Key points Reception for "A Sense of Place: Black and White Photography by Madison Proper" 6 to 8 p.m. today Geeks Garage, 703 Lincoln Ave.
Eighteen-year-old Madison Proper has a matter-of-fact way of describing her work. There is no symbolism. No hidden meanings. There is only line and texture. Black and white.
"I'm drawn to things as they naturally are," she said. "I don't want to put something on them. I just want to see them how they are."
Proper always has been fascinated by the old barns she saw along Colorado Highway 131 and on the road to Stagecoach.
When Proper decided to point her camera at Routt County's barns as part of her Steamboat Springs High School senior project, she turned to professional photographer Jessica Maynard to be her mentor.
Proper's father, Ken Proper, is a photographer, too, but one of the rules for the senior projects is that parents cannot be mentors.
Proper chose Maynard on her father's advice.
"She really challenged me," Proper said.
Her first batch of photos were taken from far away, just barns off in the distance. In those first photos, the barns looked much the same as they do when we see them from the road.
By her second roll of film, Proper was getting closer to the barns, and you could start to see the sag in the roof or a missing board. By her third roll, the viewer can see nails and splinters.
There is curiosity in her work.
Maynard gave her a nudge. She told her to go inside.
"They were kind of disgusting on the inside," Proper said. "They were kind of rotting, but there was all this texture. There was so much going on."
After Proper had explored every doorway and corner of her barns, Maynard told her to put herself in the pictures.
On Maynard's prompting, Proper started setting up self portraits next to the barns she had been photographing.
"I wanted to show emotion," Proper said. She would set up the shot and then have a friend click the shutter.
"I saw in her a willingness to pick a subject matter that we might just breeze by, and she took a closer look at it," Maynard said. "She just kept looking at it, and it transformed into this evolution of herself. It was interesting to watch her go through the process."