Rural Scenes

Photographer Burress captures
hundreds of images of area barns

His DVD is for sale at
Jefferson County Historical Society

By Nichole Osinski
Contributing Writer

(January 2012) – Steve Burress has been shooting barns. Shooting photography of barns, that is. Burress, a 62-year-old local amateur photographer, started taking photos of wooden barns from the surrounding area and eventually compiled the 600-plus photos onto a DVD. The project started out for personal recreation, but soon Burress’ friends and family were asking for copies of the photos.

Steve Burress

Photo by Nichole Osinski

Local amateur photographer
Steve Burress has taken more than 600
photos of wooden barns in the area and
compiled his collection onto a DVD.

Wooden Barn

When a couple of friends suggested that the Jefferson County Historical Society might be interested in this project, Burress decided to find out. The decision process went through the society’s executive director Joe Carr and museum archivist Ron Grimes. After the society approved of the photos, they then put Burress’ DVDs on sale at the Historical Society’s museum shop.
“They’re very good photographs of the barns,” said Grimes “They’re a relic of the past, and they should be preserved.”
Burress has actively been preserving the past with his photos for more than 40 years. His first camera came to him when he won it in a grade school cakewalk. When he was about 20 years old, a friend of his owned an old Pentax camera, and Burress decided he would also like to own one. He found a similar camera in a pawn shop, bought it and started an enjoyable hobby in photography.
Over the years Burress began to upgrade his cameras and now uses a Canon 7D digital camera. He also began to take photographs for weddings and is the go-to man for photos during family reunions and holidays.
Burress, who lives in China, Ind., near Madison, works in shipping and receiving at Arvin Sango Inc. and said doing photography is a way to get him out of the house.
However, sometimes all he has to do is step out his back door, and he has free range to photograph scenery and wildlife on the 40 acres that he owns. He compares his property to a wildlife reserve, since it is covered in woods and there are regular sightings of deer, turkey, coyote and other wild animals.
With this kind of access, it’s no wonder his favorite things to photograph are wildlife and scenery. He also has a talent for portraits and finds that with age people “take on a lot of character.”
When Burress is at home he can also be found photographing and keeping a log of the various birds that come to eat the seed he has left out for them. In short, if the opportu rikes Burress is ready with his camera.
Since Burress plans to retire in a few years, he also plans to supplement any extra photography money with his retirement fund. He explains that with film cameras a lot of money would have been used for the film itself and that shooting digital gives him more financial freedom.
When Burress started thinking about taking photos of old, wooden barns he wasn’t thinking about saving money.
“I had cabin fever,” he said. “and wooden barns fascinate me. It seemed like a perfect fit.”
Burress began this process in late February and ended around early April. He wanted his 2011 project to take place as spring came in so that he could capture the barns before all the weeds and trees bloomed, covering the structures.
During 17 different trips around Jefferson County, Ind., Burress captured many barns that were on the brink of collapsing and looked “like skeletons.” In fact, several have already fallen to the ground, only to be remembered by a single photo.
This photographic journey took Burress across fields, down old roads and through creeks. He began on the eastern part of the county and worked his way west. Each trip he would take a different colored marker and highlight the roads he had traveled. When all the roads were colored in, he would move on to the next area.
Taking photos of the aging barns wasn’t always easy. Once Burress was chased off a farm after the owner became suspicious. Another time he had to hike to find a barn more than 100 years old.
Burress’ work payed off when he ended up with more than 1,000 colored photos, each with their own story.
Many of the barns were partially collapsed, others had roofs covered in moss, while one was constructed without nails or metal. A favorite photo of Burress’ shows a weathered barn with turkey vultures on the roof and is displayed in a gold-tinted field.
In some photos, it’s the sunset or last bit of snow on the ground that makes the barn stand out that much more. Burress describes many of the barns as being “massive” and “multilayered.”
Nevertheless, one of the main reasons this project began was simply due to a love for photography and being out in nature.
With the completion of this barn project Burress is now thinking of doing something similar but with local waterfalls. He already has a collection of Clifty Falls after heavy rains. The photographs would be during the different seasons and showcase the hidden corners in the county.
For now, Burress plans to continue taking photos of the places around him and give everyday scenes life.
“A photos worth a thousand words. If you do it right, the picture will make you look at it longer – and people will see what you saw.”

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