Ilka Hartmann (b. 1942)
Leah with the Scythe
Leah with the Scythe was taken in Bolinas during the 1970s counterculture “back to the land movement” of young people homesteading to raise healthy food and cultivate a sustainable lifestyle. The image is of a young woman swinging a scythe to cut a dense field of fiercely sharp thistles. It has visual power in the rhythm of movement and speaks of strong women on any frontier. This photograph was included in the 1978 book The Town That Fought to Save Itself, published by Random House, and created by Orville Schell and Ilka Hartmann.
Photographer Ilka Hartmann, a resident of Bolinas for more than fifty years, participated in and documented a pivotal time in the evolution of Bolinas in the 1970s.
Born in Germany during WWII, Hartmann studied at universities in Berlin and Hamburg before arriving at University of California Berkeley in 1967, where she earned an MA in German literature. It was a time when America’s social conscience was being torn awake by the struggle for civil rights and the Vietnam War. Hartmann turned to photography and focused her lens on the emotion and power of activism for social justice. Her photographs are published internationally, and featured in exhibitions, films, books, public art, and museums. Stanford University acquired her archive. Hartmann also taught at the Graduate School of Fine Arts in West Berlin, and taught Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Sonoma State University for 14 years. Her work was presented in a solo exhibition at Bolinas Museum in 2010.