In an effort to preserve history and capture the beauty of the forgotten, Dee Ann Sibley has started a new photography project taking photos of abandoned farm buildings in Isanti County.
“I became interested in photographing abandoned spaces while traveling from Maine to Minnesota,” Sibley said. “Somewhere in a small Pennsylvania town was a stately old house sitting on a hill. It was beautiful as the sun set, illuminating the decayed nooks and crannies left from years of neglect. Yet there was something beautiful in the way it clung to the top of the hill, still grand in stature, but ignored by so many travelers. To me it was breathtaking.”
Sibley has remained intrigued by the overlooked beauty and historical importance of abandoned buildings.
“I began thinking about creating this project as I drove down some of Isanti county’s roads and realized that in my own backyard were a number of places that for some reason or another had been left to decay,” Sibley said. “Hidden behind the overgrown brush and large trees lie structures that once housed hardworking families who knew how to live off the land.”
The objective of the project is to locate, research and visually document what is left of the original homesteads that once shaped rural Isanti County. The project will be an exploration of what is left of the abandoned farms that exist in the 11 townships that make up Isanti County.
“People drive by stuff and don’t see a beauty or value in it,” Sibley said. “People take this stuff for granted. I’m interested in how people lived and what they left behind. Ideally, I would like to meet with descendants of some of those original farms and gather a history.”
Sibley was awarded a $2,500 Arts and Cultural Heritage grant to work on her year-long project. She estimates the total cost of the project will be over $4,000.
“The project, although photographed by me, could not be told without countless hours of help and support from community members who share a passion for keeping alive the rich history of the towns and townships making up this east central region of Minnesota,” Sibley said.
She officially started the project July 15 and has already photographed one farmhouse and sent out letters to 20 different property owners where an abandoned farm sits. Farm locations will remain anonymous in the project. Sibley will also supply property owners with a liability form.
The farmhouse photographed held a treasure trove of beautiful images, Sibley said. She was especially taken by a pair of bib overalls left hanging on a hook. It was like the overalls were just waiting for the farmer to return, she said.
The year-long project will conclude with an art show at Cambridge Center for Arts next summer.
For more information on the project or to suggest an abandoned farm, contact Sibley at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Isanti County Abandoned Farm Project Facebook page. Sibley will also have a booth at the Isanti County Fair.