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.
Jessica is a photojournalist currently based in Knoxville, Tenn. Photography helps her to exercise her curiosity for the world and the other people in it. It helps her to appreciate and observe small pieces of life that are easy to overlooked. She keeps coming back to photography because it helps her to understand other people’s lives and actions, and thinking that way has helped her grow as a person, something she never wants to stop. She makes photos to share that knowledge and appreciation with other people.
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.