced work there that only an investment in time can achieve. You have the opportunity to do something of equal worth – not that your photography is derivative of Jim’s – you have your own, unique talent. I see a mature vision here.

    Thanks for sharing.



  5. This is not really a second post as I forgot to respond to Jim ….

    Jim, “Is there no color in Costa Rica? Why shoot this in B&W?”, I recently listened to a podcast by Christopher Anderson (link below) in which he comments about his new book, Capitolio, which was photographed in Venezuela. Chris seems to speak without notes and responds to questions from the audience so the podcast is a little long but he mentions that, although he considers himself to be a colour photographer he shoot the book in B&W because, for him, their was too much colour in Venezuela. By this I presume he meant that the colour was detracting from the message or mood that he wanted to impart to the viewer. Interesting point don’t you think?

    he also mentions that half the work is film, half digital and challenges anyone to tell the difference. Just thought I’d throw that one in for comment.



  6. Adrian, I really enjoyed this; beautiful images and, like Andrew, I find it an inspiring call to get out there and do some really significant work. I would have liked more – the images are powerful but the narrative suffers a little from this tight edit. You are offering great questions here – I’d like to see you carry them a bit further. Great stuff though…

  7. Gosh, you have a really fresh eye, Adrian, there’s something different about how you see.
    It was almost like being suprised by 3D pictures.
    And it took me a second to see that it was a baby on a rug, my first thought was a teapot :) it’s good to be caught unawares.
    The only couple that were misses for me were the kids through the window (just looked too staged compared to the easy spontaneity of the rest) and the basket alone on the soil was too easy?
    One of my favourite Burn pieces, very honest work.

  8. Jim, with regard to Adrian’s Harvest Of Man essay, “Is there no color in Costa Rica? Why shoot this in B&W?” – if he chooses to shoot in B&W, then he chooses to shoot in B&W! It’s his choice!

    I recently listened to a podcast by Christopher Anderson (link below) in which he talks about, among other subjects, his latest book, Capitolio; about Caracas,Venezuela. Although he considers himself a colour photographer, he states that he chose B&W because Venezuela is too colourful.

    I presume he means that for the subject, colour would get in the way of what he wanted to convey. He also mentions that the story is half film, half digital – and he challenges anyone to tell the difference.



  9. Visually stunning and emotionally moving. What a beautiful eye you bring to this work, Adrian, and I believe it is best seen in b&w. Somehow color would have been too distracting. To me anyway. I love the purity of these images, their very essence. I wanted more but that’s good. Please keep going with this exploration: it will only get richer and deeper.

    The only jarring note was the photo with the children perfectly posed through the window. It broke the flow with its perfection. Everthing else felt real, spontaneous and natural. Excellent essay!


  10. Adrian

    Congratulations on being published by Burn! While i am proud and gratified to see another Costa Rican photojournalist published here and thoroughly enjoyed your photographs, I am surprised and a bit disappointed that you did not choose to train your obviously talented eye and interpersonal skills on the potato growers living on the slopes of the Turriabla Volcano which is right next to the Irazu Volcano, home to the subjects of this essay.

    The potato farmers on the slopes of the Turrialba Volcano are suffering an acute need of documentation by a sensitive photojournalist at this time. As you know, the Turrialba Volcano has been emitting toxic gases for the past few years which has resulted in a great deal of acid rain that has had a negative effect on all agriculture and milk production in that region. Recently, the heightened level of eruption activity has caused the farmers to harvest their crops early or else lose them altogether. Only God knows if they will have their homes or whether their land will be usable next year. This is a scary and difficult time for these farmers.

    I truly hope you continue this project and that your next step will be to document the threatened lifestyle and traditions of the potato farmers in this region. It’s nice to do an essay on healthy, happy, hardworking farmers at your leisure, but as the responsible photojournalist i know that you are, it would seem imperative to document the tragic effects of these toxic eruptions on people you obviously respect and whose lifestyles you have captured so empathetically.


