Bonetti Ranch: Exploring a past era in San Luis Obispo.
Many people can now peruse the many shops and working spaces of the SLO Public Market, located on the corner of S. Higuera and Tank Farm in San Luis Obispo. How many people had the opportunity to explore the historic farm before it was all torn down and rebuilt into a thriving marketplace?
In August 2016, I walked by the historic barn at Bonetti Ranch way before construction had begun. A sign caught my eye. At this time, there was a fence around the ranch as it waited for construction to begin. I stepped around the opposite side of the enclosure guarding the property and asked a construction worker if I could go inside and take some photographs of the barn. He allowed me in, so my friend Carol and I went inside to explore.
The Old Bonetti Barn
The barn had a long life, and the windmill stood proudly by its side. However, it was time to be torn down. I walked through carefully so I wouldn't disturb one thing. Looking up at the swiss cheese roof, I noticed that parts of its structure had already fallen in on itself. Though you could tell, once upon a time, this old barn housed many horses and animals. The stories one could tell. Now, what I believe to be in its place is Orange Theory Fitness. One of the many businesses of the SLO Public Market.
There was so much to see while walking through the barn. I looked at the foundation and noticed tools embedded in the concrete. Were these the tools used when it was built? Inlaid in the cement blocks were instruments from horseshoes, rings, brackets, and large nails. Each one was a signature in my mind. Every tool symbolized the hands that once put this barn together.
As a fine artist, this is what intrigued me the most. With every tool inlaid in the concrete, it was as if someone had thought, "one-day others will see my mark and my hard work." I felt it was an injustice not to photograph them. They were a memory, a stamp, and beautiful in their simplicity.
Tools of the Trade
Farming equipment was scattered around the property and covered in grasses, weeds, and vines. In black and white, the image of the vines on the tractor tire causes you to notice what the machine used to do. You get transported back in time. The sole purpose of these rough and rugged tools was to torque, turn, and rip the soil.
The rusted-out metal was an extreme contrast to the surrounding foliage. In vibrant color, it showcases the symbiosis of nature, supporting the very blades used to manipulate it. This becomes a perfect illustration of the original harmony man had with nature and our partnership with the earth.
The Bonetti House
Standing behind an iron water fountain was the quaint yellow farmhouse. This is a Craftsman-style home with white columns and yellow-painted siding. It is an American dream home. I believe it still symbolizes the idea that every citizen has an opportunity to achieve success through hard work, determination, and initiative. The original house is still there today and is now Kitchen and Vine, a delightful little eatery that houses a full-size kitchen owned by James and Rachel Borland. They moved it closer to the street and repositioned the fountain in front of the entry back to its original glory.
As I moved on, I wanted to photograph the innocence of the antique fence as the fountain grass sparkled and danced around it in the sun. Then, I captured the storage shed next to the house. However, it told a different story. Not about the food and supplies that used to be stored there but rather the many times it provided shelter to travelers passing through. Now an empty box. It was a haunting memory. I found a letter about misfortunes and regrets. I could not bring myself to take a picture of the letter. I felt it was too intimate to document.
About the Artist
I learned from my parents that fine art tells a visual story about someone or something at a specific moment. In art school, I learned how to extrapolate the subject and make it stand out separately but also as part of the story.
Each item I photograph becomes a time capsule of a moment passed. Not precisely that instant, but all the significant things that occurred afterward.
One of my favorite photographers I learned about in college was Henri Cartier-Bresson. He was a French humanist photographer considered a master of candid photography and known for his work in photographing the decisive moment. To anticipate, compose, and capture at just the right moment an image that is visually stunning. In a way, this experience for me was a decisive moment. I was given this opportunity to document the Bonetti Ranch at just the right time before it transitioned into something new. The SLO Public Market.