The Colorado Growers

Russian photographer Oleg Savunov travels to a Colorado marijuana farm.

Three years ago photographer Oleg Savunov met a group of marijuana growers in the Himalayan ski town of Gulmarg. After living with Savunov in a confined space for two weeks, the growers decided to give Oleg an exclusive invitation to their farm in Colorado.

In Colorado, the farm community is very closed off, and you can only get in through connections or a recommendation. In California it’s easier: the farms there are much larger and filled with more people, but there’s isn’t this homey feeling of camaraderie with the workers – it feels more like a factory. 

For the most part they weren't against me shooting them, and would happily pose for my photos. But some people were a bit cautious, and would ask about my project in detail. Despite the fact that the growth and consumption of marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2012, it’s still illegal on a national level. Likewise, inside Colorado not all cities are tolerant toward marijuana, and so the growers zone off their farms with fences and kept silent about what they did – nobody wanted any additional encounters with the police. 

I shot the project during my second visit: firstly, I needed to make sure that they got used to me – and the first trip was 1 and half months. Secondly, I needed to get accustomed to the place itself, in order to avoid aestheticizing an unfamiliar surrounding. You know, the feeling when you arrive to a new place and everything around is incredibly beautiful, and you just shoot everything indiscriminately. 

Just to make everything clear, this is a class of of people that are more akin to hippies, than businessmen. They live in one-story houses, and more often than not rent rooms rather than purchase their own. The interior is usually incredibly messy, so you sleep where you can: the floors are covered in sleeping bags, and if you get lucky, on the couch. Usually, the most abundant growth season is in the fall, and from 6-12 people gather in the homes. Once the season ends, the “growers” usually start the process over, plant “kids” underneath the lamps in the garage, and then go travel somewhere. The level of freedom in these places is unparalleled. One of these collectives had two daughters working with their dad: the dad would roll a joint and share it with his daughters. When you end up in this atmosphere, where marijuana is already such a part of everyday life, you’re no longer surprised by anything and accept it as a regular point of view.