The imperative of the fence line

August 04, 2019  •  7 Comments

Cuyamaca FenceCuyamaca FenceCuyamaca, California
Cuyamaca Fenceline

There is no doubt, in my mind anyway, that if you have camera in hand and come upon a fence, you'll take a photo.  Whether you're a serious photographer or not, you'll make an image.  The draw of the fence line is immediate and compelling.  A long wavy thread making its way through an otherwise empty landscape or a straight and simple line cutting across a farmer's field will hook you.  That eye-catching pattern is rooted in our psyche somewhere and we're urged to make some effort to explore.  Whether it's decaying and irregular or as regimented as a military parade, we stop and look, perhaps study.

Some of us seek them out, line them up, adjust our perspectives and make image after image.  For me they're purely aesthetic.  I have no knowledge or what constitutes a good fence, nor the correct components of a respectable one.  Many times I cannot tell what purpose the fence serves.  In wide-open spaces I'll drive for miles and right along side me is a fence running unbroken for just as many miles. Is it holding something in or keeping something out? 

In the west we have mostly fences of barbed wire, not altogether attractive unless they're falling apart and the broken posts dip left and right or fall down entirely and lie wasting away in a field.  Then, what was once serious and uncompromising, becomes softer, timeworn and venerable; much more photographic and the reason we stop.

Three AmigosThree AmigosHollenbeck Canyon
Three Amigos
San Diego's East County  

Fence and FansFence and FansNew Mexico
Fenced Fans
New Mexico

Fence, Trees, CloudsFence, Trees, CloudsShaker Village, Kentucky
Shaker Fence

American FarmAmerican Farm
Corn field kept safe behind a split rail fence


Todd Henson(non-registered)
It is interesting how compelling fences can be. They draw the eye, and can then sometimes lead the eye. I like the different character to the fences shown here, and the image with the wind turbines is really nice.
Monte Stevens(non-registered)
I like this tribute to fences in both your words and images. I also feel that there are very few fences that I would not consider taking and image of. I can think of other times I've enjoyed fences and not. I installed a fence when we had our first house built. Quite that chore to do that. As a young city kid I drove a tractor through a barbed with fence because I was too unfamiliar with the tractor. A fence has kept me safe from an angry dog or two while walking. When younger we had a fence with 11 posts that allowed us to have a perfect football field. :-)
Late to see this as I have been out sick and not reading emails,

Having become a victim of a squatter on land I inherited in Maryland, and having to lose a sale and pay a very hefty legal fees and fines to finally get him off the land, I realize that a good fence is worth it's weight in gold. I have a new respect for the "No Trespassing" signs that this guy removed before he occupied my land. The US laws are written to protect the squatter and burden the owner/property taxpayer.

In the West, it seems it would be easy to cross-match nursing home records and property tax records and steal thousands of acres. That's why the fences exist. Unfortunately I think the answer to your question is that we are fencing people out. Sadly a lot of the Western US and Canada has beautiful scenery ruined by electric poles and fences. If they could move them underground and people could respect property rights of others it would be a great day.

Forgive my rambling and ranting as well - I also blame your photos which are quite good by the way.
What a beautiful set of images Joe. A nice tribute to fences which are so often used as metaphors for making various points about life. I couldn't say what it is about a fence in a landscape that is so appealing but there is no denying that a fence will always attract a photographer's eye. It may just be the leading lines that a fence provides, or its inherent ability to separate a scene into aesthetically pleasing parts, or maybe it is the symbolism of order that a fence brings to the apparent chaos of life. Who knows?
When I was 17, I was hired as an interpreter to a couple of French farmers who wanted to buy farmland in Western Queensland. Until then I had always lived in an urban landscape and had never seen large fields or prairies. I remember on the first day out, the real-estate agent was driving us out to a property when he turned a corner and pointed out the start of the farm which was fenced with wooden poles and plain wire. We drove for almost an hour in a straight line and the fence never let up. I have a memory of being mesmerised by this fence as we flew by at around 100km/h (60m/h). When we finally came to the entrance to the property and we turned into it, I could see right down the fence line disappearing to the horizon, as straight as could be, open fields on one side, road and more fields on the other. That scene, despite not having a camera, has remained etched into my brain. It is one of my most vivid memories. Which is saying something as I don't have too many :)
Please forgive my rambling. I blame your photos ;)
Earl Moore(non-registered)
First, a finely composed set of images on a subject matter, fences, where the pictorial story can often extend beyond a mere material presence. If I had to choose the photo which "speaks" to me the most it would come down to one of the first two. I grew up on a 100-acre cattle ranch and I couldn't even begin to estimate the number of hours my father and I spent "fixing-fence." Thus my head goes to some interesting 'places' with this type of photo, no doubt influencing my appreciation of "fence photos."
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