Preorder the Memphis Music Issue TODAY and lock in an exclusive limited-edition vinyl record!

Become A Member Shop Login

© Brett Schenning

A Dream Abandoned

Artist: Brett Schenning

Project: Small Towns, Big Dreams

Description: Brett Schenning’s Small Towns, Big Dreams examines the ramifications of 2008’s Great Recession on rural American communities. Schenning is interested in what was left behind when many families who had settled in small towns “looking for a quieter way of life” were forced to move closer to urban centers and the employment possibilities they offered, and his photographs focus, in part, on that absence. A school hallway full of empty lockers, only a single pair of boots left inexplicably on the floor; an abandoned storefront; and vacant parking lots in front of a church, a home, and the “American Café” convey a sense of a dream abandoned and a preoccupation with the way “the systematic clearing of forests, and the rezoning of farmland [have] permanently scarred a countryside that is no longer familiar to those that have called this land home for generations.” But Schenning’s images are also attuned to beauty: quiet, pink light cutting through fog, a single Mylar balloon hanging in the air, improbable orange blossoms on an otherwise bare tree, and ultimately Small Towns, Big Dreams asserts the “indomitable spirt of small communities.”

Eyes on the South is curated by Jeff Rich. The weekly series features selections of current work from Southern artists, or artists whose photography concerns the South. To submit your work to the series, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Brett Schenning

Brett Schenning is a documentarian working primarily with traditional and alternative photographic processes. His work focuses on environmental sustainability, rural politics, and community relationships. He is currently a Professor at Limestone College in Gaffney, South Carolina. View his work at and on Instagram @brettschenning.