Friday, November 21, 2014
Farm families and suburban familes actually share a lot of common ground -- and photographer Scott Strazzante has the pictures to prove it:
On July 2, 2002, Harlow Cagwin, a month shy of his 80th birthday, watched as the farmhouse that had been his home since childhood was reduced to rubble.
The day marked the end of Cagwin's decades of labor and, also, the conclusion of my eight-year photographic journey with Harlow, his wife, Jean, and their herd of Angus beef cattle.
I first set foot on the Cagwins' 114-acre farm in the spring of 1994, to snap some photos for a newspaper story about people who raised farm animals in suburban Chicago. But as I photographed Harlow and Jean, something told me I would return.
And I did return, again and again.
Over the years, there were many stories . . . about the changing landscape, about aging, about the economy, and, of course, about the disappearing family farm.
When urban sprawl finally forced the Cagwins to sell their farm to a developer, I thought that would be the final chapter.
I was wrong about that.
In early 2007, when I presented my farm essay to a photo class, one of my students shyly raised her hand. She told me she and her family lived in the Willow Walk subdivision, which was built on the land the Cagwins had once farmed.
By week's end, I stood on a cul de sac called Cinnamon Court, as Amanda Grabenhofer, her husband Ed, and their four children joined other young families for an Easter egg hunt.
At the time, I wasn't sure my photographs of one family's suburban life had anything in common with those of two senior citizen farmers, but I was glad to be back on a piece of land I knew so well.
On my second visit, I photographed Amanda and Ed's oldest son, Ben, as he wrestled with his cousin, C.J., on the front lawn of their home.
There was something about it that seemed familiar.
Then it hit me.
I went into my archive and pulled out a photo of Harlow Cagwin struggling to lasso a day-old calf.
I put the two images side by side. And something magical happened.
I had discovered their common ground.
Really good story and pictures!