Shelbina: the tale of a town

If you drive along the U.S. Route 36 across northern Missouri, you would meet Shelbina, a small town with a population of about 1,700. Founded in 1857, Shelbina has its glory pass, but now it is fading slowly like many other small towns in the U.S., due to the declining population and shrinking economy.

During my days at mid-Missouri, I have encountered a lot of small towns like Shelbina for my journalism assignments. Once when I was driving through a strange town by its main street, I had a transient interaction with the town. As I drove, what flowed by me were the essential places – the church, the town hall, the school, the barbershop, the store and finally, at the edge of the town, a quiet cemetery. After seeing this miniature of the town, I got a magical feeling that I have been living a life there.

A town is like a human body with various functional parts. From church to the cemetery, these functional parts carry collective memories of the town. By photographing the places of collective memory and the people that are storing or sustaining the memory, I tried to create a snapshot of Shelbina that mingled with its past. Furthermore, when these places are presented together, it weaves an imagination of a complete life journey of an individual at the town that connects these dots.

I scheduled three visits to the town for the project, but I didn’t make it the last time, so this project is somehow incomplete. I hope that I can pay one more visit to Shelbina someday in the future.