Isa With Smoke, Isela Brown, 2020
For nearly fifty years I lived 50 miles northwest of Chicago, at the juncture of suburban and rural Illinois. Both then, and now as a visitor with a camera, I am drawn to the anomalies such as Crystal Lake’s terminal moraine and the Fox River and its valley, particularly from Cary to Dundee. The land is otherwise rather flat. Water powered factories sprang up along the Fox River as early as the 1840s, and the first of many gravel pits appeared at the site of the terminal moraine around the same time.
I explored the Fox River valley as a child, visited it as a teenager, and began taking photographs of the region in 1978. My Abandon series, shot in the aughts, focused on old and abandoned metal, much of it from 19th century factories.
On the day previous to this shoot I had shot at some of my favorite spots near the Fox River, and had migrated up to locations in the town of Carpentersville. The next day, August 11, 2019, I wanted something new. I recalled that the old gun range had closed down. It occupied a corner, near the river, of a giant rectangle owned by a gravel pit company. I had gone to the gun range as a child. I was curious what it looked like and if any structures remained. However, on the way down the curving road I encountered a long flattened area (on the side of the valley), which contained some colorful junk. I liked the textures and the colors and began shooting at once.
At first I didn’t understand what I was photographing. There were heaps of asphalt, concrete, fencing and broken machinery, but also lawn mowers covered with tarps and power saws strategically placed under trucks. It seems it was an old junkyard, a current junkyard, and a roofless storage depot for various construction and lawn care businesses. Realizing this I began to appreciate the juxtaposition of purposes.
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