Common Ground: Suburbia + Rural America

Posted on by Lauren M

For fourteen years, photojournalist Scott Strazzante, a Pulitzer prize-winning photographer at the Chicago Tribune, tracked the evolution of a typical Illinois family farm through its transformation into a suburban subdivision. With housing sprawl replacing grazing land and big box stores built on open fields where crops once grew, this award-winning documentary depicts a phenomenon all too familiar in rural areas.

In doing so, the narrative aptly conveys the multi-faceted, dynamic nature of place, land use, and identity.  Similarly, it brings to light the potential effects of suburban sprawl on traditional values and questions the meaning of place, and how a sense of place and identity can be redefined by physical changes to the existing landscape.


The beginnings of a new community... (project site is not associated with 'Common Ground')

Strazzante documents the stories of the people affected by change through the use of parallel imagery and accompanying commentary from both of the families who have inhabited the site over the past decade and a half- the Cagwins, the original owners and the Grabenhofers, the current homeowners living in the new tract community. The simultaneously personal and pragmatic issues faced by both families, when juxtaposed alongside one another, invokes a re-evaluation of the meaning of home, community, and the American condition.  

What is particularly unique about this format is that it does not convey an opinion, judgement or specific message- it simply documents the history of a place through the images and words of those who have lived, or continue to live, there. This methodology leaves viewers to assess and interpret the cultural, economic and environmental implications of this type of change for themselves.

Visit this link to view the seven minute film, Common Ground...

Regardless of one's opinion or position on the subject, the disappearance of the traditional small farm in America, as depicted through the story of this piece of land in Illinois, will, at the very least, get you thinking about development and how America's future can be shaped by our needs and decisions.

And that thought process and ensuing dialogue is a pretty good place to start.