Photographer captures childhood on the farm

STONY PLAIN, Alta. — Jenna Hobbs and her three little ones head to the chicken coop to collect eggs.

There are plenty today, so she decides to place them inside her son’s hood.

But the two-year-old, Monty, gets curious with something on the ground. He bends over and the eggs spill out, cracking.

Only a few are salvageable, but the children aren’t crying. They instead become fascinated with the yolks, cupping them like slime in their hands.

It’s everyday moments like these that Hobbs captures with her camera.

“With five kids and a farm, life is truly happening around me,” she said, while sitting in her home near Stony Plain. “We’re in the thick of it.”’

Hobbs’s photographs are largely of her family, depicting the lifestyle of farm kids. They jump bales, collect eggs, laugh, cry.

The images reflect the joys and uglies of life, Hobbs said. It allows viewers to get the whole perspective.

“Through my social media, people have seen photos of our family and tell me they think it’s the dream life but, in reality, that’s not an accurate representation of what farming is like,” she said.

“Yes, there is the romantic side of it, but that’s a very small part.”

Her realistic approach to photography might be behind why she was recognized as a finalist for the prestigious Luxembourg Art Prize earlier this year.

She entered two photos from her Mama Tried series. The first image is of her son, Beau, 4, hugging their Mammoth donkey, Kiwi.

The second is of her and the five kids, depicting the chaos of family life.

She is holding Beau by the collar while her eldest, Halle, puts on lipstick. Another daughter’s pants are about to fall off and Monty is crying.

Hobbs said she based this photo on the song Mama Tried by Merle Haggard. The song is about a young man who ends up in prison, despite mama trying her best to raise him right.

She took the photo by setting the camera on a tripod. She used an app on her mobile phone, which connected to the camera via the internet, to capture the image.

“It’s a self-portrait of myself and five kids, representing the song but also us,” she said. “I have Beau by the collar, pulling him by the socks, telling him let’s go. The rest are acting as children do.”

She said she hopes people see themselves in the Mama Tried photos. Life isn’t always perfect, but that’s OK.

“There is still beauty there, in the every day, the ordinary and the messy,” she said.

Hobbs said she entered the Luxembourg contest on a whim. Her mentor wanted her to enter the photograph somewhere, but wasn’t sure where.

While on Facebook, however, Hobbs saw a post about the prize. At the time, she didn’t totally realize the contest dealt with all forms of art, including painting and sculpture.

“Then I got word I was one of the 11 finalists, which was amazing and awesome,” she said.

The photos were shown alongside other top choices at the Pinacothèque, a private museum in Luxembourg. People from all over Europe came to view the artwork.

Even though she didn’t win, Hobbs said it was an unforgettable experience.

“It opened my eyes,” she said, explaining she met artists who do art for a living and aren’t expected to have some other job to make money.

“I really got to see art being appreciated, and where people do it as a career. That only exists on a really small scale here.”

Along with helping her husband, Travis, raise goats on their farm, Hobbs runs a photography business with her sister-in-law, Aimee.

Hobbs Photography serves families in Edmonton and surrounding area. Hobbs and Aimee apply the documentary technique with their photos, capturing real moments.

“We stay at people’s homes and for anywhere from two to six hours, capturing their kids being kids,” Hobbs said. “When they look back at the images, they’ll know they are truthful, genuine and authentic.

“I think, especially with social media and family photos, we are so used to seeing kids smiling at the camera. Those are wonderful, because those are some great moments, but there is just something more real and more heartfelt about them just being them.”

Hobbs said she hopes to continue documenting the life of her family through photography as they get older. She would also like to get into film photography and possibly install a dark room in the home. Her dream would be to take documentary photos of farm families full time.

“Me and Travis’ five-year plans look a little different,” she said with a chuckle.

She said she finds inspiration in her children.

“I didn’t grow up on a farm, and I feel like I’m experiencing it for the first time, like my kids are,” she said. “I’m experiencing it with them, and it’s what inspires me to pick up my camera and take photos.”

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