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Naming the Unknown


When this journey first began, the thrill of getting the perfect shots totally negated how to name these momentous moments.  As effortless as it was to take the picture, naming them became a huge challenge rather quickly.  My perception of the project was glorified; my reality was, “What have I gotten myself into?”.

How does one go about naming hundreds, or even thousands of barns?  Names like “Big Red” and “Majestic Grey” can only go so far, which, by the way, you will see on some of my earlier works.  To give myself some type of bearing, I began using road names; quickly realizing that there would have to be a numbering system as well.   The prospect of twenty-five “Smith Road Reds” would become a definite issue should that many red barns be on that road. 

This would result in the addition of plural and non-plural names such as “Smith Road Red I” and “Smith Road Reds I”, to distinguish whether there was more than one red structure in the shot.  As time went on, I realized that I could use defining features of the barns to further the naming game and started the “Across the Field” and “Beyond the Corn” series.  Eventually I added other features to the names, such as “Rusted Red” or “Fieldstone Grey” in conjunction with the road names to further my naming capabilities.

Then there was the issue with the dreaded “un-named”.  Those are the ones, where, for some reason or another, did not get named in the field.  This does not happen like it used to, but it happened quite frequently when I was first getting my legs in this project.  Literally, hundreds of barns that I had no idea where I was when I took them.  Luckily I have kept good records of where I was on a certain day and, for most, I can find some defining feature that makes them stand out in my mind and am able to develop a name for them in relation to the township or village I was in.

As I reflect throughout this ongoing journey, the names have been a big deal.  Now when I pass an area barn, I can instantly identify it as, of course, with the identity that I personally gave it.   I had to develop ways to organize this behemoth undertaking.  Identifying 1,200 plus barn pictures over the past five years has been, both, a daunting and breathtaking experience.  It has allowed me to reflect inward, as I peruse this collection, to a point in time that I know, in that exact instance, I was one hundred percent in the moment. 

A moment frozen in time.  A mindful moment where a picturesque star was born; granted with a name that is befitting her beauty and ageless grace.

Big Red VII
0007 – Big Red VII (0007-BAR-110716-1211P)
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What the Mind Perceives and the Truth

Most of us, upon seeing something, instantaneously make a certain type of judgement about what we are seeing.  We observe the face and imagine that we know the story.  Many times, we get caught up in our own perceptions of the world and fail to look beyond that which faces us.  Is it because we are afraid of what we might discover?  Or is it that we sometimes mindlessly go through life, not looking for another view outside of the one we already have?

I have taken many pictures of the same barn, however, if you are not paying attention, it will never dawn on you that you have looked at this barn in a couple different views.  I name my barns, usually, based on the road that I am on when I take a certain picture.   From one viewpoint you see this proud, majestic structure; from another you see the agedness you did not recognize from the first angle.  This depicts how many of us go through life not understanding that one perception is not always the true story. 

To understand any story and to have a valid understanding of any situation, it is important to walk around the barn.  Look at the varying angles, the weathered wood, the animals that call it home.  Look at the rusted roof and the sway of the field that it sets in.  Look at its dusty old rafters and imagine the life that has filled those walls.  Listen to the wind blowing through the rafters and the light whistling sound that it makes. 

Walking around that barn allows for the ability to come to the full truth of most situations.  Perception can be your friend or your foe.  To quickly judge is a disservice to those affected by our perceptions because we truly did not take the time and go around that barn.  To take that journey, one must be willing to spend the time necessary to get the whole picture.

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As with any new journey, there are always bumps along the way that can cause one to rethink their position and refocus their efforts in a different direction than originally anticipated.  A fork in the road always signify that decisions need to be made.

In the spring of 2016, I would embark on a journey to capture the beauty of the thumb area of my home state of Michigan.  This is a rural area with an abundance of old farms, antiquated barns and wildlife that are part of this vibrant areas’ everyday life; far removed from the urban concrete jungles of our larger metropolitan cities.

I had before me, a unique opportunity to “kill two birds with one stone,” so to speak, based on another business I had recently started that involved doing on-site inspections.  I was, and still am, an inspector and always have my workhorse of a camera with me.  Every time I would go out to do my daily grind, I would go by some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenes; reminiscent of a time long gone when life did not seem so complicated.  It was an opportunity to not run my life based on a clock and allow myself to focus on what was truly going on around me.  A time to gain perspective in my life; although I truly did not know that would be the eventual outcome at the time.

That does not mean that I did not have deadlines and other appointments to keep; not at all.  What it meant was that I was able to not be so concerned about that aspect of my job.  Each day I left the house I had a route in hand and knew that these were the “must do’s” of the day.  I never put a time limit on how long it would take me, outside of any possible appointments, and I allowed myself to take time to pull off the road and capture a moment in time without feeling pressured or guilty.  The time it took for that moment to be captured was fleeting; but the rendering of that small twinkling in time will, hopefully, guarantee that antiquated beauties will be remembered and cherished for many years to come. 

That old tattered red barn that fell to the ground last year will always have life in my collection.  That one focused moment will stand as a memorial to her resilience and a testament to her stolidity through the ages, as the landscapes changed around her. 

We all need different viewpoints in our lives, that allow us to think outside of our own personal bubble that we get lost in.   We can find ourselves caught up in our belief systems to a point that we allow ourselves to negate the reasons behind other’s perceptions of the world.  Keeping a home, raising children, paying bills, putting up with the unlimited biases in the world and keeping sanity through it all is no easy feat.  Sometimes we need to separate ourselves from all the noise to gain perspective as to what is profoundly important in our own individual lives so that we can actually appreciate the perception of others.