Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Belly of the Beast

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: In mid-October I met my friend Gary in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, for a repeat visit to the Kuerner Farm, made famous in the paintings of Andrew Wyeth. This visit I was not so focused on Wyeth's example as on this great space. In the spring, when we were here last, Karl Kuerner's hay barn was nearly empty. Although far from full now, at the end of the season, this much hay changes everything. Passages that were open are now blocked with hay, and it took a while to orient myself, but it also made the spaces more interesting.

The barn is divided into thirds. The thirds on the two ends are for hay storage. The center third is a core for access to the hay. One enters the barn along the broad side at the back. Hay wagons can be pulled or pushed up the ramp and into the barn on the third floor, adjacent to the hay storage bays on either side that are clear space from bottom to top. From the center section of the third floor hay bales can be tossed to the floor of those bays below and eventually stacked to the top of the gable. That's three "flights" of hay. At the back of the barn, beneath the ramp one can enter the the second floor of the barn through a kind of loading dock. The second floor is the bottom of the hay storage. Chutes allow hay and grain to be passed down to the first floor where animals were kept in the winter. Alternately, hay can be taken to the loading dock, loaded on wagons, and delivered to field or dropped through doors at the front of the barn to the farmyard below. At one time the barn would have been full of hay in October, but now the season's hay doesn't quite fill to the top of the second floor.

At 10:20 AM, when I took this, the light coming through the gable window on the southeast side of the barn reached almost to the front of the barn. Gary and I spent a good part of the day following that beam of light as it moved east across walls, floor, and hay while the sun moved west.