I was immediately pulled into Tina’s Len-Artist Photography Challenge: Seen Better Days. Maybe I can related because my body has seen better days. I love photographing barns and the barns that catch my attention have changed over the past 12 years. I started wanting to photograph old, falling down barns, then I was more attracted to barns with unique architectural features or color, then I enjoyed photographing working barns, and now I find my favorite barns are those that have character. Maybe that same kind of character I attribute to my body; warn out from years of good use but still serviceable and maybe can be patched up a bit with proper care. These categories of barns aren’t mutually exclusive as I’m driving down dirt roads but as I have gotten more photography time under my belt (that has gotten a bit bigger) I have gotten more selective. Here are some of my favorites from over the years.
This next barn was taken this past week as I was going down quiet country roads looking for fall color. I saw the beautiful doors, put on the breaks, and did a U turn. I have been noticing in our travels through Michigan this summer that many barns are getting renewed with this sheet siding. It doesn’t have the patina and character of wooden boards, but it preserves barns for another generation or two.
After I took the photos I wanted, I had to turn around and there was a drive to another house close by. I was excited because this also gave me an excellent opportunity to photograph the barn from another angle without drawing attention by noticeably trespassing. This barn had truly seen better days before the owners decided to give it some hope for the future. Is this a lesson for those of us who are struggling with the impact of living in aging bodies while our minds are saying, “Wouldn’t it be fun to…”? Maybe it just reminds us to “patch, patch, patch.”
My last barn was chosen just because it made me smile. I don’t remember the photograph and have no idea where I took it. It is dated 2014 and the file is named Amish country, encompassing a large area to the south of where I live. The slight tilt (didn’t straighten with editing) and the architectural features make it seem slightly inebriated. I wonder if Moonshine had been made in this barn at some time in it’s history?
When I am living in Michigan I associate country roads with farm fields and barns. I have hundreds of photographs of barns, even after culling many that didn’t tell a story or weren’t aesthetically nor technically pleasing photographs. I used to have a weekly date with friend Julie for early morning photo shoots on dirt roads. I miss Julie and I miss our outings since she moved across the state. Jim and I have been on lots of country roads in Michigan since then and I’ve seen lots of beautiful barns but didn’t stop to photograph them. Jim says to tell him when I want to stop but I find it hard to jump out of the car, snap a shot, and then be off again. I long to slip into that single focus of mind between me and the my camera and the object of my focus. I long to linger on country roads, to feel safe enough to forget the world exists outside of what my photographic mind sees. I long to feel the environment of the flowers, fields, barns and fences I photograph as I listen to the birds and insects, feel the sun and air on my skin, enjoy the curves of fields and trees.
I love the quiet of back country roads, especially dirt roads. I smile as I hear the distant cows in conversation with each other. I breath in the smell of vegetation warming in the sun and study the way corn grows in neat rows that wind around and over gentle hills. All the time I’m looking for the special composition that tells the story of what my soul is experiencing.
The new metal pole barns don’t interest me; they are neat and functional but don’t have the scars and wrinkles of aging that suggests a story, a history.
Something that is totally absent on country roads are camels. But maybe there is a first time for everything. I am so happy that life continues to change as we age, that we can make changes in how we view and interact with the world around us. Surprises can be fun or produce anxiety. I hope I can see all surprises, all changes, as opportunities to find new coping skills and learn more about the world.
I’ve noticed a pattern when I stop to photograph an old barn. I stay on the road because owners get angry, or at least really nervous, when people walk around their property with a camera. Still, I frequently have the owner come out asking what I’m doing. I tell them what I”m doing, but also tell them how beautiful I think their barn is. They melt and we stand a while talking about the barn. They give me a history of the barn and tell me to take as many photos as I want. This is what happened when I was photographing the barn above.
I am noticing a lot of old barns are getting new roofs and having siding boards replaced, or new metal siding put on. What is really sad is when owners tell me that the grand old beautiful barns they own can’t be maintained because of structural or foundation problems. The cost is prohibitive.
My cousin’s husband owns the next barn and he was telling me that it was built in the late 1800’s and he recently had the foundation fixed. Being a small barn it worked well and he continues to use it to store some of the antique tractors he owns.
I love color and have a hard time turning any of my photographs into black and white. I tried with this one but couldn’t let go of the green grass and the blue sky. And of course the contrast of that very dark cloud that was either coming or going. You will have to image the drama of the cloud because, even though I was there and took the photo when we were leaving the campground on Manitoulin Island, I don’t remember the cloud’s story.
What drew me in about the barn were the traces of what once was. Maybe I felt an empathy with the body of this old barn – I know what it is like to have an old body with faint vestiges of what once was. This came up in conversations with JB a couple of times this week – how much of our long-age bodies has been lost, but also how we don’t feel any different as people than when we were dating well over half a century ago. I look at him and see the young man I found so hot back when we were teenagers. Even when I think about it for a minute or two, I realize that he is all he ever was but only better because he has relaxed and I have relaxed and our main goal is just to enjoy the life we have left.
I smile when I look at this barn because we understand, the barn and I, how important it is to get these sagging, worn out parts patched back together every once in a while. I’m beginning to understand that I, like this old barn, can be beautiful even though I have some titanium patches, need to apply some dabs of color here and there, and have a bit of a sag in places. Yes, I can learn a thing or two from this old barn in all it’s glorious color.