I drive a lot of back roads. A lot. It drives my wife—and on trips, my students—nuts at times. But this habit grew from my understanding that back roads offer prime chances at images few people ever see, a chance to unite a rural sensibility with a visual aesthetic that has both meaning and appeal.
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 spent a fair share of early mornings at 9,500 feet with this single piece of water grass as the sun rose, and it reminded me again and again of the meaning of “good morning.”
I spent several early mornings in this isolated spot, only the growing light, still waters and wakening birds as companions. The shot moved me beyond words as I created it, reminding me of the deep and complex philosophical poetry the natural world creates in the lifesong it sings.
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.
Opening one’s eyes to his or her everyday surroundings is a fantastic challenge for most photographers; as they become inured to the sights and sounds of the local environment, sight stops. I, too, have suffered these bouts, so I force myself to open my eyes. Monday morning, as I drove to my office, the early morning light and ducks milling about inspired me to make an impressionistic capture, and helped me renew my visual relationship with what’s just outside my front door.
The Sioux County Courthouse serves fewer than 1,400 people in a county of almost 2,100 square miles. On a January afternoon in the building, Morris, a World War II veteran, was part of a group of residents who gathered to have their portraits taken by my Images of West Nebraska students. As he lolled about the foyer, waiting for his next session, I caught him as part of what I believe to be the most complicated, well-constructed image I’ve ever shot.
I think of this photograph as my own M. C. Escher. The stained glass window at the top of the image is a reflection of the window behind me; the diagonal lines, reflections, vanishing points and myriad lighting colors all combine to make a simple image that has a surreal quality. Those are almost always the most complicated, and my friend Sam Abell gave this shot a nice compliment: “That’s terrific.”