Story and photos by Carol Montana
GRAHAMSVILLE, NY – Ten years ago, photographer LaVerne Black and Town of Neversink Historian Carol Smythe worked on a project to document barns and outbuildings in the Neversink/Grahamsville area.
“We had talked about continuing the project,” said Black, “a phase one, phase two. …” In 2009, Black started to see articles in newspapers and magazines about how barns and outbuildings are disappearing, falling down, being demolished … So she called Smythe and the two decided the time was ripe for phase two. They applied for and received a Sullivan County Arts and Heritage grant for the current joint project between the Times and the Valleys Museum and the Town of Neversink.
Phase Two is currently on display at the Neversink Town Hall on Route 55 in Grahamsville. And on, Saturday, August 21, a private showing was held for the owners of the photographed buildings.
Deciding which buildings to photograph was a team effort. “We started with a list,” said Black. “Carol Smythe and I, and Penny Coombe helped us. We all had a few in mind. And then when I was out taking pictures I would see other barns.” Black took photos of 25 barns and outbuildings. But funding only allowed her to print, produce, mat and frame 20. “The other five will be part of the next phase,” she said.
As barn owners Jeff and Debra Huggler, Richard Coombe and his brother Phil Coombe Jr., and others stood in the upper hallway of the Town Hall admiring the photos, Smythe circulated, handing out questionnaires, seeking the “history behind the photos.” The historian is seeking information on location, present owner(s), known history of the building, and source of information.
In addition, the owner’s packet had information on New York State Historic Preservation Tax Credits, which may help with the repair or rehabilitation of the buildings.
All of the photos are black and white. “The first series were all done in my dark room,” said Black. “We wanted the second phase to be as close in looks as the first set. I take take them in color and then convert them to black and white. If you take a digital image in black and white, you may miss some of the digital pixels. If you take them in color, you get a full range of color, and therefore a full range of contrasts.”
Black tries not to manipulate the images. “Sometimes they’re raw out of the camera and all you have to do is resize them.”
Using the list that Black, Smythe and Coombe developed, Black called everyone on the list to get permission prior to shooting the photos. For the few buildings she found along the way, she took the photo, then did research to find out who owned it, and got permission.
“This is what I love doing best,” said Black. My husband John and I go together, we drive around, search them out, wander around looking for the best vantage point to get the beauty and structure. …I’m sorry it’s over, I can’t wait to start another facet of it. The next project is more barns. We must archive them. We use 300-year CDs, and they are archived in multiple places.
The name of the exhibit came from Smythe. “It’s hard to think about capturing people’s imaginations when you’re talking about barns,” said Smythe. “I sat at the computer and it came to me. … This show is so special. LaVerne has taken her art and applied it to a technical photograph. The purpose was to capture buildings before they vanish, she took it one step further. She didn’t just save history, she made it art.”
Open to the public at the Neversink Town Hall, 273 Main Street, Grahamsville, during regular business hours, the photos will eventually be on permanent display at the soon-to-open Time and the Valleys Museum.
For further information about history in the Town of Neversink, call Historian Carol Smythe at 845-985-2262, ext. 313, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about the museum, click this link – Time and the Valleys Museum.
To see more photos or to purchase prints from Saved by the Camera, visit The Catskill Chronicle on Zenfolio.
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