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Nellie Gilles

Four years ago I left my home city of over 8 million people and came to a town of 17,000 and from 17,000 to a mere 168 when I wandered into Dennsion, Minnesota.

I spent weeks exploring the surrounding farmland visiting produce and dairy farms, learning as much as I could by talking with the people who know it best, its farmers. One such farmer suggested I visit the Dennison grain elevator. I had never heard of a grain elevator before. I asked her for directions and she replied with a giggle and said, “Just drive to Dennison, you can’t miss it.”

There are fewer than ten businesses in Dennison, two of which are bars. There’s a gas station and a corner storefront with ‘Used Vehicles – Sales Office’ hand painted in the window. Despite this, harvesting season turns Dennison into a hub for activity. Semis and dump trucks line up at the elevator waiting to unload. The steam from the dryer billows out high above the town. 

I spent the remaining weeks of the season at the elevator getting to know the community. My images are an attempt to recognize a few of these individuals and relate some of my personal experiences. When I returned this past April, the planting season had begun and the elevator was dead, thus Dennison is quiet. I walked in and amongst the silos and from a distance I saw a man on a bench across the street. He waved and called out to me. He smiled big, looked at the camera around my neck and said “You that New York gal everyone was talking about?” In a city of 168, they don’t forget much.