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American Exodus: The state of rural America and the modern corporate dust bowl
Posted By: benisona, 02-01-2011, 10:50 PM

Fellow Pentaxians,
I need your opinions. These are two photos that I am preparing for a photo contest. My topic is the title of this post. The contest is a 2 photo narrative, so the pictures have to tell a story. I headed out to eastern Colorado this last weekend to shoot the pictures. I just love it out there, it is such a barren beautiful landscape. We ended up finding this great desolate farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere. It also happened that once we found this place (after stopping by a few other locations, while driving around all afternoon) I had time to do inside and outside shots, then the sun set, so the lighting was perfect. The stars come out so quickly out there, and I had a stroke of inspiration to shoot the sunset, leave the camera on the tripod until the stars came out, then shoot another exposure to help with the feeling of vast isolation, and the passage of time.

Anyhow, I'm trying to finalize the images and I can't decide on color, or B&W and I wanted to get some pentaxian/fellow photographers opinions. The contest is all about the narrative and less about the technical aspects of the pictures. I also want to evoke a Grapes of Wrath/Steinbeck feel to it (I was even thinking of making the title a quote from Grapes, so many amazing ones). I'm personally leaning toward the B&W, because I feel it puts more focus on the stroy, and less on the pictures themselves, but everytime I look at the color versions I waver a bit because I like them too.

Let me know what you think, both about the topic title, and the shots.

Love the feedback, and thanks in advance.

the two in color;

Now in B&W;

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02-02-2011, 08:23 AM   #16
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Just outstanding shots.
Another vote for color.....


02-02-2011, 08:46 AM   #17
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I have to vote on color also. They are great shots.
02-02-2011, 08:49 AM   #18
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I enjoy looking at the in color shots
02-02-2011, 09:28 AM   #19
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Thanks for all the comments and interest guys/gals.

QuoteOriginally posted by yucatanPentax Quote
I was torn for a while, but I've got to say Color for Both. I just feel the color has more impact, particularly the sunset. And using that one for color and the other B&W (which I put up on a larger monitor) just seems discordant (to me - others may disagree).

In my past, I've driven through eastern Colorado many times. Vast open spaces, much of it farmed now by monster machinery that can cover 100s of acres a day, guided by GPS, and operated in air conditioned comfort.

And there, in the emptiness, you'll see a lone abandoned farm house and wonder about the people who pour their hearts, their dreams, their soul into building that house and running that farm.

Look at the house you photographed. Someone really worked on that. It's a fine example of craftsmanship. The dressed stone foundation covered in stucco. How much work was it to square cut each stone, haul it into place, cement it to last? The lath on the interior, carefully covered by now missing plaster -- look at all the time it took to nail each strip of wood, lay the three or four coats of plaster, install the fine windows. A nice front porch to see the sun come up and a back porch for the sunset. It's not a small house either, for a family back then. Bedrooms for kids, mom and dad. Probably empty now for 40-50 years, what happened to those folks and their dreams?

Did the kids live through the harsh winters and the thin years when farming didn't bring much to get by on? Did they make it through school and get drafted? Or did everyone just give up on the farm and move away? Or did mom and dad stick with the farm alone, all those years on the empty prairie, enjoying each other's company until their last days? What happened to the people whose dream was once that house?

A million thoughts like that used to run through my mind on those long, long trips in the car. A few months ago, I shot a couple pics of a stone farmhouse in Kansas. We couldn't hang around until sunset or get inside the house. So, I shot into the sun and got something to look at. But your photos are both art and story. You ought to win.

I like the color. It makes the decay seem in stark contrast to the life around it The blue sky seems to be living, while the house is almost black and white anyway, abandoned, forlorn, falling apart with each wind, each freeze and thaw.
Yucatan, wow, what an amazing comment. I can't tell you what a perfect description that is of how I often feel when entering these places. I will see little reminants of what life once was for the people that lived and died, an think to myself how many different dreams and asperations, hope and laghter, hard times and bountiful harvests, took place behind these walls. It is haunting and beautiful to think of this, to really feel it first hand, and see the orderly creations man gently forces on nature being taken back by the often fractal-like order expressed and ultimately imposed by nature itself.

Honestly you really captured many of my thoughts and truly get why I love shooting this stuff so much.

QuoteOriginally posted by dcmsox2004 Quote
add another 10 shots like these and you'd have a winner of a calendar... (i'd like the 1st copy please )......

Thanks DCMsox, I actually have many more than ten shots of similar subject matter, as I drove through eastern CO, nebraska, south dakota, and wyoming last summer, and even going back the summer before, when I first discovered the true contrasting beauty of these high plains ghosts. I'm actually planning on putting together an gallery showing sometime this summer, and maybe a coffee table book or a calendar wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Seems like most are starting to lean toward the color versions. I could always desaturate them just a bit more, to get a bit of the best of both worlds...

02-02-2011, 02:23 PM   #20
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Great shots! I vote for color
02-02-2011, 04:28 PM   #21
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benisona - I too prefer the color shots. There is something about the colors that you have captured which adds to the mood of both the pictures. Instead of just being great pictures, they do tell a story. Would be nice to see more from the set if you have them.

yucatanPentax - It makes one wonder what history is in ones past. A large chest of documents and photos was passed onto me a couple of months back after my parents passed away, so I'm lucky enough to have record back to about 1780. When I look through the satellite or street view of google maps, the original settlements appear to have been "de-populated". One never knows what similar place could be in ones own family history.
02-02-2011, 05:31 PM   #22
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QuoteOriginally posted by Gareth Quote
Fair play, these are stunning images, my hat goes off to you - lovely
I agree with Gareth...stunning photos in both color and B&W!
Great job!!
02-02-2011, 05:59 PM   #23
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Awesome job. My vote goes to color window, bw house. Gives it an older feel, to me. Love the exposure blending to get the stars.

02-02-2011, 06:13 PM   #24
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outstanding photos. I cast my lot for the color photos. Just to much color to leave out
02-02-2011, 06:40 PM   #25
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Beautiful thought and fantastic job beni,like your second shot in color in all its
complexity,if I had my way on your first shot it would be color inside window
with rest of interiour...lathe,grey coat etc. in B&W. Whichever way,best of luck.
02-02-2011, 09:45 PM   #26
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Thanks everyone. I'm definitely leaning toward color at this point. The more I look at it the more I like the color, and feel that if I go B&W it would only be an attempt to pander to the judges, rather than stay true to my art...
02-02-2011, 10:02 PM   #27
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I'm gonna have to say color as well. It adds that extra dimension to the story you're trying to convey

Beautiful images!!
02-02-2011, 11:23 PM   #28
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Some quotes from Grapes that I thought really fit this story, wish I could include one of these with the entry...

They breathe profits; they eat the interest on money. If they don't get it, they die the way you die without air, without side-meat.

The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It's the monster. Men made it, but they can't control it.

But the machine man, driving a dead tractor on land he does not know and love, understands only chemistry; and he is contemptuous of the land and of itself. When the corrugated iron doors are shut, he goes home, and his home is not the land

Men who have created new fruits in the world cannot create a system whereby their fruits may be eaten. And the failure hangs over the State like a great sorrow. ...and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.
02-03-2011, 12:00 AM   #29
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I think you should go color for both of these shots. They are amazing shots to begin with, but the striking colors really make these images "pop". The cool blues, warm yellows, and "old" browns/grays really help tell the story of these pictures in my opinion.
02-03-2011, 12:15 AM   #30
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I think both of these work better in color. Very good work, by the way!

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