Jim Hill: Small Places
There is something about night photography that makes unremarkable spaces a bit more remarkable. The inky skies have greater depth and the sense of emptiness create an emotional tableaux. The dreary streets that have seen better days, the grayness that sets into places that once had a heartbeat become mysterious stage sets for actors who no longer act. I enjoyed this journey into small town life at night when I met with Jim Hill at the Los Angeles Center of Photography Portfolio Reviews. He has a legacy of photographing of small towns at night that reveal a particular beauty, a beauty that comes from small details: the light from the ATM machine, a Budweiser sign, a Christmas wreath, or strings of red lights. Set against the monolithic silos and lonely mid-western downtown streets, these details are a sign of our humanity and a beating heart.
He is currently exhibition at PhotoSpiva 2023 in Joplin, Missouri between March 18 – May 23, 2023
Jim Hill is a Chicago based photographer who is focused on photographing the world at night.
Jim Hill was born and raised in Berkeley, California and graduated from the University of Wisconsin- Madison with a degree in geology. After college, Jim lived in a small town in southern Wisconsin for eight years and subsequently has lived in the Chicago Area for over 30 years.
After an international career as a groundwater geologist, Jim is now focusing his time and energy on photography. Jim has taken photography classes at the School of the Art Institute and participated in the 2021 Chico Review. In 2022 his work displayed at eight gallery or photo festal shows.
Follow Jim Hill on Instagram: @jahill3photo
My current series Small Places, is intended to provide a visual connection to the US agricultural heartland in the hopes of fostering understanding and appreciation for life in the midwest’s small towns. I feel the urban population of the US is increasingly out of touch with life in the rural agricultural areas of the country. I lived in a small town in Wisconsin dairy county for a number of years. I still feel a deep respect and connection with the people in small agricultural communities. The feeling of community in small towns, where people know each other well, perhaps too well at times, is unique in my experience. While feeling a connection to the community, there is also a contradictory feeling of isolation. I remember often feeling that it was a long way to anywhere and that I was culturally disconnected from the large urban areas. Small Places is very personal to me and is a way for me to better understand and honor a part of my life that passed long ago.
With the increasing urbanization of the United States, rural areas, which were once the heart of the country are in decline. Illinois and Iowa consistently lead the nation in corn and soybean production, yet the small towns in the region continue to lose population. As farm production becomes more consolidated and big box retailers drive local merchants out of business, the small towns in the region stagnate amid an agricultural bounty. I have systematically wandered through the small towns of Illinois and Iowa to capture the abundance, the beauty and the isolation.
Small Places was purposely shot at night. The darkness of the rural midwestern sky provides a backdrop which accentuates the isolation of small towns. At night, the lite up grain storage structures tower over the surrounding towns, providing a visual metaphor for the abundance of the region. The heart of the community in many small places is the local bar. In the evenings, the local taverns are often the only thing open, their lights serve as beacons in the darkness. The lights of a small town against a dark sky highlights the isolation of rural places while the darkness and shadows transform the mundane into the beautiful.
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