A photographic tour through the world of marijuana farming | AspenTimes.com

A photographic tour through the world of marijuana farming

Photographer H. Lee's book "Grassland" chroncicles marijuana farming in northern California. Lee wil sign books today at Silverpeak Apothecary.

Marijuana's status in Colorado has moved swiftly from a black market drug to a pseudo-legal medicine to a legal intoxicant, and the culture surrounding it appears to be on an upward trajectory as well. Silverpeak Apothecary, a local recreational marijuana dispensary, on Tuesday hosts an event with a New York-based photographer, who will be signing an elegant coffee table book in the pot shop.

The book, "Grassland," by former Aspenite H. Lee (a pseudonym), documents marijuana farming in northern California on the cusp of the drug's legalization in Colorado.

Lee isn't a pot smoker herself, but was captivated by the clandestine world of marijuana farming in Humboldt County, California.

"Marijuana growing wasn't really on my radar, even though I had been living outside of San Francisco for years," Lee said in an e-mail interview. "When I landed in Humboldt my world was pretty rocked. I had never seen a pot plant, nevermind rows and rows of them. Everyone who lived in the area, in the county, it seemed, touched the industry in some way – whether by growing, trimming, selling, peddling tools, dirt, you name it."

The photos in "Grassland" are mostly from the marijuana harvest of 2010 to 2011 in the area. They're richly printed and surprisingly diverse. They include journalistic photos chronicling the process of cultivating, trimming, packaging and transporting it, while showing the make-shift drying rooms set up in garages, sheds and homes. They also capture the scenic, hidden areas and foggy Redwood groves where pot is grown in northern California.

They look less like High Times pot porn, and more like evocative nature and landscape photography you'd expect to find in an art gallery.

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"The landscape of Northern California is incomparable," said Lee. "Many of the farms I photographed were tucked into the hills, off dirt roads, secluded and surrounded by magical vistas. Waking up to early morning fog, rolling over the hills from the Pacific is nothing less than awe-inspiring. And the plants themselves, I grew to love – quite beautiful."

While establishments like Silverpeak are aiming to mainstream pot, and market it like an artisanal luxury good, there is still an unavoidably illicit tinge to the business, which remains at odds with federal law, and to Lee's project. To protect her identity, Lee said, she will sign books wearing a disguise to shield her identity.

"I promised the growers, trimmers and anyone I photographed that should the project come to light, I would publish it under a pseudonym," Lee explained. "People felt more comfortable with that, and some, who may not have been willing before, opened their doors to me."

Hosting a cultural event like this in a marijuana dispensary may signal a new kind of venue for Aspen's cultural scene. But Lee, who is selling books and framed images at the event, said it will be like any other author event or art opening: "Consider it like a gallery reception, I suppose – wine, art, good people."

And pot, of course.

atravers@aspentimes.com

If You Go …

What: ‘Grassland’ book-signing, with H. Lee

Where: Silverpeak Apothecary

When: Tuesday, Dec. 23, 4:30 – 6 p.m.

Cost: Free

More info: http://www.hleephoto.com

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