A solitary silo and bright red wooden building peek through years of undergrowth on an abandoned farm site near Chisago, just north of the last signs of Minnesota’s suburban metro. The quiet scene captivated photographer Henry Hintermeister. He snapped his shutter and named the image “Come Hear My Story.”
“As I get older, I find I have more time (and interest) in hearing people’s life stories. We really don’t know someone until we know their story. I love how this deserted farm site silently beckons those with time to listen and observe,” Henry wrote about the photo (pictured).
That philosophy of listening is important to Elli Fuller, Administrator at The Lutheran Home: Cedar Haven — a cozy, home-like assisted living serving up to 24 residents in Mankato, Minn.
“We really don’t know someone until we take time with them in order to truly see and hear them and appreciate their journey,” Elli said. “I want anybody who comes to Cedar Haven to know that’s what we’re about.” That’s why she purchased “Come Hear My Story,” along with eight other photos Henry has taken, and put them on display throughout Cedar Haven.
“I just love Henry’s work. I’ve been looking for something for our residents that would speak to them and possibly trigger happy memories of their past, especially for some of our residents who are starting to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s,” Elli said. “I wanted more than just pretty pictures on the walls. I wanted the art to reawaken something.”
Each of Henry’s images is accompanied by a brief note; his descriptions speak to appreciating the past, respecting what may no longer be in daily use but is still important. For “Final Goodbye” — the skeleton of a weathered barn in winter — Henry wrote: “Sometimes lost in the busyness of life is the absolute truth that our existence on this planet will definitely come to an end. Here’s a barn that is still standing with dignity even though it is about to breathe its final breath.”
“Not only is his art beautiful, but the phrases he has to describe what he sees when he looks at a certain photo are also very beautiful,” Elli said.
A native son of Slayton, Minn., in the southwest corner of the state, Henry grew up farming with his father. He wasn’t fond of the hard labor as a youth, but time and distance have softened his view.
“I find now I’m enamored of farm scenes and old barns,” Henry said. “I enjoy farming a lot more today than I did when I was young.”
Photography is an encore career for Henry,who produced photo journals for 29 years without touching a camera. He loves to photograph wildlife and birds during his many travels with his wife of 40 years, a native Australian. But it’s his farm photos that strike a chord with many older adults. They approach him at art shows when they notice pictures of barns. Some linger half an hour.
“They’ll share stories with me about their farm days. People either grew up on a farm or they had grandparents who farmed. They’ve lost touch with that other than through memories,” Henry said.
The same is true at Cedar Haven. Resident Millie (pictured) often reminisces about working on her dairy farm: “Those were the good old days. We worked hard but we had fun!”
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