When I find an old farm house, unoccupied of course, I always look for a window with tattered curtains, thinking what lies behind. Ghosts of past occupants? Nothing but junk? I suppose I’d jump out of my skin if a face suddenly appeared. This photo represents one of the best I’ve found lately … although I have many other nice ones in my collection. I love the texture of the wood siding and the faded tin roof.
As I drive around narrow back roads in SW Virginia and adjacent rural North Carolina, I often find what I’ll call photo treasures from the past. When one of them has something of special interest to my wife (like the Barn Quilt in the last image) I’m happier than I would have been otherwise, because I love sharing these sorts of “photo gifts” with her and others.
When I make photos of old houses I often wonder at the time (or later when I look at them on my computer screen) what memories reside in the structure; who lived there, how large was the family, what did they do, what were their daily lives like, and so forth. In the case of the following photos, the fact that this early 19th Century farm home was located in a rather remote section in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia most likely meant that whomever lived there did so with great determination and patience given the difficulties I am sure they experienced trying to provide for each other, especially during the winter months. As I have written previously, using your imagination is an important aspect of making photos, so that your efforts can “tell a story.”
Making photographs of old but still operating farms located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia has been and remains one of my favorite activities. One challenge I face when doing this is to try to find interesting compositions that tell a story, and in that regard it’s often difficult to do so with only one photograph. The first thing that caught my eye when I approached this white farm house nestled in a grove of trees at the top of a slight hill was the bright green tree standing out in contrast with the rest of the vegetation. But when I looked away from the house to the left, to the valley just below the hill from where it sat, I began to think about what living in that house was like today, but more about it would have been like living there years ago.
At the bottom of the hill was a small pond, with three farm out-buildings located nearby. And jutting out on that small pond was a wooden dock, where I am sure many people young and old once sat seeking to catch that elusive big fish that always found a way to remain free. I could visualize sitting on that dock as the setting sun went behind mountain ridges off in the distance, hearing my mother shout from the back door of our home on the hill, to come for supper … NOW! But before leaving the fun I was having trying to catch that fish, I would have pulled my hook in, re-baited it with a fresh worm, tossed my line into the pond just one more time, praying for success. Coming home late to supper, but with a freshly caught fish in hand, might forestall any scolding I might have otherwise received. Even today, the pond looked so inviting to me that I had to walk around seeking different photographic perspectives. As I drove away, I kept thinking that living in this old farm would have been a joyful experience for me while growing up. And, I was thankful for finding the place, and for my camera for recording the scenes that made me feel that way.