Smile Politely

You deserve Kanfer Originals


You’ve had the time of your life here at Urbana-Champaign. At some points it was wild and crazy, at others serious. You learned to think here. You were on your own for the first time. Whether you were an undergrad, or a professional acclimating to the real world, it was here that you became you.

For that reason, you owe yourself a Larry Kanfer original. It’s lucky for you that Larry Kanfer has another collection of his photographs available for sale, just in time to commemorate your transcendence. (© Larry Kanfer)

(Ed. note: You can head to a launch party and signing for Barns of Illinois tonight from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Larry Kanfer Gallery, 2503 S. Neil St. in Champaign. Or, if you miss that one, there will also be a presentation and book signing Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. at the same location.)


Barns of Illinois weaves tales in the Ken Burns tradition. By learning about places, and the people who people them, one finds oneself piecing together a history of Illinois. Instead of kings and wars, this history recalls blacksmiths and boat-menders. There’s even a scene from Hoosiers in a barn-cum-basketball gym.

Larry Kanfer has captured some of my favorite images of town. Unfortunately, I am unable to share them with you. To preserve viability in the market, the Kanfer Gallery protects Larry’s photographs from easy sharing on the internet.

But instead of showing you the photos, I can describe them. I hope my descriptions of the images can come within a thousand words of painting the pictures themselves.

There’s one great picture of the red barn at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Larry Kanfer shot it from a few hundred feet in the air, and almost nothing is precisely in focus except for the barn itself. The city skyline and trees are fairly clear, but not precisely clear. Alaina Kanfer, Larry’s wife and the author of the Barns of Illinois text, explains:

“Lincoln Park image was on top of a building across from the park. There was no glass. Larry likes to use ‘selective focus’ as a technique. Typically this is done at the time he takes his photograph.”

There are a handful of memorable Kanfers taken from altitude, including some in this collection. I asked Alaina how often Larry takes to the air.

“Larry has been up in the air over Champaign-Urbana area in private airplanes, helicopters (in the older days out of Frasca) and hot air balloon — Byron Denhart’s. He has done this periodically over the years.”

One of my favorite Kanfers (not in Barns) features Carle Park in the snow. It’s kind of like this image,

only better.

The Kanfer Gallery did share one magnificent JPEG with Smile Politely. It has barns in it, although the protagonist of the photo is the base of a turbine. Did you ever notice how big are these new windmills? The ones that make the renewable energy? Well, they are big.

In this portrait (© Larry Kanfer) of the base of a windmill, barns.

Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to show you any other visible pictures from this collection of photography. The Kanfer Gallery understands that copyright infringement is a serious threat to landscape photography. On the other hand, the Alaina Kanfer adds: “We find that Larry Kanfer art collectors and also people in art, design and printing trades are very respectful of the artwork and copyright law.”

That’s a good reason to sell the pictures in book form. People who buy the book are respectful of the art, and don’t scan the images and upload them to Picasa. If JPEGs were freely available on the interweb, you might not find yourself so interested in procuring this lovely edition for your coffee table.

Case in point, one of the great barn photographers of Iowa, Ian Adams, has done some amount of work to protect his exclusive right to copy his own photographs. And yet they are easily accessible on the web.


But the barns of Iowa are not the barns of Illinois. They lack the same unanimity of purpose. No Lincoln ever split rails that may have later been used in the foundation of an Iowan barn as far as you know. Iowa can boast only Herbert Hoover in that regard. And who would boast Herbert Hoover?

Here is one of the images you won’t find in Barns of Illinois, but which features the same rustic charm you will find when you buy Barns of Illinois.

Here is another example of a picture thematically similar to those in Barns of Illinois. This round barn is a lot like the round barns of Champaign County, Illinois (featured in Barns of Illinois). The fact that this one is in Indiana only serves to mock us, frankly.

Barns of Illinois is not simply a compendium of pictures of barns. It’s also a compendium of pictures of the insides of barns.

At the top of this column is a breathtaking image of the inside of a barn, with a person. There are lots of other truly keen images of the insides of barns inside Barns of Illinois. The following image is not one of them, but it does shed some (eerie) light on the imagery you’d be able to look at if you got a copy of Barns of Illinois.

You meet some interesting characters in Barns of Illinois. And between you and me, that’s what this book is really about. It’s not the magnificent physical structures themselves. They’re great, to be sure. But even more fascinating is what goes on inside them, what’s been going on inside them for generations.

For example:

This didn’t go on inside any of the Barns of Illinois, as far as I know. That is to say, this picture did not come from Barns of Illinois. Sorry.

But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t buy it.

And to that end, and because I think it’s unfair to ask you to buy a book of pictures of barns, or even read a story about a book you could buy full of pictures of barns, without showing some pictures of barns; I’m attaching a few pictures of barns I took a couple autumns ago. Just to get you in the mood.

I keep this one in my Photobucket.

Here’s another one.

And this one I like a lot, too.

I’m sorry that you can’t find any of these in Barns of Illinois. In truth, they are not worthy. They’re just pictures I took.

The people at the Kanfer Gallery recognize that you need to know what you’re getting into when you decide to invest in a pictorial history (historical pictory?). To that end, they licensed the following thumbnails (© Larry Kanfer) to Smile Politely for use only in this story about Barns of Illinois. You can practically see the pictures themselves.


If you could see this picture, you’d know that it represents a Hoop Dream thousands of children have shared (© Larry Kanfer).








These tiny images get much bigger when transduced from digits to tree pulp. It’s a good reason to buy a copy of –>
(© Larry Kanfer)


The four images from Barns of Illinois are copyright Larry Kanfer. These images were sent to Smile Politely and are licensed to be used in the online magazine ONLY in conjunction with an article about Barns of Illinois by Larry Kanfer. “© Larry Kanfer” must appear with each image. Delete image files from your hard drive when your reading of this article is complete. Any other use constitutes copyright violation.

Enter retinal scan here.

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