“Barns of Iowa,” Photos by Michael Harker, at Historical Museum 

The Mitchell County Historical Society is pleased to announce the opening of its newest exhibit, “Barns of Iowa,” photographs by Michael Harker.  The exhibit is displayed in the Hamlin Garland Gallery on the second floor of the Cedar River Complex in Osage, where it will be available to the public at no charge through October.  

“Barns of Iowa” consists of twenty 11 x 18 inch black and white photos, which capture the nostalgic beauty of barns and the enduring pride of the farmers who built them. Michael Harker, a professional photographer from Cedar Rapids, began photographing these structures in 1993 utilizing a rare artistic approach – shooting only one photo of each barn – one view that conveys a distinct, individual story. 

Harker’s technique of barn photography reflects remarkable precision.  According to the artist, he often takes an entire day to set up the perfect shot, waiting for the perfect light, the perfect time to click the shutter, the only time he will click it that day. 

According to Harker, “Close to a thousand Iowa barns are being destroyed each year due to various causes.  My images are little time machines carrying forward to future generations of Iowans the dedication of their forbearers.  People born a century from now will be able to look back to what was once glorious and real.  I intend to visually preserve early citizens’ quality craftsmanship when they built these ‘cathedrals’ of wood and stone.”                                            

Harker has worked as a freelance commercial photographer and as an in-house photographer for Deere and Company (Moline, IL) and Rockwell Collins, Inc. (Cedar Rapids, IA).  In 1997, he began his current job as an ophthalmic photographer at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. 

“Barns of Iowa” has been featured by the Smithsonian Institution and has been exhibited at the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch, the Department of Agriculture building in Des Moines, and at the State Historical Society of Iowa.  The display came to Osage as an outgrowth of a conversation several months ago between Kurt Meyer, President of the Mitchell County Historical Society, and Chris Rossi, Executive Director of Humanities Iowa, the organization responsible for distributing the Harker exhibit.                         

According to Meyer, “I talked to Chris when we first opened the Garland Gallery, which made it possible for us to display an exhibit like this.  He then told me about the Harker photos and about the photography of David Plowden, which is our next exhibit.  While we’re the smallest venue for these traveling exhibits, Chris and I agreed on the importance of displaying photos of rural settings in agricultural communities like ours.”                                                                         

Complementing the Harker photographs is a series of paintings featuring barns that are on temporary loan to the Museum.  Paintings include works by Iowa artists James Petran and Jan Vanderlinden, Wisconsin artist Steven Schultz, and several other well-known painters working in oils and watercolors from throughout the country.  


For more info check out the barns web site