Photographer Marji Guyler-Alaniz pays tribute to agriculture's hidden heroines.
By Zoe Donaldson
They're iconic scenes of rural America -- a farmer driving a tractor at sunrise, herding cattle across a pasture, brushing dirt from a freshly dug potato. But Des Moines photographer Marji Guyler-Alaniz captures an aspect of farm life that's rarely seen: the women. "I grew up in rural Iowa," she says. "I know that without women, farms wouldn't run."
Guyler-Alaniz, 35, can thank the Super Bowl for her rousing project, FarmHer. During the 2013 game, she saw the Ram Trucks commercial "Farmer," a powerful montage of shots -- weatherworn hands, a father and son in a snowy field -- and was struck by its stoic beauty. But a few weeks later, she read a newspaper article criticizing the underrepresentation of women in the ad. "I couldn't believe I'd never considered the image of a farmer before," says Guyler-Alaniz, who studied photography in college and had just left an 11-year career at a crop insurance company. "I woke up at 2 a.m. with the idea to document female farmers and ranchers."
To date, Guyler-Alaniz has photographed 65 women and girls across the country, following them as they carry out daily tasks like shearing goats and hauling hay. While the subjects are pleased to get their due, they're often surprised to see their ordinary duties turned into art. "One woman said, 'I don't know how you found beauty in something I do every day,'" says Guyler-Alaniz. "But these are women doing beautiful work that should be recognized. I can't think of a more important job."