With a rare Saturday to myself, free of media work and pressing to-do’s, I took a drive to Sullivan County, for inspiration from “Barns of the Catskills.”
The exhibit, which marked its opening with a reception on July 2, 2017 and was scheduled to hang just two weeks at the Liberty Museum & Arts Center, has been extended through the end of August – according to the docent present when I visited.
Consisting mainly of photographs from around a dozen artists, along with some drawings, paintings, blueprints and even newspaper records, the exhibit celebrates both working and derelict farms and barns – whether they are home to animals, families, or maintained as event spaces – like the Roxbury Barn.
The bulk, what I mostly expected to see, is images of the weathered and worn. The #dustandrust I like to say. The signature image (above) for the show, titled “Leaning,” as I recall, shows the remnants of a wheel leaning against a grey weathered barn door.
Photographer John Kocisjanski, who captured the still life, had five photos displayed together – four were mis-numbered leaving me to wonder whether artistic preference departed from the reference sheet, the sheet was prepared without concern for the photos or some cheeky visitor had taken liberties (rim-shot).
Though there was no prohibition where photography was concerned, and I was hoping to capture a little ‘take –out’ inspiration, there was very little to even consider shooting – this shot of the model for a barn conversion is a throw-away, but you get the idea. I was feeling incomplete.
The epiphany came later.
On the casual drive home, along a different route than I’d traveled down, I stopped several times to take a few barn photographs of my own.
The subject and I are no stranger, but combined with what I soaked in at the exhibit results on this particular outing helped clarify a few notions about photographing old weathered barns.
Here’s a shot from earlier this year, a barn near Gilboa, NY.
Here’s one from the weekend in Sullivan County
I knew already that the ski was overly grey – with no detail or significant character this weekend. There was no pop – I’d like to go photograph this barn-inspired shop on a sunnier day. I wonder if they turn the neon on at night (or if it works!)
Beyond the lighting, however, I realized upon looking at the photographs from this outing that summer might simply be the wrong season for a certain esthetic.
Many of the shots in Barns of the Catskills 2017, almost the entire back room at least, were in black and white. Green grass and overgrown weeds make for a different sort of weathered barn photo. They also block the barn.
The colors of summer may make for beautiful barn wedding photos – Ive covered some rustic weddings in the Catskills – like this one at the Olde Tater Barn in Schoharie County, NY – but for pictures of barns for barns sake – I suspect the winter and early spring are what I’m after – before the explosion of color.
On the same outing, I happened upon another opportunity when I took a side road to the Beaverkill Covered Bridge.
I wasn’t expecting a nearly completely rebuilt bridge (it seems to me some of the interior lattice was re-used), but have to say – it’s still a beautiful thing, un-weathered as it is. I suspect I’ll like it even more in 10 years.