16th Annual Smithsonian.com Photo Contest
A bluesy folk song called Cairo, IL coursed through my headphones for the first time on a warm day one August afternoon. Intrigued, I researched the towns’ location to learn that it was the southernmost city in Illinois. Some weeks later I stumbled upon a link for “The Most Hippie Town in Illinois.” With an urge to visit both of these places, I found a line that connected the two dots: the Illinois Central Railroad. Even luckier, the first stop on the train was Chicago. Finally, I set out following the Illinois stretch of the Illinois Central to photograph the little towns along the tracks that once relied on the train. While some towns have faded away, others have modernized and rebuilt. Surprisingly, the railroad hasn’t disappeared, however, it has undergone great change. After several company buyouts, it is still used for freight transportation, but is largely used by Amtrak--moving passengers between Chicago and New Orleans. The roar of the trains that once bolted through didn’t hesitate to leave these towns in silence and dust. Nothing Moves, Nothing Stays is as much about the railroad, as it is about what lies around it. The railroad still plays a large part in many of the locals’ lives. The jazzy folk energy from the song that sparked this project continued to inspire and influence my picture making approach as I worked. These photographs serve to show the timeless, yet contemporary essence of the towns and the antiquated technologies of their heyday that they hold on to.
© Cody Schlabaugh.
All rights reserved.
||The American Experience
||June 18, 2018, 12:09 p.m.