My series Small Places, is intended to provide a connection to the small towns in the US agricultural heartland. 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. I lived in a small town in Wisconsin dairy county for a number of years. 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. With the increasing urbanization of the United States, a large percentage of the US population is unfamiliar with the rural areas that produce our food. 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 struggle to reinvent themselves amid an agricultural bounty.
Small Places was purposely shot at night. The darkness of the rural midwestern sky provides a backdrop which accentuates the isolation of the small towns and transforms the mundane into the beautiful. At night, lit up grain elevators 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 serving as beacons in a prairie of darkness. I have systematically wandered through the small towns of Illinois and Iowa to capture the abundance, the beauty and the isolation. As I talk to people while I am shooting and show them my work, I am heartened by their reactions. The people I have talked to are overwhelmingly appreciative that someone is trying to capture the beauty of where they live.
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 an international career as a groundwater geologist, Jim is now focusing his time and energy on photography. Jim participated in the 2021 Chico Review. In 2022 his work was displayed at eight juried gallery shows. or photo festivals. Jim’s on going series “Small Places” was recently featured in Lenscratch.