The Slow Collapse

March 11, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

It's been nearly 25 years since I first saw Idaho's Teton Valley. The area has a rich agricultural heritage, so one of the things I enjoyed photographing on that first trip was barns - especially those that had seen better days. With their sagging roofs and worn siding they made for spectacular subject matter.

While it remains sparsely populated in comparison to other parts of the country, there are more than twice the number of people living in the valley now than there were in 1997. It's still rural but the area has changed quite a bit. Homes now sit on land that was once farmed. Quirky, ancient barns are harder to find. 

That said, there are old abandoned structures scattered around Eastern Idaho. Poke around enough and you'll stumble across them. 

I quickly became attached to a rickety farmhouse in Swan Valley. Every time I was in that area I made it a point to check on my little house. A vine had grown up one side of it and onto the roof; during the summer months it was as if the house was wearing a lovely green shawl. The opposite side had begun to cave in.

Though the conditions were seldom conducive to making anything more than a snapshot when I passed by, I often pulled out the camera (if not the "Big Boy" camera, at least my phone) to record its general health, so to speak.  

This is what it looked like not long after I first discovered it:

High winds and heavy snowpack will take their toll; every year the house sank closer to the ground. Each spring I wondered whether or not it would still be standing. It surprised me more than once!

One evening as I was heading home following a day of storm chasing in Grand Teton National Park, I wondered if I might have a chance to make a "real" photograph of the crumbling house. Coming over the second pass, I could see lingering angry-looking clouds to the west. If I was lucky they'd hang around and I'd be able to find a composition once I got to Swan Valley.

I had to move quickly but the conditions held together just long enough before the sun set. The stormy skies were a perfect complement to the house in its state of serious decline.

By the way, I made this photo in the nick of time; the little house didn't live to see the following spring. It's now a pile of wood.

Slow Collapse Swan Valley IdahoThe Slow CollapseAfter too many years of heavy snowpack and high winds, this abandoned farmhouse is nearly ready to give up the fight. (Swan Valley, Idaho)


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