Well, my PhD work is done for the semester, and I’ve finished grading all my courses. Translation? I can resume my photography. It’ll be spotty yet for a while, since I need some time to build a new body of work around a theme or two, but I’m back in the saddle. Just to hold everyone over, here’s a new piece from 2013 featuring one of my muses: St. Elmo.
This is an image about encroachment and renewal, an examination of what it means to remain.
The Stark Bros. Store has a long history in St. Elmo, and one of both prosperity, tenacity, and ultimate demise. As the town died out in the 1930s, Annabelle and her brother, Tony Stark (no, not Iron Man Tony Stark) eventually were the only residents of the near-ghost town. After she died in 1960, local legend says Annabelle returned to haunt the store and hotel in which she eked out a meager existence for so many years.
Either way, the iconography and composition of the hotel–regardless of what Anna may think–make a compelling photograph.
I’ve always found the absence of right angles in ghost towns interesting; it speaks to the idea that such towns were transient, almost ethereal in their existences, as if the residents knew how quickly the boom would bust.
St. Elmo is one of these towns, and it’s a place I’ve been visiting since I was two. I have family in the area, so it was customary that we took a 30-minute jaunt into Elmo when we could just to enjoy the cool air at 10,000 feet and soak up the history of the Denver & South Park railroad.The town enjoys a boom again now as off-road motorcycles and ATVs pollute the quiet trails above town with unmuffled cries of “blaaaat” and dust that never settles.
Yet the buildings remain, and near the Home Comfort hotel, a white picket fence, trim and lace curtains evoke a time when the steam whistle of a train engine was not just the sound of industry, but of hope and future.
As I was driving home from class in Lincoln, Nebraska, last night at 11:30 p.m., I was thinking about the conversation that our Instructional Materials class had engaged just earlier: “What makes a good design? A good photograph? How do Zen principles enlighten a design or photograph?”
And I realized I had never taken the time to look back on more than twenty years of photography and say, which ones are strong? As my good friend Sam would say, which of these have a life?
So, considering the weight of doctoral work means I have no time to wander the West looking for photos this fall (which is painful, by the way; fall in the West is my very favorite time to shoot, as I feel a palpable energy in the cool breezes and chill mornings), I realize it’s an appropriate time to post images that have life for me.
Feel free to disagree with my choices, or comment freely. After all: If nothing else, art is discourse.