Words and Photos

“Several days later Murray asked me about a tourist attraction known as the most photographed barn in America. We drove twenty-two miles into the country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards. White fences trailed through rolling fields. Soon the signs started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were forty cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cow path to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides – pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a groove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book.

“No one sees the barn,” he said finally.

A long silence followed.

“Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.””

          Don DeLillo, White Noise (1985)


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10 thoughts on “Words and Photos

    1. Rob Campbell

      I will not argue that point!

      Another guy around kills the thing entirely. I never went on double dates either, for much the same reason.

      In a way, photography is making love: who wants a crowd? Come to think of it, maybe, if you are doing it without a model, it’s more like a wank? Now there’s a thought for the evening.



      1. Keith Laban

        Reminds me of another of my oft repeated little ditties…

        “Art has to be more than decoration and recreation but often ends up as masturbation’.


  1. Lee Rust

    There’s such a difference between looking and seeing. If you have come to see, the crowds of lookers are as invisible as infrared is to ultraviolet.

  2. Rob Campbell

    It’s nothing like it, but the photo reminds me of the UK ads for Strand cigarettes, with the Sinatra lookalike. The slogan was “You’re never alone with a Strand”.

    I’m not sure how Liverpool fans would have taken to that, but I remember the ad as being before the Merseybeat days,, so I guess it didn’t count.


  3. Dan Castelli

    I’d find the crowd of photographers more interesting to shoot than the freakin’ barn. If I want to shoot a barn, my neighbor has a nice bright red one. With a horse & a dog. And an old Case tractor.
    Also, what’s with the sexual references? You sound like 15 year old’s playing ‘kiss & tell.’

    1. Rob Campbell

      It offers a sense of security; at the very least you get to mimic a picture and, if the atmospherics are right, you could even surpass the sainted ones. All in digital, too! What could be more satisfying?


  4. insolublepancake

    Catching up, catching up. Thanks for posting this Tim. On of the great moments of American lit., that’s for sure. I also like what Murray says to Jack about Elvis and Hitler: “You created it, you nurtured it. . . . He is now your Hitler. I marvel at the effort. It was masterful, shrewd and stunningly preemptive. It’s what I want to do with Elvis.”

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