Broken Ear

Broken Ears, originally uploaded by Matt Niebuhr.

I came across this little Ethiopian cafe shop the other morning. I find it interesting to try and get a read on the neighborhood by the activity and objects found in these little displays – little arrangements and messages – partial dioramas. A hint at a world that might be just behind the glass. Promise, allure, little short stories. Work to be done. Invitations to come in off the street or to go away – move along. These windows are filled with potential – like photographs themselves – pictures framed hung by the sidewalk – already made.

Sensing and seeing pictures after paintings

I’ve been drawn to looking at Hopper’s work. I’m not exactly sure but I am primarily looking at his work for the quietness, but also for the intense isolation tinged with lonesomeness.  So it’s interesting to me to begin to notice these “scenes” out in the real world so to speak.  So I’m asking myself – how to compose a photograph to be possibly nearly as emotive as the constructed images of Hopper’s paintings…  yet clearly be “of the world out there”.
Early Sunday Morning 1930 – Edward Hopper
Oil on canvas 35 x 60 in.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

East St. Louis, Illinois, 2003
From the series “Approaching Nowhere” by Jeff Brouws.
copyrighted by Jeff Brouws.

Some of Brouws work comes close to reminding me of that quietness…

54 PM. Sunday Afternoon

3:54 PM. Sunday Afternoon – Matt Niebuhr

I walk by this building above quite often – maybe finding it in the right light with the right activity level – might just get closer to what I’m searching for – an update so to speak on the “Sunday Morning” feelings in the Hopper painting…  it’s just not there yet.

Drug Store,1927 – Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper

Gils Maricopa – CA HIGHWAY by Jeff Brouws
I haven’t seen Brouws’ work in person – so I wonder what the prints might look like.  But the images seem promising at least in the web versions.
For me, it’s not in the painterly treatment of a photograph -but perhaps more in the spare, pared down detail, the coloring and the perspective yet flatness that a photograph can produce that lend it more of that emotive quality I’m after.

Portraits: Industrial Farming

Industrial Farm: 20061125#1-1
Matt Niebuhr

One of a series I am working on of various types of industrialized farming buildings.

I hold the view that industrial farming is not a sustainable endeavor for many reasons. Not least of which is the enormous strain that is put on the environment because of the extremely high concentrations of livestock in confined conditions. Another obvious issue is the vast scale of production that severs the connection with sustaining a local community in order to feed the “world”. In the modern world of processed foods, the location of production and the location of consumption are rarely known to each other.


Industrial Farm: 20060126#1

Matt Niebuhr


This is not a “new” problem, but it is one that has a potential solution in recognizing and looking at more sustainable farming practices which includes certified organic farms. We, (the invisible hand) have the ability to pick and choose among the types of food products we purchase to encourage the growth of more sustainable production of food. Consider locally grown produce when possible is a place to start.


Industrial Farm: 20061125#1-3

Matt Niebuhr


The Industrialized farmstead – a product of economics – is creating the potential for increasingly devastating disaster’s as the issue of scale and product are increased. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” as the saying goes.

See more of my work here:

Just don’t build ’em like we used to…

I was struck today by an article glanced at from a web version of an industry publication… Residential Architect… that made me wonder why anyone could possibly feel safe sleeping at night in their bed… The text below if from an tradeshowadertisement website

“Even when you’re asleep, NOAA Weather/All Hazards Radio can alert you to weather and non-weather civil emergencies that may affect you in and near your home. The radio reflects a broadcast capability that comprises a nationwide network of more than 960 stations in 50 states and U.S. territories. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has adopted this capability as way of reaching Americans directly in the event of a local or national emergency. Emergency messages may include the following:

Natural hazards, such as tornados, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes;

Technological events, such as chemical releases, oil spills, nuclear power plant emergencies, maritime accidents and train derailments; AMBER alerts, 9-1-1 outages;

Terrorist attacks”

I don’t mean to be flippant about the subject – it is an important issue to think about – maybe even to rehearse in your head a little…but after awhile – it’s a certain amount of fatique sets in…. but being able to be notified… is having a real impact on what our homes.

It’s about “shelter”… but from who / what and at what price ?

This fall every U.S. public school received a NOAA Weather/All Hazards Radio. This new capability means that school personnel can now be alerted directly, quickly and accurately to approaching danger, including hazardous weather, terrorism, abducted children, and derailed trains carrying toxic materials, among a range of other acute concerns.

Entitled, “America Is Safer When Our Schools Are Safer,” the Departments of Commerce/National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Homeland Security and Education are supporting this important initiative.

Increasingly, the broadcast capability is being integrated into other household devices, including TVs, clock radios and hand-held radio.

Fortified…for safer living® program, …(the) home is a fortress cleverly disguised as a typical family home.

Just a few of the features include:

A room built from the same material as bullet-resistant vests that can keep a family safe amidst F5 tornados and Category 5 hurricanes. A roof made from stone coated 26-gauge steel that can mimic the look of tile, shake or shingle while providing greater protection from earthquakes (at half the weight of composition shingles) and defend against hurricane force winds. Windows and doors that meet the
toughest wind-borne debris requirements in the nation and feature impact resistant glass tested to be an incredible nine times stronger than a car windshield.

Of course a home is threatened by much more than just natural disasters, which is why this demonstration home includes products that protect residents from everything from UV rays, to exterior noise, to mold, to termites, all without sacrificing any aesthetics.

Ted’s Shop – Peterson, Iowa

This photograph is a sentimental to me. I remember coming here when it used to be called “Ted’s shop” with Dad when we lived on the farm. My sister’s and I would each get one of those Purina branded suckers – all red with the white checker board lines – (you know the Purina Brand animal feeds)… from the sales counter while Dad (or Mom) was busy putting in orders for more pig chow… or fertilizer….Anyway, I remember being fascinated – absolutely, with the scattered “junk” in the machine shop… Ted is a Swede who can fix any machine and I believe has made a few custom ones of his own… Great memories…. AND…. today is my sister’s birthday – SO – Happy Birthday Rachel – remember this shop ??!!

Crib [near Rockwell City, Iowa]

A special thanks to FILE magazine for presenting a selection seen here from Portraits: Faces and Profiles of Utility.

More of this may be seen here:

Geller’s [East 3rd & Walnut]

A certain aspect of these older nondescript buildings and storefronts, I find rather attractive – I think in a similar vein to that attraction I have for simple farmstead buildings, corn cribs and barns of a natural basic nature. I don’t think it’s the urban decay that is most appealing… it’s the proportion and quiet presence that draws me to them….

I’m slowly developing a particular stylistic approach to photographing these places – the type of lighting…. the frontal “portrait” style – simple approach in hopes of conveying that simplicity.