It is with a heavy heart that we share the news that Betty Lou Schnoeker passed away this last week. Our hearts go out to her family. Below are more frames of her with her friends.
Southern Illinois shooter Ryan Michalesko recently visited Madison, Wisconsin to job shadow the photo staff at the Wisconsin State Journal and also catch up with friends who attend the University of Wisconsin. He was kind enough to documented his trip for us.
To view more of Ryan’s work, visit his website: http://www.photosbylesko.com/
A still lake. An orchard row. A sunset cornhusk. A floured wooden slab.
To a slew of young “creatives” who are choosing to stay put in midwestern cities (or return to them from coastal forays) images like these are the new signs of the midwest. These curated glimpses into simple, natural scenes constitute a well-intentioned departure from the midwest’s fast-food-eating, big-box-shopping, casserole-baking reputation. By visually refashioning the region into a pristine natural playground in digital and print media, they seem to say, “Look, coastal snobs! The midwest, too, has beauty!”
Indeed, the images are beautiful. The lake and the orchard are serene, inviting, captured in their perfect light. The husks and the slab are exalted objects, taken from mere household function into a realm of pure aesthetic form.
But something gets lost in this new midwest aesthetic—the region’s specificity, its lived cultures, the diversity of its people and scenes. What is purported to identify and define the midwest in fact feels indistinct. Latching onto a now-mainstream trend of #authentic living, these images’ insistence on simple, classic beauty whitewashes a midwest that could be shown in more multifaceted, and perhaps more interesting, lights.
For at least a decade now, we have seen the rise of “authenticity” as a style. New Yorkers invest in work boots, Carhartt jackets, and utility bags, elevating a downhome American sense of practicality into a citydweller’s luxury. The clothing trend matches a move in photography and advertising toward rustic simplicity. (Think Kinfolk magazine, which has become a touchstone for designers and creative directors.) For midwestern media to take up this style, which was to some extent already a romanticization of their region, is to peddle in an “authenticity” that was projected onto the heartland by coastal borrowers in the first place. And it is to broadcast not a place but a style.
What gets lost in that stylization is people—the kin and the folk. Who are the people at the lake—and who didn’t make it there that day? Who are the people visiting the orchard—and who owns it, who tends it, who buys the fruits of their labor? Who is husking the corn and preparing the meal? In replacing one image of the midwest with a supposedly more appealing one, the promoters of this new aesthetic leave out the specific identities, relationships, and stories that make up midwestern communities.
– Midwest native, Lindsay Welsch, currently lives in Bloomington, In. where she teaches freshman writing as a visiting lecturer at the Indiana University. She received her PHD in english in May 2015.
A mentor once told me that before photographing people in a new place it was best to start by photographing the geography around them. I recently have moved from Bloomington, Indiana back to my native southern Illinois. In an effort to photograph this very familiar place with fresh eyes, I am doing just that, focusing my eye on the land. I am exploring what surrounds the people here in hopes that it will help me better understand them. This will take some time but I will be sure to continue to share these fresh views.
The rural midwest is my culture. As I grew up, took on internships, and lived in cities and small towns both, I grew to be jealous of those with identifiable cultural backgrounds, with traditions and foods and identifiable markers of where they came from. As a European mutt, neither side of my family celebrated any particular cultural heritage, and that used to make me feel like I was missing something. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that I do have a place I am from, a home I carry with me, and it is fields like these I passed in northern Illinois, coming back from my grandparents’ family farm in Iowa, where my husband and I had just watched my grandmother ride in a float for her 65th high school reunion during the town’s annual Western Days. Some days I may lament how flat it is, the lack of apparent diversity in flora and fauna, how uninteresting the people can seem. But those are the days I’m not looking closely enough. Fields of corn and beans, silos like city skylines, lilies in the ditches and a sky-wide view of the summer rainstorm rolling in – the midwest will always be home.
Genna Souffle is a photo editor at the Tribune Content Agency in Chicago. A recent transplant to the city, she loves returning to her roots whenever possible, whether the visits are virtual through photography or in the occasional trip back home.