No Filter: A Career in Pictures

Harlen Persinger received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Agricultural Editors Association (AAEA) at the organization’s annual meeting last July. Persinger is the first photojournalist, freelancer and active farmer to receive the award.

“Harlen’s dedication to the industry and his willingness to help budding photojournalists learn their craft is unequaled among his peers,” says Den Gardner, former executive director of the AAEA. “His passion for agriculture drives him to give 110 percent in everything he does.”

Persinger (’67 dairy science, ’72 ag journalism), a native of Grundy Center, took his first picture on the Iowa State University campus. The subject was the campanile.

He captured his first photographs abroad while visiting 10 countries as part of the Iowa State University Ag Travel Course in 1966. He became more interested in photography while serving in Vietnam with the U.S. Army in the late 1960s and refined his skills working on farms in Norway as part of the International Farm Youth Exchange following his deployment.

He returned to Iowa State to pursue ag journalism and built a 45-year career telling stories with pictures. Persinger worked for Harvestore Farmer Magazine, Webb Publishing, Bader Rutter and since 2004, freelancing for regional and national farm publications. His work can be found in popular agricultural media outlets, the Peace Corps annual calendar and in the winner’s circle at the Iowa State Fair.

“A good photograph starts with having an excellent eye for composition, and the only way to develop that is through years of practice,” Persinger says. “The best shots involve an interesting angle, the right balance of light, leading lines that draw you in and a touch of red. Red is like a spotlight in a photograph.”


Harlen Persinger selected 10 top photographs from his career to share in this photo essay—visit the CALS Facebook page to view the rest of his selections.