South Dakota—my interior geography

Last week I was in South Dakota for a funeral and a wedding.  In between those emotional events I found some time to drive back roads with my husband, see the stunning late August countryside and find some much needed quiet.  I’m always reminded of how much the prairie landscape resides in my cells, bones and heart.

This landscape gives me clarity, helps me understand my choices and guides me back to my personal True North when I get off course a bit.

South Dakota is my interior geography, no matter where I am in the world. 

Recently, I had to draw a compass at Courage Camp in Bristol, Rhode Island.  I laughed at myself because the way I still figure out directions is to imagine I’m standing on the front porch of my childhood home.  It’s there that I’m most confident in knowing my directions.  (photo below)

IMG_2852Standing on the porch I know which direction the sun sets and how to get to Nebraska. With that knowledge, I can find my way most places.

I often think of my intrepid ancestral homesteaders who ventured West, uncertain of what they would find in the Dakota Territories.  However, and more importantly, perhaps they knew they could handle whatever the prairie offered them. 

I understand that now, at the tender age of 50, in a way I didn’t when I was younger.  I don’t know what’s next, but I know I can count on my interior geography to help guide my way.

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The Inspiration of Dorthea Lange

Last week I had the pleasure of watching the American Masters documentary on PBS about one of my heroes, Great Depression photographer Dorthea Lange.  Her work has greatly influenced my abandoned farmhouse hunting and photography whenever I visit my family in South Dakota.  Dorthea’s compassion and unyielding desire to tell the tragic and heroic stories of our nation’s poor, interned and displaced through photography woke our nation up.  Dorthea’s images prompted more action than print alone could possibly ever have conveyed.

I’ve always found great beauty among the ruins in all forms.  Things that are new just don’t give me much creative juice.  I like to see everything worn out, faded, distressed and destroyed.  To me there’s always a lot more stories among the ruins.

“It is not enough to photograph the obviously picturesque.”

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“Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion… the subject must be something you truly love or truly hate.”

—Dorthea Lange

You can watch the American Masters documentary online or look on demand from your local listings.

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/dorothea-lange-full-episode/3260/

These images I shot with my niece south of Burke, South Dakota in January.  I’m guessing someone will recognize the house, my sincere apologies for trespassing.  The pull to see what was inside was just too much for us to resist.

There are links to Dorthea’s biography and images if you scroll down.

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Dorthea Lange’s biography

Dorthea Lange’s photographs

South Dakota Snapshots

I was in South Dakota with my family last weekend. On Saturday I had the opportunity to borrow my niece’s truck and go on a late afternoon abandoned farmhouse hunt.  What I found was visually very pleasing to my eye.  The light was gorgeous.  I was walking in ditches wearing my favorite cowboy boots. It was warm and I kept finding these images seemingly rising out of the sky.  These photos represent resilience, strength, courage and yet they also convey a feeling of loneliness and longing.  I found the starkness quite beautiful.

On my farmhouse hunt I got so excited as I did a u-turn into an overgrown driveway and I was ready to shoot loads of pictures.  However, I quickly realized that I was at the same farmhouse I shot in August with my Mom.  Perhaps there is a reason that I got to shoot it again in different light in a different season.

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more abandoned South Dakota farmhouse shots

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approach

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assess

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peek

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enter

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discover

When I looked at the photos again from this series I began to see more of a narrative emerge. I hope you aren’t getting tired of them. I shot a lot of photos that overcast August day on the back roads of South Dakota with my Mom.

Find The Beauty—photos by Cynthia Mackowick

Cynthia Mackowick:find the beauty

http://findthebeauty365.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/a-state-of-existing-north-dakota/attachment/4413/#main (YOU WILL WANT TO CLICK THROUGH TO HER BLOG)

These are staggering images. Years ago my former sister-in-law and I took my twin girls on a drive around my home town of Burke, SD. While Lucy and Willa napped Fee and I walked in and out of abandoned farmhouses. Truly enthralled by what we were witnessing. There were pots still on the stove. Boots and shoes by the front door. Coats and clothes strewn across the bed. Stuffing coming out of chairs that small creatures had made their home. It was amazing and I’ve always wanted to go take the pictures that Cynthia had the privilege of shooting. I am so grateful to have started the day by viewing these images. Amazing. Thank you Cynthia—you’ve made my Monday dense and rich.

“This trip included some of my favorite abandoned properties to date…Two different properties that told two different stories. The old farmhouse with the herd of cattle watching us explore was full of color and texture – a feast for a photographers eyes. I could only imagine the grandeur of this home when she was alive with activity. The other property included in this post was just as incredible, but for a different reason.”
—Cynthia Machowick