This Summer they began tearing down Sycamore, at least that’s what it has felt like to my overly sensitive heart. What I mean by this is they are tearing down my Sycamore, the backdrop of my childhood. My fathers’ Sycamore is long gone, and my grandmothers’ was torn down before even that. Around eight years ago all of the schools came down and the soccer field, grasshopper field, turned into a corn field. After that considerable change, things seemed to still. Most everything sat the same until this summer when the bank leveled the house behind their building and turned it into a parking lot. Then my aunts’ old beauty salon was gutted to become office space. All the while, down came the mill; that’s when my heart finally broke.
A few weeks ago my best friend called me to say that the stacks were next; I cried. Demolition began today. Sycamore will no longer have a skyline, no beacon to call me home after straying for far too long in the suffocating city. I hate this. My whole life I had believed that small towns never changed, but I was wrong. They change, slower than the city, but monotonously all the same. I am finally old enough to have lived it, to have seen an entire generation cycle through. When I realized this today, it floored me. We were born, we were raised and many of us fled. Foolishly, and admittedly selfishly, I has assumed that my hometown would remain the same just for me. That even if I wandered, I had the option to run home to the comfort of that which is familiar. I can’t. I can no longer feel like I’m flying as I plummet from atop the high dive, it doesn’t exist. I will never be able to show my children where I went to school, where every single Smith before me went to school. I won’t ever again fill up a tank of gas and watch as they load truck-fulls of grain. A small town stays the same for about a generation. We get roughly twenty years of predictability before they shake things up, before our elementary harbors asbestos and the ice-cream shop burns down. Now I’m watching all of the new things incredibly skeptically. These are the new things that will be the backdrops for a new generations’ Sycamore. They won’t have the mill or the stacks, but they’ll have a fancy bank and a parking lot. They’ll be instilled with small town values and grow up in one of the three churches. They’ll run wild and free until the street lights turn on and maybe even after. That is a small town childhood and no amount of demolition, rubble or debris will make that change.
As soon as the house behind the bank crumbled, I realized that I had been neglecting to photograph the very place I hold dearest to my heart. This summer I made it my goal to shoot at least one roll of film each time I went home. At the moment, these images are nothing more than diaries, moments in time tucked away for posterity. If they turn into something bigger then that’s great, but if not I am still content. Compositionally, I am proud of how much I have grown as a photographer this past summer. For the first time I look at my work and think to myself ‘this is something I can turn into a career’ and it feels so incredibly good.
Here’s the first batch of summer film, developed, scanned, dusted and edited. It is my hope that I can finish scanning in my negatives this weekend. As I work them up, I will send them your way so that you can see Sycamore, the way it was, even if briefly, during the summer of 2015.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to the mill before it was gone.