Sunday, June 15, 2008

Expanding horizons

Last night as I drove back to Wichita from visiting a colleague in Manhattan, KS, I drove through the Flint Hills and took some photos of the school at the Tallgrass Prairie Nature Preserve school at sunset. As I did, it occurred to me that it is pretty hard NOT to take a cool photo of the Flint Hills at sunset. The setting lends itself to great shots. On the rest of the drive back, I mulled over the idea of a new type of photo contest for Kansas. Its defining feature would be what was not allowed in terms of subject. The point is not that said subjects are not valuable or important. Rather, it would be to get us to think about Kansas in a way that got beyond the familiar, even cliche images that show up on photo contests and state fair exhibitions. In some ways, it is too easy to fall back on these topics. What else in Kansas is worthy of documenting? are some ideas of things that would NOT be permitted in this alternative Kansas photo competition:

The Flint Hills and Konza Prairie.
Monument Rocks and Castle Rock
Abandoned farmhouses, one room schools, country churches, court houses
Cows, bison, and horses
Trains and railroad stations
Windmills, barns, and grain elevators
Sunsets, approaching storms, and tornadoes
Panoramas of fields, either bare or with crops
Sunflowers, post rock fences and barbed wire
Children and senior citizens (however they may be in the background of scenes provided people of other generations are also present)
Patriotic imagery
Traditional artistic images (Madonna of the Plains, Cathedral of the Plains, Keeper of the Plains, the John Brown Scene in the Capitol, etc. As a general rule of thumb, if it has the phrase "of the plains" in the name, it is probably off limits.)

You are probably saying by now "hey, what CAN I photograph?"

Now, you've got the idea!


cheryl said...

I think you've got a good idea going here, Jay - looking for Kansas without the traditional /expected symbols.

Hey, here's a question, O Wise One... you know how 90% of the small-town Kansas Methodist churches have a somewhat similar architecture - is that the way small-town Methodist churches look in other parts of the country as well?

Dr History said...

Thanks, Cheryl, for the comment. Any thoughts about other things to include on the "off limits" list?

As for your other comment, my suspicion is that the Methodist conferences here used the same group of architects. It was not uncommon for a regional body of a given denomination to have a number of architects who were regularly on the "short list." Mail order pieces, including steeples, woodwork, and stained glass windows were available in the 1800s and beyond so a lot of features were easily had. I have not come across Methodists having stock plans for churches the way the Southern Baptists did in the twentieth century. Long answer to a good question.