In his ongoing project The Region, James Rotz investigates and documents the development of Northwest Indiana. A conglomerate of cities that form part of the Chicago metropolitan area, the Calumet Region, as it is commonly called—or “the Region” for short—is home to around one million people. But more notably it is a place, as Rotz observes, “where nature takes a backseat to what humans have created.”
Photographing at night, Rotz creates images in which the absence of human life allows our attention to rest on the elements of infrastructure that characterize the landscape of the region. Power lines cut through nearly every image, and telephone poles and factory smokestacks outnumber the few scattered trees. The scale has grown beyond that of the domestic as power plants and highway overpasses tower over playgrounds and single-family homes. It is as if the real act of living had become an after-thought to the operations that facilitate our way of life. With factories situated beside marinas and baseball fields the implements of industry seem to be out of place, and in some of the pictures one gets the sense we are seeking to protect ourselves from our own creations: fences and barriers punctuate most of these settings and an eerie, perpetual light bathes everything, leaving no dark corners.
Rotz aims to capture the particular qualities of a region—the one where he was born—but he sees what he finds in Northwest Indiana as symptomatic of a sweeping transformation throughout the country. Fascinated with the implications of America’s continued development, he has created a series of photographs that begs the viewer to consider how certain values take hold and to weigh the effects of their dissemination on a larger scale.