Tom Parish

The images from this series are part of an exploration of native stone cold storages, storm shelters, and root cellars (basically places of last resort) located in the Flint Hills of Central Kansas, USA. These arched roof, man-made caves (often built as safe havens by early prairie settlers before any other structures, e.g., homes, barns, outbuildings, were erected) dot the landscape in this region of Kansas that I’ve called home for most my life. Notably, these native stone constructions are often all that remain of early homesteads and represent the last traces of the people who built them. These native stone structures follow a common archetype and exude a spirit or soul, possibly due to their resemblance to ancient crypts or to some early religions’ holy places. The chisel marks on the native stone harvested from local quarries or gathered from the surrounding pastures are like the lines on your hand, unique to the individual structure and speak of their region and geography. I have come not only to regard these structures for their hidden beauty, but also to understand just how indicative of and important to the lives of the early homesteaders they were. 

I've spent a great deal of time researching and looking for these elusive structures, wandering the landscape in hopes of stumbling upon them, as well as talking to numerous locals for any possible leads.  Through my photographs of these structures I hope to preserve and present these structures in a new and visually stimulating way, using technologically advanced photographic techniques, creating 180 to 360 degree impressions of their interiors in order to help contrast their similarities and differences. My intention is to photograph these structures in a standardized way exposing their subtle, yet unique characteristics, documenting what was left behind, and showing the fingerprint-like quality left by the people who built them. Through my treatment of these hidden cavities they become more like split open geodes revealing the beauty hidden inside. Like a geode that can be held in one's hand to study the crystalline structure inside, I’ve photographed these structures in such a way that allows me to print the images in such large sizes and high definition that the viewer can study the very finest detail. 

These were not large scale projects the likes of which entire communities, states, or even countries participated in and/or celebrated the creation of.  Rather, they were often built by an individual and/or a family with the sole purpose of sustaining their respective lives and providing for their future in a time of crisis. Beyond their original purposes these places might have served other purposes, too, being the settings for all kinds of drama, as suggested by the artifacts that are still littering the floors.  Other than these relics, about all that's left of the people who relied on their security is a crypt-like cavity in the ground.  It is hoped that the viewers of these images will take the opportunity to reflect upon their own role in the world, what they themselves have created or helped to create, and what legacies they will leave behind.  How fragile and tenuous life really is.  Lessons may be taught and/or learned from an examination of these humble structures and the stories associated with them.