Madison County Nighthawks

It had been a very long day—a bunch of domestic errands to run in town, spent a couple of hours at one of my favorite shooting sites—The McGuffey Arts Center—and had to write up a lengthy article that my editor all of a sudden needed for hole in this week’s issue. There were some other things but you know how it is with old people’s memory.

And the weather had been lousy all day—fog—drizzling rain off & on—cold.

The last thing I wanted to do was drive an hour north to Madison County High School where my (then) 15 year old daughter was cheering at an away game.

But I had promised her I’d come—and I was feeling guilty about having attended only one other game that season. It was almost completely dark as I left the main business district behind and headed up Rt. 29 north through open farmlands and several small towns where everything but a few convenience stores and fast food places were closed.

As I was getting close to the community of Madison I noticed this rather down-at-the-heels “Custard-Freeze?” (or whatever) well lit, isolated and shining bravely in the cold and foggy-black night. I was struck with the loneliness and depressing solitude of this establishment. I was late for the game so I didn’t stop.

I stayed at the game—watched my daughter and her team-mates cheer—as long as I could. I was really tired and didn’t want to be sleepy going back so I left after only spending an hour there. As I was returning south on 29 the Custard-Freeze was still there, persevering like an unseen beacon in the roadside darkness while late night tractor-trailers hissed by on the wet, two lane pavement.

I pulled into the closed, used car lot next door and trotted over to where I could stand in the shadows and snap a few frames—I made 4 or 5 exposures before the damp cold pushed me back into my car.

A few days later as I sat down to edit the images I’d shot that day I knew before I even pulled up the image what I’d call it. I’ve always appreciated Edward Hopper’s melancholy, post Depression interpretation of American social isolation. His most famous painting, “Nighthawks” (1942) came to mind the instant I saw the restaurant the first time. Here’s a link you can click on to see the painting if you’re not sure what it looks like. http://www.artic.edu/artaccess/AA_Modern/pages/MOD 7.shtml

Oh, we lost the game.

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2 Responses to “Madison County Nighthawks”

  1. Nelson Cheang Says:

    Hello, OT Holen
    It is my fouth time to visit your website. Very time I get some thing from here.As your word “thought & reflection”, that’s what I really want to seek for….
    I find out that you didn’t show your next article “…’50s kid to a 2000s kid”
    to fotobule. I like it so much. Not just the article, but also the photos.

  2. orion Says:

    Hi Nelson–thank you for visiting the website. The little photo essay with “Letter from a 50s kid…” couldn’t be posted on Fotoblur because there were too many images and the text was too long. Hope you enjoyed it though. I must apologize for not having the text for the “Park” posting up in this site–it’s up now if you want to read the rest of the story. And, again–thank you for visiting–your comments mean a lot to me–especially coming from a photographer of your considerable talent.

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