Bruce is a photographer for a local museum, and Barbara sells his prints and does society work. The couple continues to break away from their daily jobs to travel together collecting information. On the road six to eight weeks a year, Bruce photographs the elevators as Barbara gathers historical information from local residents. They took their longest trip last May - 11 states, from Oklahoma to Minnesota, in 17 days. "And we were still smiling when we got home," Barbara notes.
Above: The silence of an abandoned elevator no longer at work resonates from the White Bear, Sask., prairie.
Above left: Of the few tile grain elevators built in communities across North America, one continues to stand boldly in Cushing, Neb.
Left: Bruce and Barbara Selyem of Bozeman, Mont., share a passion for documenting North American elevators.
Barbara believes she has an advantage over the others who view the photos. "I feel the mood and I hear the sounds of the moment," she explains. "I see Bruce. Usually he's a tiny dot taking a photo of such a monumental building. I see the meaning behind his work - one little guy that has such a big job. I'd never have seen that as just a person looking at his photos."
Bruce says the couple's work provides a sense of accomplishment. "Whether as individuals or together, we feel like we're doing meaningful work for the long term. Someday down the road, in 50 or 100 years, people may not know our story, but we're sharing this passion - that's an immediate thing for us right now.
"The country elevators - the old wood ones like those in many of my pictures - they'll never be built again," he continues. "They represent a time we'll never see again, a time where you could actually drive somewhere and sit down and visit with your friends over coffee. They represent a disappearing rural North America."
Reprinted with permission from the January 2001 issue of The Furrow.