Professor displays county character through photos
David Hamm, a Hillsboro native and Tabor College art professor, said his Skyscrapers project, depicting life in Marion County, began with a basketball hoop.
“It’s a simple thing,” he said. “It’s not a huge investment, but it is a place to gather.”
He took pictures all over the county, Lehigh to Burns, of everything from the hoops to churches, and cattle shoots.
“It’s not what people go on vacation to go see, but what they surround their everyday lives with,” he said. “Maybe we don’t give as much thought to them, but they make up the environment.”
Hamm said his photography project was about capturing the area’s character.
“Every place has culture,” he said. “It’s interesting to spend time thinking about what that looks like. Not to assume culture is something that exists in urban places, but not in rural places.”
Hamm said his goal was not to romanticize or simplify life in the county.
“It is worth caring about, but to the extent many people care, it’s like it’s an escape, it’s idyllic and pastoral,” he said. “I think it’s great, but not for those reasons.”
His goal was to take an objective look at rural life, similar to that of Bernd and Hilla Becher, German photographers of the mid- to late-1900s.
People are notably absent from Hamm’s photographs, in an attempt to further remove subjectivity.
Hamm said he wanted to spark discussion by shooting objectively.
His experience as a kid was limited to visiting friends’ houses.
“Agriculture isn’t something I have a particular, personal connection with, but it is the environment,” he said.
As a resident of Matfield Green, many of Hamm’s pieces take place on the drive from the college.
“There’s something about doing a really monotonous thing over and over,” he said. “You get to know it. In a way, there’s not really a substitute for repetition. You see things in different lights and weather conditions. All of a sudden, something will pop out that you’ve driven by hundreds of times.”
Finding interest in the familiar is something Hamm carries over to his graphic design classes.
“I encourage students to show a lot of different things to compare them, or a lot of the same thing so there’s a reference,” he said. “A picture of a porch is not that exciting, but if you see 20 porches next to each other, it’s like that game in the newspaper. What’s the difference between these two photos?”
Last modified March 14, 2019