Photographs by Gary Cialdella. Text by Gary Cialdella, Gregg Hertzlieb, and John Ruff
University of Illinois Press, , 2009. Hardbound. 120 pp., 95 duotone illustrations., 9x12".
The Calumet Region Photographs by Gary Cialdella. Text by Gary Cialdella, Gregg Hertzlieb, and John Ruff Published by University of Illinois Press, 2009.
Gary Ciadella's book The Calumet Region: An American Place shows us in a direct unsentimental manner the landscape of place commonly referred to as the Region. It is not Chicago, or Illinois, or Indiana, it is just the Region, a place built and destroyed by industry. Ciadella maps out his version of the Region by starting in Blue Island, Illinois and heading east into Hammond, East Chicago and Gary, Indiana. Lake County may be in Indiana, but it is not the mental image that comes to mind when trying to picture Indiana. It is urban and each city is experiencing decay differently.
I spent 11 months in the Region working for a newspaper after I graduated from college and the landscapes in this book feel familiar, but with more empty spaces than I remember. Ciadella brings his own poetic stillness to these empty places, which remind me of my experiences there. The book is the view of a local. The pictures are direct and sturdy – there is not another way to face the Region than head on. The landscape challenges the photographer to find beauty and Ciadella’s point of view has been shaped by this place. Gregg Hertzlieb sums up the importance of these scenes in his articulate and thorough essay:
"Artists teach us how to see. Without their calling our attention to what exists around us, we do not generally take the time to notice it, moving through our lives largely oblivious to the beauty (which may be challenging or unconventional beauty, but a beauty nonetheless) that can inspire us and make us aware of the surprising degree to which we have been shaped by places, including our homes."
Ciadella confronts the Region squarely and frames it in beauty. A beauty that is unconventional, fading in places, rough and hard. It is a beauty that challenges the viewer, but needs to be seen before it disappears.
Tom Leininger is a photographer and educator based in Denton, Texas. He received his MFA in photography from the University of North Texas. Prior to that he was newspaper photographer in Indiana. His work can be found at http://tomleininger.net.