Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Saturday, February 24

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« New CMAP Photography Contest Carny Love »

Art Mon Nov 02 2009

The Calumet Region, An American Place: Photographs by Gary Cialdella

calumet cover.jpg

A collection of Gary Cialdella's photographs of an area that begins in southern Chicago, and ends somewhere in Northwest Indiana, has just been published in a new book. This book of photographs took me a long time to digest, mainly because I know the Calumet region and was not very familiar with this sort of documentary photography. I don't know the area quite as well as Gregg Hertzlieb, editor and contributing essayist for this book, but I have spent enough time in the area to be familiar with the subject matter. It isn't easy to look at photograph after photograph of things you've seen before, all taken in black and white from a six foot eye level. It becomes monotonous and tiring after a while, but I am beginning to understand that there is a lot more here than was originally able to see.

2.jpgLike I said, I'm familiar with the iconic images of the area, single family homes and industry not only on the same block but often on the same plot of land. These photos show urban decay, liquor and cigarette ads, war memorials, Baptist churches, train tracks and dozens of other "American" images. Upon further inspection though you are not looking only at a region you are looking at individuals. Individuals are making choices about their lawn ornamentation that lend insight into the diversity of the region. On top of that, we are lead through this region so thoughtfully by the editors that we are almost unaware of how much knowledge we are actually receiving from the photographs. Insights into daily struggles, and even inner city infrastructure begin to make themselves known after spending some time studying the work.

There is something very special about these photographs, and I have a feeling it is the relationship between the area being photographed and the photographer. A lot of what has been photographed in this book is gone now, that fact alone will entice locals to reminisce over long loved, and long since lost, local buildings and memories. This is a book you will want to spend time with, like the images of Paris by Eugène Atget we are shown a spirit of this region in a time of change.

But what about people that have never stepped foot into the Calumet region. Well in his essay Gary said

"To this day, I go out of my way to drive through the Region and take it in. Like so much of America, it is both sad and hopeful. I see the Region as a unique place, but I see it also as a metaphor for the contemporary American landscape. Calumet is a real place, and it is home."

7.jpgWhen Gary says Calumet is real, he is right. This is where the heart of the steel Industry was, and the only reason it is not as bad as Detroit is because of Chicago. As blue collars become white all across America, we need to look to Detroit and the Calumet Region in order to remember what happens when we believe what we are told. We need to remember happiness is what you make it every day and all of that is very important in spending time with this book. The photographs herein were taken over a span of more than twenty years, and although that is nothing in terms of time, it is more than double the amount of time you would need to make significant changes in a neighborhood today.

Gary is taking us on a tour of his neighborhood, a neighborhood that has changed, and even if we have never visited the area, we have been, and will continue to be effected by that change.


GB store
GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


An Angry White Guy
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Devening Projects
DIY Film
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Mess Hall
Neoteric Art
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
The Seen
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

GB store



A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.

About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Nancy Bishop,
A/C staff inbox:



A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15