Santa Fe New Mexican feature


He writes, "First-place recipient of the Curator’s Choice Award, U.S. photographer R.J. Kern, offers a glimpse into a small subset of society in his series The Unchosen Ones, featuring the children and young adults from farming families who participate in animal contests at Minnesota county fairs, showing off their prized sheep and goats. Kern’s subjects are not the winners at these fairs. They are the losers, whose animals, which have names like Annabell, Hootie, and Doolittle, won no ribbons. In this context, the images seem to take on a deeper resonance, perhaps reflecting the dwindling lifeways of small, family-owned farms in the age of industrial agriculture, a way of life where strong bonds between children and animals may still be of some value. Although a few of Kern’s subjects appear disheartened, there is a sense of pride that comes through several portraits, which transcend categories such as “winner” and “loser.” Kern’s photographs reflect the subjects’ essential characters, deeming them all worthy of attention."