Lucky number seven. I thought it serendipitous that this image met such a number, considering its spiritual ancestry in the style of Paul Strand; while I never intended it to be such, the influences of one’s past often bubble up in the images of the present. Line, tone, shape and texture all held me captive in this spot for some time as I worked to visually tell a tale of a town.
No, despite being in a show called “PlainSky, Nebraskans,” this photograph was not made in the state. It’s a sister shot to “Ardmore,” an image that illustrates the alarming rate of depopulation that persists in much of the Great Plains, and while “Ardmore” is from South Dakota and just north of the Nebraska border, “Jay Em No. 1” is from just west of the state line into Wyoming, but suffered the same plight as Ardmore. It is now a ghost town, and while wandering the silent streets I found this image to alluring to resist with the bones of the trees in their withered organic forms against their ancestors wrought into an industrialized form, then utilized as the walls of a building that no longer hosts any life. The trees grasp skyward, the formal elements in the background of the photo in stark contrast, and reflected in the windows to the left are leaves that seem to taunt the barren branches below with false promises of bounty.
I couldn’t resist the chance of making a black and white image of dark horses against the light colored Sandhills and a growing thunderstorm in the sky, the horses’ tails perfectly matched as the plains wind played with them.
I’m teaching Photography II this semester, and a central element in any art photography course is criticism. That doesn’t mean “criticize,” but rather “examine and discuss.” This image invites myriad possibilities for that end.
The cowboy stands by a large “F”. Meaning? What of his Pepsi cup with a straw? His jewelry? Belt buckle and plaid? What does his look tell us? Why did I chose the tonalities I did for the print?
It is for these reasons I find this to be one of my favorite images in the PlainSky show; it’s a complicated portrait that involves a complex set of juxtapositions and ideas. Enjoy.
Another of the more eerie images in the PlainSky show, Desolation Gate is (among other things) a statement of foreboding and loss as it sits on the doorstep of northwest Nebraska.
My daughter and I found this cow’s skeleton at evening, glaring white in the light of the setting sun. Sheltered in a draw with the last clouds of a passing storm front as a backdrop, I had only two minutes to compose, evaluate and create the image, and I left feeling as though Ansel Adams’ ghost had been sitting on my shoulder helping the process.