Saturday, October 25, 2014

Silent Sentinels

Local photographer Dennis Galloway recently emailed me a batch of his latest images about a favorite subject of his: grain elevators. 
Dennis just returned from (as he described it to me) a “long quixotic trip to north central Washington” to search for some exposed timber grain elevators he’d discovered online that he “just had to photograph.” He checked in with the county museum in Waterville and could not get a single lead to anyone who knew anything about these buildings. He would have knocked on some doors to ask people about them but doors in that part of Washington are all twenty miles apart! 
Dennis did find several obliging subjects on his journey. Most of these shots are from the Waterville Plateau. The last two are at Pratum (latin for "meadow"), OR, east of Salem. 
I’ve previously blogged about Dennis’ affection for grain elevators. His use of black & white photography is perfectly suited to documenting these silent sentinels of broad horizons. This is because monochromatic imagery relies heavily upon shadows and chiaroscuro to define shapes, details, geometry, and volume. I’m certain his photographs would have nowhere near the same impact if they were rendered in full color. Color would introduce a distraction, taking attention away from the visual building blocks Dennis chooses to emphasize: texture, tonal contrast, shape, form, and lighting. 
Dennis utilizes digital image editing to enhance his work but he does so in a way that is entirely unobtrusive. Your attention is entirely drawn to the structure of his photographs and his mastery of light and shadow. 
His photographs poignantly document the unaffected authenticity of grain elevators. They remind me of Dorothea Lange’s iconic photos of Depression-era migrant farm workers, but in this instance the subjects are buildings and not people. Regardless, they evoke an emotional response, heightened by Dennis’ skill with light and composition. Grain elevators are plain, pure examples of form following function without any architectural pretensions; they're eccentric, and hauntingly beautiful. Dennis is dedicated to preserving this vanishing heritage in his pictures. 
For more of Dennis Galloway’s work, check out his Flickr photostream.

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