It was first at Ohio University, where I was briefly working on a graduate degree in Visual Communications, that I came across the name Scott Strazzante. This was some 13 years ago.
Right around that time, Scott, while at the Chicago Tribune, began a personal project that he pursued on his own time. That documentary project, called Common Ground, explores the challenges farmers Harlow and Jean Cagwin face in rural Illinois.
The story takes an incredible turn when in 2002, the Cagwins lost their home to urban sprawl and a new subdivision. But Scott didn’t stop making images then. A chance meeting in 2007 of Amanda Grabenhofer, who now lives in that subdivision, prompted Scott to continue the project by photographing her and her family.
If you ever doubted if history repeated itself, all you have to do is see the wonderful diptychs that Scott, with the help of Mike Davis and Deb Pang Davis, has created of life on the farm when it existed and life in the new subdivision that overtook that farm.
As Scott so eloquently says in my conversation with him (see video below), this project isn’t a political statement of any kind. It leans more gracefully on the art side of things, where we are gently cajoled into experiencing disparate lives, lived on virtually the same place, or common ground.
Scott Strazzante is well on his way to publishing a book, thanks to this Kickstarter campaign. He has 21 days to go to raise $42,500.
I am asking you to back this project, to show your support of long-term, personal projects that photojournalists like Scott are doing simply because they feel compelled to share with us the world they witness on a daily basis. When I watched the campaign video, I knew right away that this was a very special project.
Scott and I have never met in person, but it’s easy to discover the man’s commitment to photojournalism and his love for narrating visual stories of everyday life. I applaud him for going the distance, completing this project and publishing this book, Common Ground.