Five Questions with Chris Attrell, author of Grain Elevators: Beacons of the Prairies.
1. You've spent a lot of time exploring Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. What attracted you to the subject of grain elevators?
I mostly liked how they looked. They are so big and most are very colourful. I'd always enjoyed the grain elevators, but in May 2003 when I happened upon the demolition of the grain elevators in Champion, Alberta, my interested turned to shooting them.
2. What is it about grain elevators that evokes such emotions for those who travel through the Canadian West?
I think this mostly evokes emotion in the folks who lived when the elevators were the center of the economy in the community and most farmers came to town to sell the grain. My town still has a pair of grain elevators; you can see them from miles away, announcing you are almost home. If they ever tore them down, the landscape would feel barren.
3. Your photos are spectacular. How much work goes into getting a typical shot?
Most of the work is actually not camera related. The camera settings are not that difficult any more thanks to modern cameras. Most of the work is in planning to get the right time, and figuring out a unique composition so that every photo of a grain elevator does not look the same. This can take minutes sometimes, but if I am shooting at night and need to set up lights it can take up to an hour.
4. Do you feel your work is helping to preserve these structures for posterity?
I am not sure about that as most of the ones being preserved were chosen long ago. But interest in visiting these places is certainly increasing.
5. You've explored rural Saskatchewan in your bestselling book, Forgotten Saskatchewan, and now you've examined the disappearing grain elevators. Do you have your next project in mind yet?
Yes, my next two projects are exploring a bunch of exciting places across Canada at night, and finishing images throughout the province for my I LOVE Saskatchewan project.