Parallel Worlds
January 26, 2008 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Another Country is the name of Chicago Tribune photographer Scott Strazzante's long-term documentary project. Presented in diptych form, he shows the lives of two subjects on the same piece of land separated only by time. From the Cagwin family farm to a sleepy suburban Chicago subdivision, the striking images magically embody the old saying- the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Strazzante also has a few photo columns at the paper covering the oft maligned beat of prep sports. Between Heart and Soul and The Season (1 and 2), he finds the story and pictures behind the same old high school sports you thought you knew or didn't care about.
posted by TheGoldenOne (27 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Not really all that similar...
posted by BrianBoyko at 9:23 AM on January 26, 2008

If the dates hadn't been posted, I would have guessed the two images were 20-40 years apart. Having visited family in what used to be the sleepy town of Yorkville, I was struck by how poorly the new developments were jammed into whatever parcel of land was available, without thought to the other developments nearby, new or old. Fortunately, the tranquility around the Farnsworth House had not yet been destroyed.

Suburbs don't have to suck, but too often do.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 9:24 AM on January 26, 2008

Nicely done...I've seen similar changes in my small town in the 11 years that I've been here.
posted by everichon at 9:57 AM on January 26, 2008

#2 makes me very sad.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:06 AM on January 26, 2008

Oh the stories we tell sell ourselves.
posted by stbalbach at 10:18 AM on January 26, 2008

Wonderful pictures, but the text? An image file? Please!
posted by blue_beetle at 10:38 AM on January 26, 2008

Things change, driven in large measure by demographics and economis. I dislike the title. This may well illustrate another country (a different one) b ut it is the same one. But the title is used
in a play by Marlowe, a story by James Baldwin, a story by Ernest Hemingway, a play by Marek Kanievska, and a play by Julian Mitchell--for openers.
posted by Postroad at 10:39 AM on January 26, 2008

it's very much a work in progress, the farm to subdevelopment transition. i've flown over areas near the article's location and, from the air, the hubris of the developers is just astounding. The roads through these places, always winding, will dump straight into a farmer's field, as if it's only a matter of time.
posted by kickback at 11:04 AM on January 26, 2008

Tragic. Agriculture gets pushed further into the periphery. The suburban children seem happy, but notice the lack of adolescents. The emptiness and isolation of the suburbs really hits when you are old enough to want more, but too young to drive...since driving is the only way to get around in a place like that.
posted by melissam at 11:27 AM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the post - a thoughtful and beautifully executed series of photographs.
posted by speug at 11:46 AM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

The suburbs have neither the natural interest of the rural world nor the social interest of the urban. They are a tragedy.
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:00 PM on January 26, 2008 [10 favorites]

Really nice work, not just the photos but the juxtaposing choices. I could, however, do without the heavy handed clich├ęs about the tragedy of suburban growth - in the text and here. The project is better and more complex than that, I think.
posted by freebird at 12:26 PM on January 26, 2008

Very sad.
posted by maxwelton at 12:48 PM on January 26, 2008

Greetings! I just wanted to chime in about a couple of things regarding my photo essay- Another Country.

First off, I agree with "Postroad"...the title sucks! It was the creation of the folks at the Chicago Tribune Magazine and unfortunately I had no input on that choice.

I've named it "Echoes of the Past". Which might not be any better but it's what I like.

Also, I'm not trying to make a statement in favor of or against suburban sprawl. For me, it just shows that life is life no matter where people live.

I just observe, record and let the viewer decide what the work is all about.

As the project goes on, I hope to dig a little deeper and not rely so much on compositional and moment-based similarities.

All the best and thanks for looking at the work.
posted by Strazz11 at 2:36 PM on January 26, 2008 [7 favorites]

Fred (step-grandfather) and Bill, brothers from Germany, had a farm in the Bensenville area. With their care and hard work, terrific stuff exploded out of the ground. I remember chefs from the area walking back in from the fields arms loaded with produce. People came to pick whatever was in season and hung around the barn for a bump of whiskey and talk.

It was so close to O'Hare the planes shook the house. My grandmother would be talking at the kitchen table, a plane would be on approach and you'd see her mouth moving but you couldn't hear her words. They were used to it and they'd just talk right through it.

Every so often, some suits would pull in. A deal would be made and the farm became a little smaller. Each time we'd visit, maybe twice a year, there'd be a new line of buildings. The horizon would be a little closer. They'd stuff the money in their mattress and farm another day.

