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"Singing Hills Barn"/12" x 8"  as alumium or archival paper available by special order: ernestjschweit@sbcglobal.net

Picture story

The making of: "Singing Hills Barn"

      My passion for photography deepened with my interest in the Midwestern Barn. As a suburban Chicago kid, my love of these rickety old buildings seemed contradictory. But that changed after many a long train ride across the farmland of Illinois to college in Lincoln and later in Carbondale.

I watched from the dome car of a speeding train as many a rural scene unfold at sunrise before me; I quickly developed an appreciation for what I imagined was the life on a farm in the midwest and the role it played in the history of our country. To this day, I see an old wooden barn as a temple on the prairie, a memorial to a more simple time that we've somehow lost.

In recent years, my photographic journey has moved away from barns, in part because they have given way to suburban sprawl; finding them a reasonable trip from home is a challenge. But then I rediscovered Singing Hills Farm, 20 minutes away. I say rediscovered because I had actually photographed the barn about 15 years ago, when I was still shooting film.

It drew my interest again after seeing an image posted by another photographer on social media. The barn, with its weathered yellow paint job and brown silo, sits surrounded by parking lot and forest preserve, on 541 acres once owned by Dan Nelson, Sr., who had purchased the property in the 1940s as a country retreat for his family.

I visited on one of the last snowy days of winter, when some nice soft light and white clouds just ahead of sunset made  for an almost heavenly image, befitting ithe barn's immortality. I imagine that the barn, with its black lettering on its side, looks little like it did in its hey day more than 80 years ago. But to me, its still a wonder.


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