Los Angeles-based fashion photographer Dorit Thies has made a career of pushing boundaries. So has cannabis journalist and marketer Eric Hiss.
By producing imagery that meshes art with nature, Thies has earned partnerships with the likes of Maye Musk, Kate Mara and Kristin Cavallari, among other familiar Hollywood names during a decades-long career in Tinsel Town. Hiss has written stories around the world for more than 50 major publications.
The duo’s latest passion project has taken them further north in California: “The Farm & The Feminine” chronicles the legacy, creativity and determination of women cannabis farmers in California’s iconic Emerald Triangle. Its four subjects—Tina Gordon of Moon Made Farms, Rose Willis of Huckleberry Hill Farms, Katie Jeane of Emerald Spirit Botanicals and Taylor Stein from Briceland Forest Farm—capture the rich gender and ethnic diversity of America’s most fertile region for outdoor cannabis growing.
Hiss came up with the idea for the project out of a passion for the Emerald Triangle, where the pioneers of the cannabis industry have been perfecting genetics and farming top-shelf marijuana for generations. As multi-state operators move into the regulated market and produce at scale, “The Farm & The Feminine” aims to remind consumers how we got here by putting names to the female faces behind the industry’s early success.
“These women are the true pillars of our industry,” Hiss said. “None of this would exist without the craft folks in the Emerald Triangle. I realized we didn’t have any iconic imagery of these people, and felt we needed hero shots. This is a new narrative to portray these cannabis heroes as they should be.”
To create such images required a special photographer, Hiss said, so he called longtime friend and colleague Dorit Thies. Before spending full days on the farms of the four women featured in the project, Thies admitted she had no previous experience with cannabis. It didn’t take long to bond with the farmers, though, thanks to a shared interest for sustainability.
“They’re biologists, they’re scientists and they’re involved with universal energy,” Thies says. “The way they harvest, it’s all about sustainability and doing it the natural way under the sun. I’ve always believed in these principles so it was very easy to connect with them.”
Thies, who grew up in rural northern Germany, and Hiss, a fifth-generation Californian, spent a full day on each woman’s farm during peak harvest season late last summer. And unlike for most of her photo shoots, Thies brought only her camera for day-long tours—no tools, no lights and no props. To accentuate the farmers’ natural beauty, Thies kept her photos free of any touch ups.
The duo spent the early September days walking together with the farmers and using only items from their farms as props in the owners’ portraits. Thies adorned Katie Jeane of Emerald Spirit Botanicals with antlers and a colorful wreath to symbolize a type of nemes, the headcloth worn by pharaohs in ancient Egypt to signify high stature. She also took inspiration from legendary photographer Edward S. Curtis, whose work focused on the American West and the Native American people.
“I always used to draw from Greek mythology, too, and the imagery of powerful women,” Thies says. “I wanted to create metaphors in my images of women that represented the Greek goddesses.”
Hiss said he and Thies considered 20 to 30 more women farmers in the region for portraits in “The Farm & The Feminine,” but time and budget constraints reduced the first season of the project to just four women. The duo said their project is ongoing and could add more subjects in the future.
“I couldn’t wait another harvest cycle for the first few,” Hiss said. “It was a now-or-never situation because these women are doing work that should be elevated and celebrated. I hope that we’re smart enough to realize we can have our (big corporations) and also protect space for our small operators. Just like craft beer folks bring us top-shelf beer and cult wine guys and craft distilleries bringing craft batches of mezcal, gin and tequila, we shouldn’t cut off our roots, man.”
This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.