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Creating a family legacy through pictures 

click to enlarge My Uncle David harvests soybeans as the sun sets on the family farm in southeast Kansas. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • My Uncle David harvests soybeans as the sun sets on the family farm in southeast Kansas.
I’m planning a trip to my family’s farm to help my Uncle David plant soybeans.

You might remember an earlier column about documenting the planting season on the family farm in southeast Kansas.

This is where my mother grew up and it’s where my roots are. My family surname, by the way, is Ungeheuer, which, translated from German, means roughly "scary monster" or "black beast." We've never found out if there was a story behind that.

One story I do know, though, is that my family has farmed in that small corner of the state since my son's namesake Jacob Ungeheuer homesteaded there after the Civil War. He emigrated from Germany and fought in the Civil War for the Union before settling down at the farm.

My Uncle David is in his 70’s, and he and his brother Dillard will most likely be the last generation to farm the ground. Most of my 13 cousins are scattered across the country and only one of them still pursues farming, but even he does it more as a hobby than a livelihood. 

I’m not sure how many more years my Uncle David wants continue to farm the family land, but my intention is to photograph him as long as he does.

Photographing my family is a long-term project that I've always had a passion for, and it's a big reason I became a photographer.

I've returned to the farm for the last 20 years to take pictures. It's my way of leaving a legacy for future generations (even if my own surname is no longer Ungeheuer) so my children and theirs may remember where they come from and who they are.

I know for certain that the family farm and those who work it taught me the values of hard work and perseverance, and I’m forever grateful to them for teaching me.

Long after my mother’s generation is gone, I hope these pictures will remain a testament to their lives and a lasting legacy for my own family history.


Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout.

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