photography by Tom Green
art direction by Abigail Schumann
Strong and supple, practiced and sure, the hands of silversmith Gayle Clarke pierce a piece of plate by the magnified light of a water-filled globe lamp.
Hands hold things, make things, do things, say things. They grasp tools, objects, friends, enemies, and opportunities. We lend a hand, shake hands, hold hands, raise our hands. Sometimes we take matters into our own hands, and sometimes we remember, in the words of the eighteenth century's Isaac Watts, "Satan finds some mischief still, for idle hands to do."
At Colonial Williamsburg, people busy their hands in arts, manufactures, conservation, archaeology, research, and interpretation; in mending, building, planting, harvesting, cooking, and washing. Among other things.
Photographer Tom Green and associate producer Abigail Schumann wandered through the shops and homes of the restored colonial capital studying the work at hand, trying to focus on those hands. Their attention strayed to the tasks those hands were doing. There were strong hands at dirty work, and steady hands pinning a bodice. They found hands carving wood and piercing silver. There were hands sewing, serving, planing, kneading, weaving, filing, and fitting. There were hands covered in flour and soot and sawdust and ink, hands delicately holding teacups, and a baby with her hand in her mouth. Hands going about the business of life in an eighteenth-century Virginia community.
Schumann and Green returned to the studio, summoned models and, with his lighting and lenses and her art direction, recorded what they had seen. The images on these pages are part of what came from their hands.
With the delicacy of a gentlewoman, Cathy Hellier offers a guest a fine-china cup of tea and silver spoon.
"About Faces," an Autumn 2004 Journal story and slideshow.