The iconography of the ghost town is worth exploration; textures, objects, and reflections each take on new meaning in such circumstances. Renewal? Loss? Decay? Each has element in these places has the potential for making us consider the greater issues surrounding humankind’s relationship with nature, with time, with itself. This image is just such a treatise.
I have been enamored with this collection of buildings for a considerable amount of time, especially for its potential as part of my PlainSky, Nebraskans, project. The repetition of the arcs in the buildings, the staccato lines fence, and vanishing point created by the sign all connected to make an image that exudes the essence of the landscape in western Nebraska, while the desolation itself is a warning for the future of the people of this area.
I often look for irony in my surroundings, but seldom am I given this kind of palette. On a cold, windy day in Harrison, Nebraska (there are many cold, windy days there), I tried to show the interaction between rural decline, wind, landscape and culture in an image fraught with contradictions.
I’ve written and lectured over the years about how a photographer must go back. New elements appear over time, along with new vision and new philosophy; as a place changes, so too does the photographer and his or her visual expression of the essence of a place. St. Elmo is a good example of this process in my own photographic life: as I posted yesterday, I’ve been visiting this place for more than 35 years, and as such, small changes become larger in my eyes, and opportunities for new photos present themselves as fleeting moments that will evaporate quickly. The barber pole in this photo, and thus the image itself, has been my mantra: Look. Feel.
One element crucial to the “PlainSky, Nebraskans” project is wind and how it defines the colors, textures and landscapes of western Nebraska. This Buick, fence and group of outbuildings have sat dormant in the outskirts of Harrison for years, and on a January morning, the unrelenting gale that is a year-round, uncounted resident of the town tore at the fence and prairie grass enveloping it.