Several days later Murray asked me about a tourist attraction known as
the most photographed barn in America. We drove 22 miles into the
country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards.
White fences trailed through the rolling fields. Soon the sign started
appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted
five signs before we reached the site. There were 40 cars and a
tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the
slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing.
All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter
kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides -- pictures of
the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of
trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged
silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book.
"No one sees the barn," he said finally.
A long silence followed.
"Once you've seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see
He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated
site, replaced by others.
We're not here to capture an image, we're here to maintain one. Every photograph
reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless
There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards
"Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the
others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will
come in the future. We've agreed to be part of a collective perception.
It literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way,
like all tourism."
Another silence ensued.
"They are taking pictures of taking pictures," he said.
He did not speak for a while. We listened to the incessant clicking
of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced
"What was the barn like before it was photographed?" he said. "What
did it look like, how was it different from the other barns, how was it
similar to other barns?"