26 May 2010

Scenes from Sioux Falls II: architecture of the open spaces

House, South Dakota, surrounded by sudden spring greenery

Driving across the southern half of South Dakota, west to east and then back, is an odyssey in hard-scrabble vernacular architecture. There is no place in the state that provided an easy life, and these deserted structures are mute testaments to the harshness of prairie life. Some of them are unexpectedly beautiful, by purpose or by accident, with colors as striking as the quilts of Gee's Bend. Since starting this project, I am always taking the tiny blue highways and looking behind trees--where there are trees--and around curves--where there are curves.

Barn, South Dakota

The violent weather in the state this past weekend reminded me just how tough it was to survive through the winter and spring. Every season brought its dangers and its beauties. There was never any guarantee that this season would not be the last.

Barn after heavy rainstorm

These shots are just a tip-of-the-iceberg sampling of the lovely, lone sentinel buildings on the prairies. Every one has its story, but many of those are lost. Their whispers are wordless.


Abandoned barn

Working barn

Christ Episcopal Church, Ft. Thompson

Abandoned church

Grain elevator. If ever a shot demanded black-and-white photography, this is it.

Hilltop buildings


House with metal roof

House and outbuilding


They have survived their builders, outlived their families, and even outlived their purposes. Don't drive by them too quickly--they are the last of their kind.

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