A worker loads a cart full of cotton in this undated photo by late Gilbert farmer Marvin Morrison.

[Courtesy Gina DeGideo, photograph by Marvin Morrison]

When he was young, he rose before dawn to tackle chores on the farm. As the years wore on and he no longer had to do so much of the physical labor himself, he still started his day at 4 in the morning, getting farm business out of the way by 6 so he could get on with other important matters, like serving the school board, Rotary Club and Methodist Church.

And through much of it, Marvin carried a camera.

You can see some of the images he captured in “Revisiting the Photographs of Marvin Morrison,” opening Aug. 3 at Art Intersection in Gilbert. The free exhibition brings to light a lesser-known side of a longtime local farmer who went on to serve his community through roles in civic, educational and faith organizations.

“Dad wasn’t anywhere near a professional photographer,” says Howard Morrison, Marvin’s youngest son, but, boy, did he take a lot of pictures.

“He just took pictures of all aspects of farming — the crops, the jobs, the equipment that was used. Equipment was always a huge investment for them, so he was intrigued to take pictures of that. And he and his brother were always experimenting with a new crop or a new way of irrigating, and Dad would record that,” says Howard.

The images span from the late 1940s through the 1980s, says Gina DeGideo, a Mesa fine art photographer who headed the yearlong effort to assemble hundreds of old slides and photographs into a cohesive exhibition. Marvin passed away in 2007.

“We narrowed (the photographs) down to about 17 that are going to be hanging on the walls. June, Marvin’s wife, has been a really big influence in the show because she knows the back story on a lot of the pictures,” says DeGideo.

Born into a family that began farming Gilbert in the 1920s, Marvin left home to serve in World War II. When he returned in 1946, he and his brother Kenneth started the Morrison Brothers Ranch, an operation that would eventually include cotton, corn and alfalfa farms, a dairy, and a cattle ranch.

Today, the Morrison Ranch subdivision stands on part of Marvin’s old farmland, and Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy and Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness bear his name.

DeGideo says the pictures share “an insider’s view” of bygone farm life from the unique perspective of the farm’s patriarch, a man who was both in the fields and overseeing the big picture.

Howard says he doesn’t know where his dad’s interest in photography came from, but that he’d be proud to see his snapshots shared with the community.

“He’d be right there, telling everybody stories about life on the farm — the joys and the challenges. I think it was his way of sharing his experiences and his life with other people,” says Howard.

Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or azajac@evtrib.com

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