Category: Guest Blog
Betty Lou Schnoeker

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.

Betty Schnoeker, right, has her morning cup of coffee with friends September 27, 2015 at the Health Mart Pharmacy in Steeleville, Illinois. – Isaac Smith

Betty Lou Schnoeker, right, has her morning cup of coffee with friends September 27, 2015 at the Health Mart Pharmacy in Steeleville, Illinois. – Isaac Smith

Betty Lou Schnoeker laughs with friends. – Isaac Smith

Betty Lou Schnoeker laughs with friends. – Isaac Smith

Betty Lou Schnoeker at the Health Mart Pharmacy in Steeleville, Illinois September 27, 2015.

Betty Lou Schnoeker at the Health Mart Pharmacy in Steeleville, Illinois September 27, 2015.


Ryan Michalesko in Madison Wisconsin

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/

State Street, Madison, Wisconsin, March 16, 2016.

State Street, Madison, Wisconsin, March 16, 2016.

Brokaw, Wisonsin,  March 13, 2016.

Brokaw, Wisconsin, March 13, 2016.

Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison, Wisconsin, March 14, 2016

Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison, Wisconsin, March 14, 2016.

Overture Center for the Arts, Madison, Wisonsin, March 14, 2016

Overture Center for the Arts, Madison, Wisonsin, March 14, 2016.

Springfield, Illinois,  March 11, 2016.

Springfield, Illinois, March 11, 2016.


The Midwest as a Rural Fantasy
A mowed field Sept. 15, 2015 near Steeleville, Ill. – Isaac Smith

A mowed field Sept. 15, 2015 near Steeleville, Ill. – Isaac Smith

What gets lost in that stylization is people

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.

Salvador Fabcan sorts through apples brought by pickers in the field Sept. 1 2015 on Rendleman Orchard in Alto Pass. – Isaac Smith

Salvador Fabcan sorts through apples brought by pickers in the field Sept. 1 2015 on Rendleman Orchard in Alto Pass. – Isaac Smith

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.

Rich Walter sweeps corn off of the street Aug. 24 after loading a truck at Gateway FS in Evansville, Ill. – Isaac Smith

Rich Walter sweeps corn off of the street Aug. 24 after loading a truck at Gateway FS in Evansville, Ill. – Isaac Smith

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. 


Wisconsin Postcards
Sunset over looking the Red Arrow Plant along the Manitowoc River. Manitowoc, WI June 28th, 2015 – Cameron Hoerth

Sunset over looking the Red Arrow Plant along the Manitowoc River. Manitowoc, Wis. June 28th, 2015 .– Cameron Hoerth

Adventuring under over passes with friends outside of Manitowoc,Wis. May 12th, 2015. – Cameron Hoerth

Adventuring under over passes with friends outside of Manitowoc,Wis. May 12th, 2015. – Cameron Hoerth

Chilton, WI December 19th, 2014 – Cameron Hoerth

Chilton, Wis. December 19th, 2014. – Cameron Hoerth

Manitowoc, WI February 26th, 2015 – Cameron Hoerth

Manitowoc, Wis. February 26th, 2015. – Cameron Hoerth

First snow storm of the season in Manitowoc,WI February 11th, 2015 – Cameron Hoerth

First snow storm of the season in Manitowoc,Wis February 11th, 2015. – Cameron Hoerth

A man enjoys the view of Lake Michigan. Manitowoc, Wis. June 15th, 2015. – Cameron Hoerth

A man enjoys the view of Lake Michigan. Manitowoc, Wis. June 15th, 2015. – Cameron Hoerth

 


New Eyes

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.

Storm clouds pass over a soybean field Aug. 10, 2015, near Chester, Ill. – Isaac Smith

Storm clouds pass over a soybean field Aug. 10, 2015, near Chester, Ill. – Isaac Smith

Evansville, Ill., Aug. 10, 2015. – Isaac Smith

Evansville, Ill., Aug. 10, 2015. – Isaac Smith

Downtown Evansville, Ill. – Isaac Smith

Downtown Evansville, Ill. – Isaac Smith

A tree leans on ashed Aug. 18, 2015 in Evansville, Ill. – Isaac Smith

A tree leans on a shed Aug. 18, 2015 in Evansville, Ill. – Isaac Smith

Clouds billow above Steeleville, Ill. Aug. 12, 2015. – Isaac Smith

Clouds billow above Steeleville, Ill. Aug. 12, 2015. – Isaac Smith


The Midwest Is My Culture
photo by Genna Souffle

photo by Genna Souffle

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.