Standing Still: Photographs by Danny Singer offers eleven views of small towns on the North American prairie. A Canadian artist who worked in the film industry for many years, Singer photographed the kinds of places most travelers overlook in their rush to get from one city to the next. The result is a series of what Singer calls “paper movies” that evoke the feeling of driving slowly down Main Street, taking things in a little at a time.
At first glance, the towns in Singer’s photographs look like sets for Western movies: abandoned, frozen in time, and silent but for the wind. Singer questions that notion of emptiness by revealing subtle, living landscapes of quirky buildings and ordinary people going about their business. Every funny sign, open door, and child on a bicycle has unique significance in the life of the town. Against those backdrops of weather and space, Singer weaves gentle stories about small-town life and the meaning of home.
The eleven towns in Singer’s photographs sprang up as the railroads pressed westward across the continent in the late 1800s and early 1900s. A sudden drop in grain prices at the end of World War I, followed by the ravages of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, set off a steady exodus toward larger towns and cities. Populations have never bounced back, yet, as Singer shows, small towns and hamlets are integral to the economy and social fabric of the plains.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether or not you go, in Main Street: Towns, Villages, and Hamlets of the Great Plains Danny Singer records, as no other Canadian or American photographer previously has, the Main Streets of the tiny settlements that define the Great Plains. The images offer an original and lasting view of the heart and soul of the North American Great Plains: its small towns, villages, and hamlets at the turn of the twenty-first century. Here we rediscover that, far from the maddening noise and traffic, hectic life and polluted air of the city, rural life in the hinterland still matters.