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Bower's latest a wonderful 'Journey'

June 03, 2009
Photographer John Bower has just released his latest book, "Journey's End." And for those who are familiar with his many books, this one is sure to please as it takes a look at the "relics and ruins of Indiana's transportation legacy."

Using only black-and-white photography, Bower has once again succeeded in capturing bygone days and memories of a time past through the lens of his camera, and with an artful eye that finds the most revealing detail in images that often don't include the complete subject.

For instance, one of his photos may be of an old car's mirror. But that mirror is all that is needed to capture the personality of the car and tell a story, one that is actually just a story in the mind of the beholder.

"Journey's End" is the latest in a series of books by Bower that uses photography to explore Indiana's relics, structures and rusted remains, and chronicles those pieces of history that many of us drive by every day without a second look.

The book focuses on modes of transportation and related businesses, pausing to look at where we have been and how we got there. It takes you to the old Studebaker factory in South Bend, much of which was demolished not long after Bower visited there with his camera. The book also includes several old train depots scattered throughout the state, and takes an interesting look at an old locomotive graveyard where dilapidated train engines, including an old steam version, lays as if waiting for another chance to travel the rails.

But some of the most intriguing, and perhaps memory-invoking, photographs are of several old service stations, the most surprising of which is the old Murl May's Garage, which operated in Jay County from about 1912 until May's death in 1962, when the door was locked. Everything in the place remains untouched still today. There's an old 1925 Buick roadster in the building, as well as a 1914 Model T touring car and a 1953 Packard in almost perfect condition. May's son, Paul, lives nearby and keeps an eye on the place, an archaeologist's dream.

There are pictures of other old service stations, including some local ones, such as the old Jacobi Service Station in Galena and the old Ronnie Clement's Sunoco Station in Hardinsburg. Another almost untouched relic is Ivan's Marathon Station in Boone County. Much like May's station, Ivan's has been left intact for years, just as Ivan left it when he passed away decades ago.

The book also includes photographs of old bus stations, cars and, of course, trucks. In one set of photographs, Bower captured several Hudson automobiles sitting in an open field, yet out of sight of the nearby road. He had to promise not to reveal the location of the cars in order to get permission to photograph them. There is also a photo of some old Ford Thunderbirds in a field near Mitchell.

Bower also included photos of some old towboats sitting on the banks of the Ohio River near Madison, old train cabooses and passenger train cars, and even an old lock on the Wabash and Erie Canal.

"Journey's End" joins Bower's five other books, all of which open a door on the way life used to be in Indiana — or maybe the way we like to remember it — and allows us to look at our not-too-distant history and see how it all escapes us, one rusted hulk at a time.

Bower's books are $22 and can be ordered by calling toll free 1-877-547-5073 or online at www.studioindiana.com.

Other books are "Lingering Spirit," "Guardians of the Soul," "2nd Stories," After the Harvest" and "Silent Workplace."

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Barbara Shaw
Schuler Bauer
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