I don't recognize the area anymore though I know the intersections there on Thorndale. Good memories. Fertile land. Covered in asphalt.
posted by hal9k at 2:39 PM on January 26, 2008

Strazz11, since you're here, can you say something about your methods? You passively watch and take pictures and later line up ones that correspond in some ironic way? I ask because there's a posed feeling to some of the pairs. Or maybe the choices in selecting which pictures to pair contribute to this feeling.

The pictures did not leave me with the cliche feelings that the suburbs are always vacuous empty horrors whereas rural life is bucolic and honest. It's just that the parallels were too neat.

One person's opinion.
posted by cogneuro at 3:15 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

The roads through these places, always winding, will dump straight into a farmer's field, as if it's only a matter of time.

Well, it generally is. Even if the farmer hasn't even contemplated selling, the community will have planners who dictate where connecting roads are going to be. Out in Midwestland, this is just normal. The one that got me last year [not so far away from the location of the FPP] was here -- the entire intersection is built and signalled, but beyond is just ... corn. They already have the westbound arrow painted on the pavement and the stoplights programmed so there's a westbound green light to go straight. I almost did.

In any case, whether the development happens next year or next decade, they don't have to demolish any houses to make a right of way. So not as strange as it seems.

I'm no fan of suburbs, but they seem a natural phase of development. I simply don't understand why they're so popular, especially because they're so hated by adolescents and young adults. Or is that the point?
posted by dhartung at 3:29 PM on January 26, 2008

The suburbs have neither the natural interest of the rural world nor the social interest of the urban. They are a tragedy.

Exactly, very reminiscent of suburban Vancouver. A development nightmare and likely to be the wastelands of the future as economics forces increasing density.
posted by Rumple at 4:06 PM on January 26, 2008

and wow, is that sportsshooter link above every an ugly ugly ugly forum design/layout
posted by Rumple at 4:07 PM on January 26, 2008

Cogneuro, I'm curious which ones look posed to you?

I'm totally into spending a lot of time with my subjects, getting them comfortable with me and then waiting patiently for a moment.

So, saying that my images have a posed feeling is like sticking a knife in my photographic heart. Although, sometimes I find it hard to believe myself how easily these pairings presented themselves to me.

The mom of the subdivision family is an amateur photographer so her kids are used to be photographed all the time so another camera didn't seem to faze them.

The dad was very camera aware so almost all the photos of him have a stiff feeling to them which is why he isn't present in many of the diptychs.

The diptychs evolved in two ways. The first was I would see something happening like the boys wrestling in the grass with the jump rope and it reminded me of the farmer rolling in the grass while trying to lasso the calf.

Then at times I would shoot a photo I really really loved like the three dogs lined up for dinner and then I would search through my farm negatives until I found a match- the three cows at the trough.

One thing working in my favor is that I shoot a ton of photos so there is plenty of material to work with.

I hope that answered your question. If not, let me know and I'll try to elaborate a bit more.
posted by Strazz11 at 6:06 PM on January 26, 2008

Ha! Welcome, Scott. Thanks for joining the discussion; it's always nice to here from someone involved in a post.
posted by cortex at 7:32 PM on January 26, 2008

Fine work, Mr. Strazzante. Very interesting photos and dichotomy. Regardless of one's beliefs they should be able to take something from viewing this.
posted by rob paxon at 7:40 PM on January 26, 2008

It was interesting seeing how often it was the kids of the suburban family juxtaposed to the older couple from the farm. I thought the set-ups were very well-done...the pictures made me want to blame the suburban family for the destruction of the farm, even though I know it's not (directly) their fault, and I know that's not the point of the photo essay.

From the FPP, I was also expecting the photos to be more like 75-100 years apart (I apparently forget how fast development moves).
posted by bibbit at 8:56 PM on January 26, 2008

Beautiful work, and yet very sad.

My in-laws live in a an area of farms and small towns in Wisconsin, but in 10 or 15 years it will probably be swallowed up by subdivisions from the metro areas ~30 miles away.
posted by rsanheim at 9:30 PM on January 26, 2008

Scott, my question about posing wasn't meant to call into question your journalistic integrity, though I see why it could have been taken that way. You're a working journalist so setting up the pictures would be unethical, and I didn't mean to imply that. Sorry. The pictures also work as art photography and in that context posing or arranging wouldn't be unethical.

Your pictures obviously move many people; tastes happen to vary. It is interesting to contrast your approach to what R. Crumb did in his "short history of america" sequence, which to my mind had a similar theme.
posted by cogneuro at 10:27 PM on January 26, 2008

Thanks for the clarification cogneuro. The photojournalism profession has been tarnished by several ethical breaches over the past years so I wanted to make it perfectly clear that these were all found moments.
All the best.
posted by Strazz11 at 5:01 AM on January 27, 2008

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