rural America

Cowboy and Ferris Wheel, Elwood

Cowboy and Ferris Wheel, Elwood

Cowboy and Ferris Wheel, Elwood

I recently wrapped up another stint of teaching at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, somewhere I feel most honored to be an instructor. But that’s not the point of this post. Color is.

Someone I met this year in Santa Fe noted that while I’m known as a black-and-white artist, I haven’t worked solely in monochrome, and what’s more, some of my best—best!—images are in color. Ironic, no? Yet, I often feel like Eeyore when I make such images.

“I might have known,” said Eeyore. “After all, one can’t complain.”

So when I made the above image and chose to leave it in color (which may mean it never goes in my forthcoming book about rural rodeos), upon seeing it, another person made a related comment regarding palette. “Oooh, color! That’s not like you.”

Oh, bother.

Return to Sender: Heartwell, Nebraska

 

Return to Sender–Heartwell, Nebr.

Return to Sender–Heartwell, Nebr.

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.

 

The Next Show: Return to Sender

Return to Sender–Trumbull, Nebr

Return to Sender–Trumbull, Nebr

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.