    Of course there is color in Costa Rica. In fact, there is color ad nauseam. I think Adrian’s choice of black and white is a thoroughly refreshing way to portray a land that tends to be exclusively represented in over-saturated colors on tourist fliers, posters, stamps, web sites, magazines and paintings of toucans, beaches, palm trees and orchids, etc. etc. etc.

    Way to go, Adrian! Let’s see more :)

    Kathleen Fonseca

  11. Mike R ..:))
    big hug..
    thanks for the podcast..it makes sense..
    im with Jim on this one..
    i would love to see the color version of this one..
    it screams colooooooor! ( or colour )

  12. Adrian.

    I feel the same as others here, this is a beautiful essay to look at, and I also find much depth to many of the images. When looking at them I can tell you’ve spent a lot of time with these people. I’ve not read the words to your essay and have no urgency in doing so in that I feel the story , generally speaking, from your images alone. Well done. You’ve got a good mind for this.

  13. Adrian – I REALLY like this essay. You have done things with potatoes that I have never seen before.

    As to the question of color vs BW – you’re the artist. You want to do it black and white, do it black and white. It works.

  14. jenny lynn walker

    I just love it! And at this moment, I feel like burying my cameras in the ground and taking up potato growing! I can smell the earth in these images, feel the weightiness of those potatoes flying through the air and hitting the ground, imagine the rain pelting down and sinking into the earth and the joy of digging into it and all that mud!
    i liked your intro and having seen the whole essay, felt i’d have liked to been introduced to the family first – and then, entered their lives more deeply rather than the other way around.
    doing it in black and white lends respect to the potato – or ‘paints’ it in a wonderful light! it may sound as if i’m being facetious but too much colour around that magnificent ‘vegetable’ (one of the worlds most amazing of foods!) would detract from it, even when it’s covered in the stuff most of us take for granted: earth.
    i hope this is just the start. i would love to see those teenagers and hear about their stories and the stories of those who have spent a lifetime as potato growers. such a difficult way to earn a living and growing up in such a situation means that to pursue it, has most often not been out of choice.
    what great help from Kathleen above. such a lot to this story and so much deeper to go with it!
    your work is packed with atmosphere and there are some very special shots in here. well done! it’s inspirational!

    wishing you the best of luck!

    jenny : )

  15. Greetings to all, it is great to receive feedback from around the world from many photographers and burn members.

    About the black and white decision, I chose it because potato harvest is a milenary tradition, and bw helps me to reflect a “timeless tradition”. Color distracted the emotional approach of the images I intended. Color talks about more actual issues that might distract from the content of this essay, as Patricia, Mike and Jenny shared.

    Thanks Kathleen for the information, I believe you are right and this project is not final yet, and see how people make new ways of living.

    Thanks again for your valuable feedback

  16. Adrian, beautiful work. As a person from Maine, a state in the Northern US known for growing potatoes (yes.. blueberries and lobsters too) I can attest to the universality of these images. The stories of hard work with low pay, youth following in the steps of older generations, and ties to the land always seem to be relevant. This is especially true in this period of history where industrial agriculture is pushing peasant farmers off their land in both the global north and south. Small scale farming is being threatened by the dehumanization of the global food industry. Your images are very strong and have the underlying power of humanizing food while connecting two distant lands.

  17. Adrian I think your explanation of why you chose black and white is much better than that other dud one about a place having too much colour. I have heard that justification a few times by now and it rings false. Not so long ago, I saw a series of pictures done in black and white about Tahiti. Can you imagine! It was so odd to see black and white on that country. However, I think it took the Pacific out of the pictures completely and replaced it with nothing, though they were good pictures.

    As for this essay, I find it boring. I feel like I’ve seen all these pictures before. I do like the first picture very much though and there is nothing wrong with any of the pictures. Perhaps it is just because the essay is too short.

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