David Plowden's Iowa
David Plowden's Iowa
During his 50-year career, David Plowden sought to capture the once commonplace but now rapidly vanishing scenes of small-town and rural America. David Plowden’s Photographs showcases Plowden’s photographs of local Iowans and communities during a 20-year period.
Comparable to the photographers of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the New Deal era, Plowden’s photographs are a window in time. His photographs often focus on the slow decline of aging industries and communities at a particular moment.
In his photograph Van’s Clothing, Victor, Iowa (1986), the storefront evokes a sense of nostalgia. The recessed, glass door displaying the gloves on a string draw the eye to the strong contrast of light and dark. Yet this place is not set in the distant past. Details like the replaced door handle suggest modernity. The reflection of the brick storefront opposite Van’s Clothing in Victor foreshadows the clothing store’s own fate–empty and closed.
Unlike Van’s Clothing, the photograph Grain Elevators, Manson, Iowa (2004), implies prosperity instead of slow decline in rural America. The agricultural industry behemoths in Grain Elevators become “indigenous skyscrapers.” The large, industrial buildings are the tent poles of local Midwestern towns and farming communities. Without them, a surrounding community inevitably would decline. Here the stark white buildings showcase the latest technological advancements in agricultural production and transportation against an overcast sky. Old industries, farming and the railroad continue to support and define rural life.
In this exhibition, Plowden’s photographs entice the viewer to get a “sense of” what life was, or still is, like in rural Iowa. He does not define Iowa or its inhabitants for his audience; instead, Plowden’s photographs rely on the viewer’s interpretation.
This exhibition is a collaboration between the Humanities Iowa, the Figge and other institutions. Learn more about the exhibition at a website sponsored by Humanities Iowa.
This exhibition will be on view May 12-August 26, 2012.
The exhibition catalogue for David Plowden's Iowa, featuring an introduction by Figge Associate Curator, Rima Girnius, is for sale in the Museum Store
David Plowden, Grain Elevators Manson, Iowa, 2004, archival ink jet print, collection of Humanities Iowa; © 2004 David Plowden