Oak Park resident and life-long photographer Jim Krysan will make a presentation about his photographic essay, “Small-town Post Offices in Eastern South Dakota: A Photographic Odyssey,” on Monday, March 26 at 7 pm at Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake Street. The photo essay was recently published in the annual Historic Preservation Issue of South Dakota History, a journal of the South Dakota State Historical Society. The program, cosponsored by the Oak Park Photography Club, is free and open to the public.
Jim Krysan, a retired entomologist, and his wife Carole moved to Oak Park about nine years ago, just before the Oak Park Photography Club (OPPC) was beginning to form. Krysan has taken an active role in the OPPC since those early days. After several years working as a photographer, he earned a B.A. in biology with a minor in history from Iowa State Teachers College and a PhD in entomology from the University of Illinois. His career included 16 years at the U.S. Department of Agriculture insect laboratory in Brookings, South Dakota.
The Oak Park Photography Club meets twice monthly on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 7 pm at the Oak Park Public Library.
About his post office study, Jim Krysan said “The buildings in small towns attracted the photographer in me, and I came to see post offices as a common denominator among the towns. Among the hundreds of buildings I had photographed in South Dakota towns in the mid 1970s, 57 were post offices. We left South Dakota for the West Coast, then the East Coast, and in 2002 we settled in Oak Park – only a day’s drive from Eastern South Dakota. I decided to photograph the post offices again. Ready access to local history records at the Newberry, the Wisconsin State Historical Society in Madison, and the interlibrary loan staff at the Oak Park Public Library, made the historical dimension possible.”
The South Dakota State Historical Society noted in a recent article that Krysan’s unique essay is timely because of “the news in the past few weeks as officials debate the ways in which the United States Postal Service might gain a sounder financial footing. Particularly interesting to people in largely rural states like South Dakota is speculation as to which post offices might be closed as part of the postal service’s belt-tightening efforts. Like schools, post offices have long been part of a community’s core. Having a post office makes a place a “real” town. The post office is, in effect, a community center where people come and go not just for letters and packages, but for conversation and camaraderie. Krysan’s essay in South Dakota History pairs images taken a quarter century apart in 20 towns, documenting the structures and their settings to reveal change over time, thanks to economics, population shifts, national trends in architecture, and changing federal policies. Each post office building has its own unique story to tell, and Krysan’s photographs are one way of saving those that are destined to disappear.”
Krysan has mounted numerous one-man and group shows. He now makes photographs of re-purposed buildings that reveal both their built purpose and current use. In April and May, Jim will have a one-man show at the Oak Park Housing Center, a venue sponsored by the Oak Park Area Arts Council. The show will be specific to the venue in that all the various buildings photographed, e.g., banks, schools, storefronts, etc., have been transformed into housing.
Find more events happening at Oak Park Public Library at http://oppl.org/events/calendar .