Forgotten, Not Gone
I have this fascination with the old structures that were built in and about the Western United States— being that arid geography generally west of the Mississippi. It seems to be something of a flawed fit between the Euro Americans who first settled the west and the stone buildings constructed during the colonial area in the eastern US by the first landed settlers. These structures had a rock-hard permanence, surveyed place, purpose of shelter, and ownership which was not common in Europe in the 1700s.
Settlers who wandered west constructed cabins, barns, silos, and feed sheds from materials at hand— roughhewn timber, mud, and sod. Raised, rather than built, in a time of unfenced open ranges, in a universal hurry and inherently with a sense of temporary occupancy. These settlers and their structures had a greater reverence for the beautiful and haunting scenery around them, than home and hearth.
Time has passed and what remains is a dark reminder of the Euro-American penchant to continue to move west, to abandon ranching, plowing, and harvesting to a more industrial and technological lifestyle. What’s left is crumbling memories of a time of rugged individualism and adventure. As I captured these images, in the still remote west, I could feel the deep isolation and ghosts of those independent pioneers. Thus, I chose to use a duotone process in post-production to enhance the sense of isolation and abandonment.
My hope is that viewers will feel the loss of what once was, which I felt while photographing the remains of prairie view windows, roofs with natural skylights, water starved landscapes and deserted livestock pens. Many of which are surrounded with the symbols of a more modern existence.
Richard Paumen is a noted landscape photographer who concentrates on man’s impact upon the American West. He completed a double history course in Colonial Architecture in college which provided him with the knowledge to understand how early American structures were built and used. He couples this background with his art photography to bring the past to life in film and print. Rich is also an alumnus of the National Parks Photography Expeditions mentor program.