Every year in January, I sort through my various art-related interests for a project to kind of focus on for the year. For 2017, I decided to tackle a rather large project. Atizle and I have been exploring various parts of our local area, the Quad Cities in Iowa and Illinois. The Quad Cities is a unique area with the Mississippi River joining two states (Iowa and Illinois) through jobs, businesses, economies, tourist attractions, and local events. The Mississippi River plays a huge role in how this community operates, as well as connects with one another. And my project for the year is to try to document these experiences and explorations through the Quad Cities that Atizle and I take together through photography. The Quad Cities is traditionally defined as Rock Island and Moline in Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa. However, there are numerous small towns that play into this area as well such as Colona, Illinois; Milan, Illinois; Silvis, Illinois; Dixon, Iowa; Eldridge, Iowa; and Buffalo, Iowa. There are also several small cities that tend to get left out of the traditional grouping such as LeClaire, Iowa and East Moline, Illinois.
During this project, I am looking to capture the parts of the Quad Cities that make this community so special and unique to those who live here, have been here to visit, and those who have lived here in the past.
Documenting the Quad Cities Project
This project is a series of photographs focusing on the traditional Quad Cities areas, as well as some of the smaller communities that don’t get as much recognition in this area. My goal with this project is to compile a collection that can later be printed into a coffee table style book with information about these areas and specific sites within the community that make the Quad Cities so special to those of us who know this area. This project also allows my daughter and I to explore the area a bit deeper than we have before and to find new locations that we love and enjoy. I want to document a large range of topics within this project, from unique restaurants and foods that have originated here to landmarks in the area to sights along the rivers than connect our community (such as the Mississippi River, Rock River, Green River, etc).
I seek to deepen our connections to this fabulous community that we live in. I want to showcase what makes our little spot in the United States so very special. I want to highlight the way that these communities, small towns, and cities have worked together to create a beautiful thing that has the ability to mix urban beliefs, suburban beliefs, and rural beliefs and still function together as one amazing community. Farming has a huge impact on our local area, as does the Mississippi River, and the cultural offerings of the Quad Cities. The Quad Cities is an amazing art and cultural community from music, such as bluegrass, and various art forms, and the Quad Cities is also a melting pot of different ethnic traditions from Native American Indians to German and Polish heritages to Mexican and other Hispanic origins to African heritages to Asian origins. I will capture these connections through photography as I continue documenting the Quad Cities.
These photographs and art prints are designed with the purpose of showcasing these connections that Quad Citians make with this amazing community that we live in. It is a glimpse into a very unique world where all three of these categories of people (urban, rural, and suburban) can come together, form lasting relationships, and create a fabulous community. We live in a gorgeous area and I seek to showcase some of that beauty that you might not have discovered if you have been here (or live here) and also to give you the opportunity to capture a peek at some of the beauty that may be around you, going unnoticed within your own area.
My Photography Background
When I was working on my Bachelors in Photography at Southern Illinois University (in Carbondale), I took a class called small town documentary. And I loved it. The whole premise of the class was to find a small town in rural Southern Illinois (there’s a lot of those there) and to spend the whole semester documenting the town you chose through photography and written notes. One of the requirements for choosing the town that you would work in for the semester was that it could not have a Wal-Mart within 30 miles, I believe. I choose to document an amazing town called Coulterville. And it such a cool experience! I was able to go down into a working coal mine and experience a working auction house and all kinds of really cool things that I would not have ever done otherwise! So when I was trying to think of the major project that I would focus on for this year, I was reminded of this class from my college experience. However, I didn’t want to document another small town. I wanted to increase the scale a little bit more to create a larger body of work that I felt would affect more people on a larger scale. That’s why I decided to document the entire Quad Cities area. By the way, we have four Wal-Marts in the local area. So it’s definitely a bit larger than the college project!
Local Area Connections for Learning about Our History
I also loved the idea of taking my daughter (3 years old) with me to experience this really cool area that we live in. It allows us to show some of the places that have really made an impact on the people who live here. It also creates connections and helps you to relive some of those special memories. When you see a picture of a cornfield, you may remember doing the corn shucking (what was that called) in highschool for some extra money in the summer or when you see photos of the Mississippi River, these photos may call to mind boating with your family or going to Buffalo Beach in the summer and looking for various shells along the beach.
Increased Cultural Awareness
I also want to highlight local area businesses, because we have a really awesome small business sector in the Quad Cities. From the mom and pop shops that grown immensely in their time here such as Happy Joes, Azteca, Hungry Hobo, and Whiteys Ice cream to the awesome ethnic grocery stores that help connect our various ethnic communities within the Quad Cities. It is truly these places that bring us together and build our local community. And this project of documenting the Quad Cities would not be complete without this element of our community!
Latest Photography Sessions for the Documenting the Quad Cities Project
There is something magical about falling snow. Especially when there is fog and the snow is still falling. I love capturing snowy speckles across my photographs. This winter we haven’t had many snow days. I think this was the third or fourth snow of the season. So I knew that I definitely wanted to take advantage of this gorgeous day to go out and shoot some photos.
I decided to head down to the Rock River in Colona, Illinois. The rivers around our area have a huge impact on our community as a whole. Already this year, we have had massive flooding from the Rock River and the Mississippi River across the Quad City Area. And since I grew up in Colona for part of my childhood, I have a certain attachment to the Rock River and watching it’s different cycles throughout the year. Documenting the Quad Cities would not be complete without capturing the rivers, their different cycles, and how they effect the Quad Cities area.
One of my favorite settings for shooting my photography is in crappy weather. Rain or snow, or even those icky gray days that make you not want to get out of bed. Those are totally my days. I simply love the even tones of light and the sense of calm and peace that the weather can have on the mood of a photography session. I also love to create contrast through my composition choices and the even lighting helps my photographs to still feel cohesive. It was one of these crappy, gray days that Atizle and I stumbled onto the Architectural Sculpture Park in Davenport, Iowa, near the Village of East Davenport. This was a really fun shoot to add to the documenting the Quad Cities project!
There are many iconic landmarks in the Quad Cities. But the I-74 bridge is the one that defines the Quad Cities area to me. It showcases this area’s relationship and connection with the Mississippi River and how it has greatly affected the area through economic, cultural, and technological advances. Whenever I am shooting photographs along the riverfront, I try to find a way to capture the I-74 bridge within some of the shots, as well. With the recent decision to replace the I-74 bridge due to safety concerns, I knew that I wanted to include this iconic landmark in my Documenting the Quad Cities project.
Atizle and I often go on road trips when nap time is approaching. Driving along in the car is one of the only sure-fire ways for her to get a nap anymore. We discovered the Centennial Garden at Middle Park in Bettendorf, Iowa during one of these driving-around-hoping-for-a-nap days. Despite being in the middle of winter, this garden was still beautiful to walk through and was quite awesome in the design and landscaping.