Photographs of Late Fall in Vermont | When the Leaves Come Down
Richard Brown loves late fall. No, it’s not the autumn of blazing oranges and reds that he has famously trained his camera on over the years. The scenes that unfold in this other autumn are something quite different: less eye candy, more subdued.
“There’s a cleanliness when the leaves are gone,” Brown says. “There’s a simplicity and there’s that real clear air. It’s the only time of year where the predominant color is gold—the color of the grasses, that low light—it’s just spectacular.”
Brown knows that light well. Over the last four decades few photographers have become so closely aligned with a place as he has. That place, of course, is Vermont, to whose hills and farms Brown dashed off as fast as he could after completing his graduate degree at Harvard in 1968.
The product of Wellesley, Massachusetts, a wealthy Boston suburb, Brown first became familiar with Vermont as a kid, visiting relatives in Lyndonville during the summers. From those early trips he fell in love with the authenticity of the land, its people, and the relationship between the two.
“In Wellesley, you really didn’t know what the fathers did,” he says. “They got on their trains and disappeared for the day. Then they came back and they were in their nice houses, and the wife was always home. There was no connection between what they were doing and the landscape around them.”
Brown wanted that connection for himself. He bought a big property at the end of a dirt road in Peacham, fixed up its old house and tired barns, raised two daughters, and tried his hand at farming. Brown’s dream of raising livestock may have faded, but the Vermont of rolling pastures and settled stone walls that he sought all those years ago is just outside his front door.
In the four decades since moving here, Brown has never been far from a camera. Most mornings he’d be out before the sun, driving through a pitch-dark landscape marked by softly lit barns where the milking had already begun. He’d be in search of a hill, a farm, or some other patch of countryside he wanted to catch just as the new day broke.
And the more he plunged into Vermont, the more Vermont framed his eye and interest. Even later, as he began traveling the world to shoot elaborate gardens for lavish coffee table books, he found himself drawn to the kinds of landscapes and working cultures that had first pushed him north. “At some point I realized I was just looking for more Vermont,” he says. “It’s what got me going. It’s what I’m inspired by. It’s pretty consistent.”
That inspiration has come in all seasons. But it’s late November and early December—when the darkness of the winter to come is settling in, when the threat of early snow hovers overhead—that carry particular resonance for the photographer.