Even ghosts need homes, don’t they? Disconcerting as it may be in a windblown, nearly deserted western town, this miniature house and its strange surroundings have drawn me back on several occasions as I try to understand the place they occupy in the world.
Well, it’s that time of year again for me. Ph.D. work is ramping up–papers and research–so I’ll be cutting back the posts to once a week again for a while. I have little time to shoot during the fall semester.
Thus, this image of the progression of lines and spaces present in the Holstein, Nebraska, post office is it for this week. I enjoyed the notion of decay coupled with a vague reference to the colonnades of the Parthenon, hinting at the decay of yet another once-mighty empire: the U.S. Postal Service.
The Holstein, Nebraska post office is unlike many I’ve ever seen. Flowers racks under the windows. Painted Nebraska crimson and cream. Vaguely Romanesque in its pillories and faux pediment. And like the Roman Empire in 300 C.E., embraced by a slow and inevitable decline toward memory.
Each rural post office has a unique character, and Heartwell’s is indeed unique. The village’s post office is little more than a postage stamp in size, and in fact, to buy stamps, one steps into the postmaster’s office.
It is a reminder of days past, before global trauma disrupted our trust for one another. When the post was a connection to the world, rather than a symbol of one passing us by.
My next solo exhibition is opening in April 2014, and is titled “Return to Sender: The Endangered Rural Post Office.” It’s more artistic than my previous documentary work, but how is a secret until the show opens. Suffice it to say the 30 images that will compose the show are far deeper than any of the attendees can possibly realize, and each will be an edition of only 4.
The project is about the endangered rural post office, the heart of small town America, and the loss of which often signals the death of a town. But how do these post offices fit in a digital world of mobile e-mail, Facebook, and blanketed cell coverage? They are symbols of a passing world, much like the small towns they inhabit. As much of the Great Plains population wanes, the dying post office emerges as the pivotal icon of the changing century.
I’ve been fascinated with the meanings of textures for as long as I can remember. What is it to fill a frame with brick? Is it brutality, urbanist, cold, stalwart? So many textures render subtexts we scarcely recognize, but still understand.
They are subtle reminders of the lives we live, or those we observe.
So on a hot and humid summer night, the textures of a Resistol straw hat in the hands of a cowboy who was riding in bronc events at a rodeo caught my eye and my lens. He toyed nervously with the brim, flexing it, twisting it, and after watching for a few moments, I made this photograph, a treatise on the textures of the West.
We take the everyday elements in life in a daze, most often lost in our own thoughts, wandering through the world oblivious to the poetry around us. I encourage my students to pay closer attention to their surroundings, to put aside their digital lives and thought-to-be-hectic schedules for a few moments a few times each day, to sit and compose with the ordinary.
I tried to do just that with my boot series, and this is the ninth among those images.