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Secret scenes of a silent city

Secret scenes in a secret world – that’s how Rockford has always felt to me. I’ve been a hopeless romantic about downtown Rockford for as long as I’ve lived here – ten thousand days. The romance has always been an alluring, yet elusive feeling that something great is just about to happen here; that great things have happened here; that the places can tell stories about the people who built them, the people who worked in them, the triumphs and tragedies that swirled around them.

But like a long lost romance, I can never seem to escape the sense of desolation, the sheer loneliness here. I’ve walked around watching scenes of downtown unfold, then fade away – often without any camera at all. Often, I just want to absorb the quiet, empty streets and alleyways while the buildings are all painted by fleeting light, reflections, the dying day and looming night. I want to remember it for another day, and then return to make a photo of it so maybe we never forget how much we’ve all really loved this place.

For residents of this quiet little river city of Rockford, Illinois, it’s as if we’ve found ourselves on some strange movie set – with days and nights of hustle and bustle of cast and crew rehearsing for a movie that hasn’t premiered yet. And then, suddenly the set falls quiet, empties out, and looks like a city abandoned for lack of any sign of life. While my commercial photography has taken me all over the country and world making shots of places just like these, few of these shots of Rockford are in my portfolio. Could it be that like so many others in Rockford, I’d forgotten to see the secret beauty, the secret scenes of our little city, and instead let them fall forever to this film’s cutting room floor? I hope not.

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