For this year’s A to Z Challenge I’m being Julie Andrews and going on about my favorite things. I suppose there are people young enough to have no clue who Julie Andrews is or when she did this. Seriously, you need to watch “The Sound of Music”. It’s part of classic movie knowledge. Remembering your favorite things will keep you from being afraid, and who doesn’t need some of that these days…
I am seriously in love with old barns, wherever I find them. I love their muted colors. I love their changing shapes as they age, sag, and fall. I love the stories that are hidden in their walls, stories of people working, of animals taking shelter, stories of changing culture and times past. When driving through the Midwest particularly, I have been known to brake suddenly and pull off the road to get a photo of a ghost of a barn so picturesque that I could not pass it.
One time visiting my parents in northern Wisconsin, my dad wanted to show me a barn he thought I would like. He didn’t know who it belonged to but it looked abandoned. And indeed, it was. Dad stood by the gate as I trespassed investigated the barn inside and out with my camera. The memory of that time will always be burned into my memory, with the help of those photos.
I think the fascination comes from my own childhood, growing up on a working farm, and gradually seeing the barn I knew well change roles. It contained the hayloft that was at once both the perfect playground and the source of my scariest dreams. It was the dairy barn where I learned to milk cows and hunt for new kittens. Later it was the storage place for furniture and machinery no longer in use. One section of it became the hen house for our flocks of chickens. As the leaks began and it leaned a bit, it was propped up with braces and attempts were made to put metal on the steep sloping roof. And then one night, in a storm, it went down completely. We weren’t ready for that and it was shocking.
One of my favorite barns is still in our family. It belonged to my grandfather, and is now a landmark in the greenspace surrounding my brother’s small housing development. Photographers sometimes pay to take pictures there.
Barns stand for a way of life that is becoming less common. People used to build their barn before they built their house because it was a priority. Now they are more likely to be adornments on the “gentleman farms” of the wealthy. I am afraid they will become extinct. And that is why I take pictures of these beautiful reminders of the past.
What part of the past do you like to photograph, to keep alive?
*All photos are property of Shirley Dietz. May be used with permission.