Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What Frank Armstrong Did Last Summer

You have to be ready because you never know when your "muse" is going to lead you to something.

My friend Frank Armstrong was out West last summer continuing a long-term photography project, Cemeteries with Quirky Names. Usually his route is more southerly but this time he was driving through the middle of the USA, maps and notes in hand. Now never being one to turn down an opportunity from his muse to make a photograph, he photographed other things along the way that interested him. Fall is always busy because he teaches photography at Clark University so it has taken him a while to get around to sorting through his summer harvest.

In the last couple of weeks on his blog he has been posting a series of images of grain elevators isolated against the sky and landscape of the great plains. I've gone back to look at this work daily. First of all they are like sculptures on the landscape that you could walk around and around absorbing the light and forms. Secondly they speak to the heritage of the individual farmers who once were the bread basket for our country. Now agri-business controls most of this area. For me there is something so individual about each one and there is beauty of form but I also feel a sadness about them too.

Frank, in his blog writes:

Across the Great Plains the most ubiquitous architecture is the grain elevator. No little structure these. You see them from great distances perched on the horizon of the gentle roll of the landscape. Because they stand so monumentally tall, they are noticed long before the towns they are usually associated with appear. And for the most part, there will be a railroad up close along one side. There seems to be three distinct styles two of which are represented in the above Ashland, Kansas, 2007, image. One, the smaller more angular tin-on-timber structure, and the more substantial concrete silos. Nowadays the modern storage facilities are more likely to be gigantic, corrugate metal, tank-like bins. I remember an image by my friend, Larry C. Price, made while he was working for the Star Telegram in Ft. Worth, of two silo structures, both the size of the one above. They were separated by about six feet at their tops, and in his image, there was a man leaping from the top of one to the other. Amazing image, but even more amazing that someone would do such a thing. While I know that Frank Gohlke a number of years ago did a book, Measures of Emptiness: Grain Elevators in the American Landscape, I am still drawn to photograph them probably because the older corrugated tin structures are a disappearing feature of the mid-western and western landscape. They stand like staunch and dignified sentinels of a time past. In the next few days, I will post more.

I don't care if Frank Gohlke did a book of grain elevators. I can see a book or portfolio, Vanishing Sculptures on the Great Plains, or ..........

At any rate, Frank makes time for photography. He has all that technical stuff on auto pilot. He is ready for where ever his muse leads him. Go take a look.

1 comment:

pitchertaker said...

Mucho gracias, mi amigo. Usted es demasiado bueno.