Warren Hatch: An Appreciation

In 1995 I came across a seed catalog (The 1995 Ethnobotanical Catalog of Seeds, by J.L Hudson, Seedsman). It had some amazing seed listings and articles (one in particular that I was really interested in challenged the concept of “native plants”) and also included a section of recommended books by various authors as well as, and most intriguing to me, a “video microscope series” by someone named Warren Hatch. The description of Hatch and his videos were fascinating.

Not long after that I found one of Hatch’s videos in a public library somewhere in California. The footage, editing, and voiceover were all amazing to me. I loved the idea of an amateur scientist making his discoveries available to the world through VHS tapes distributed to libraries. Hatch stayed in my mind as an inspiration and someone that I hoped to somehow meet someday.

Many years later I found out that Hatch had moved from Los Angeles where he had made his early videos in his apartment, back to Portland, Oregon where he had grown up. By then I was also living in Portland, and was working on a curatorial project with Jens Hoffmann called the People’s Biennial. Jens and I were conducting research for a traveling exhibition in five cities across the US (including Portland) to find work by interesting people who weren’t already involved in the art world. The show we then created travelled back to all five of the cities. Hatch was at the top of my list as someone I wanted to include. It took some doing, but I eventually tracked him down and he allowed us to present one of his videos Bees and Wasps: An Appreciation in the show.

I knew that I wanted to find another way to get Hatch’s work out to a larger public and the internet seemed like the perfect solution, but when I mentioned the idea to Hatch he didn’t seem particularly interested, so I let it go. Then about six year later he showed up as a substitute teacher in my daughter’s third grade class. I was volunteering in the school library that day and when my daughter’s group came in I asked her what she thought of Mr. Hatch, she said that all of the kids loved him, that he talked about bugs all day, showed them his videos, and talked about his recently self-published book In One Yard: Close to Nature, which documented hundreds of insects, plants, and animals that he found in his backyard.

Hatch seemed happy to see me so I used the opportunity to ask him again if he might be interested in posting some of his videos on YouTube. This time he said that he would like to to, but didn’t want to have to figure out how to do it technically. I told him that I would be happy to help and gave him my contact info.

A few weeks later, Hatch contacted me and said that he was ready to try to post a video. I went over to his house and got a tour of his photography and video set ups and his backyard which was very interesting. He gave me a hard drive with his latest video on it also called In One Yard: Close to Nature which contains similar content as his book and uses his normal text titles and explanations, but does not yet include his distinctive voiceover which all of his previous videos feature, but is still totally great. My assistant Allie Hankins quickly created a Warren A. Hatch channel and posted the first video. Hatch reviewed it and was pleased with the results and allowed us to include four more videos with the potential of additional ones to come from his archive.

I hope that you enjoy Warren A. Hatch’s work as much as I do.

You can view his YouTube channel here.