Verena Knemeyer is a professional fashion photographer from Hamburg, Germany. She is traveling across the United States taking photos of city halls in each small town she visits. Photo: Courtesy
A photographer from Germany documenting city halls in small towns across the United States swung through Lennox recently.
Verena Knemeyer, 44, was snapping photos of downtown Lennox on September 20 when she was spotted by Cindy Popping Kelley, according to a post on Kelley’s Facebook page.
We reached out to Knemeyer in hopes to find out more about her project, and how Lennox’ City Hall compares to the other towns she has visited.
Responses have been edited for clarity.
Where are you from?
I live in Hamburg, Germany. Hamburg is Germany’s second biggest City after Berlin and it is up north, close to the sea.
How many city halls have you photographed so far?
Around 80 so far. I usually visit up to 5 towns a day. Otherwise the project would take too much time (and money).
How did Lennox stack up to the other city halls you’ve seen in South Dakota?
Main Street in Lennox had a very friendly vibe. The moment I went onto the street to take photos I started talking to a very nice local lady. She came over and asked me what I was working on. That is what makes the project so interesting to me — talking to locals and learning a little about their lives and towns. I had the feeling that people actually live in Lennox and walk around, while other towns often appear to me as ghost towns.
What is something that has stuck out to you about all the small towns you’ve been through?
The fact that some towns appear as if nobody actually lives there. I see a lot of empty spaces and streets completely without people passing by. As I said before, sometimes I get the feeling as if I’m in a ghost town.
What’s been a common similarity, what’s been different?
A common similarity is definitely how geometric the streets of the towns are structured, that is definitely different in Germany. It is always Main Street with the town hall, and the shops perfectly lined up next to the hall and then a few side streets.
For my photography, I love this kind of structure and the opportunity it gives me for planning my frames. But EVERY town has its own vibe. And I hope, if I get the chance to visit all 50 states, the diversity will be seen in my pictures.
What made you decide to do this project?
I was on a holiday in California for Coachella Festival in 2016 with a friend, and we saw a few small-town City Halls just by coincidence. I happened to find these buildings interesting, and asked myself if the city halls (and their neighbor buildings) could reflect an entire nation or country.
I was wondering if the smaller regional towns can reveal the heart and soul of the USA and if I would be able get an honest insight into the overall state of the Nation.
So, I started to take photos of a few city halls on that trip and couldn’t let go of the idea. I returned two times, but couldn’t for the last few years due to the pandemic. Now, I can finally continue the project.
How long do you have left on your project?
It is an ongoing project and it will take as much time as it needs. I can’t do it all in one trip, it would take too much time and would be too money consuming. I’m a fashion photographer and my jobs in advertising and fashion finance my city hall project. So, I need to get back to commercial work for most of my time and then take a break from that to travel the US. I can’t tell how many years this will take. I mean, I also was interrupted by a pandemic for 3 years which I obviously didn’t see coming.
What’s the plan for after you’re done?
I have a feeling this is the project of my life. It seems like I’m the only photographer doing this, and I hope I’ll make a book out of it someday.