- Series: Bur Oak Book
- Paperback: 94 pages
- Publisher: University Of Iowa Press; 1 edition (November 15, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1587297035
- ISBN-13: 978-1587297038
- Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.3 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,856,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Harker's One-Room Schoolhouses: Visions of an Iowa Icon (Bur Oak Book) 1st Edition
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Harker’s Barns (2003) are called icons in the subtitle, too, but they don’t command quite the reverence that the subjects of this book do—reverence and a bit of awe. Or is it guilt? Harker’s exterior photos of a couple dozen long-retired schools tend to look slightly up at them, like a boy trudging to study on a beautiful day, respectful of the temple of knowledge but all too aware of his own ignorance. Sometimes there is more than veneration in an image. That of Iowa’s first school, in Keokuk, looks like a mystical vision, thanks to Harker’s marvelous, perhaps breeze- and definitely cloud-assisted blurring of the foliage behind the wee building. Those of completely abandoned and decaying structures, like the nearly roofless Moffitt’s Corner School, also resonate, somehow, with the atmosphere of the past; the ruins in a field near Mediapolis virtually keen with it. The handful of interiors and exterior details—two big summoning bells, a storm-cellar door, a stripped and abandoned old bus—in contrast seems deafeningly silent. Such pictures are why black-and-white photography persists. --Ray Olson
“Michael Harker’s crisp, clean photographs are both important and necessary as they help us remember our collective past, telling us who we are; a deep understanding that is often lost in this too rapidly changing world. Paul Theobald’s writing adds just the right touch of historical reflection as he speaks of the “inevitable departure” from that past.”—Bruce Jordan, Documentary Photographer, Texas Trilogy: Life in a Small Texas Town and Early Texas Schools, A Photographic History
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The pictures of the one-room schoolhouses that Michael Harker presents in these images are confrontational. The one-room schoolhouses are photographed without any mellowing influence. Instead, many of them are shot from a three-quarters angle so that one side appears in sunlight and another in shade. This in turn leads to a harsh and unmitigated contrast that is more likely to occupy the viewer's mind than thoughts about what once went on inside the schoolhouses. Often someone's picture of an old school building will lead us to wonder what life was like in its heyday, full of children and community. But these pictures of old schoolhouses reminded me only of the impermanence of what man creates.
Only in the few pictures of the interiors of a few of the schools do we think of the living who sat at the desks and prepared themselves to learn the world. Only then do we think that Paul Theobold, whose essay is included, might be right to suggest that we may have lost something of value when we switched from the one-room schoolhouse to the regional campus.
Although the black and white images presented here have a superficial resemblance to the images in the artist's earlier book "Harker's Barns: Visions of an American Icon (Bur Oak Book)", a close reading of the two will show the differences. Both the structures and the angles of view of the different barns varied more than here. Some were still working, as indicated by the cattle or hay bales in the scene, even though they were starting to run down. Others showed us their context. Tonalities supported the overall feeling. Sometimes even the abandoned barns made us feel that something important had gone on there, and even, that perhaps they deserved a well-earned rest.
I'm certain there are people who find confrontational subjects attractive. There are also folks who so love these old schoolhouses that the approach of the photographer will not be material and these folks will find this volume interesting. But for me, Harker's one-room schoolhouses remind me more of a disinterested archeology then of a work of love. Comparing the two books will help readers understand a great deal about the nature of photography.