Beauty in the BeastNear where I live south of Chicago, there is a gigantic hole in the Earth known as the Thornton Quarry. Excavations began in 1928 and statistics say that it is 1.5 miles (2.5 km) long, 0.5 miles (1 km) wide, and 450 feet (137.16 m) deep at its deepest point. It serves as part of the Deep Tunnel Project to receive excess storm water from Chicago. The quarry contains Silurian reefs, mainly limestone, which were formed when this land was covered by a sea over 400 million years ago. Once flying into Midway Airport, I saw it from the sky, a startlingly deep gash in the land.
From where I live, I can feel and hear the blasts from the quarry at 3pm during all months but winter. During the cold months, it is closed for excavation and becomes the habitat for red foxes and coyotes, some of which I saw while photographing. Huge mounds of different colored and shaped stone stand throughout the high ground. So big that large excavating machinery appears tiny as it drops its loads from on high. On another level there is a large lake. As it fills, the water seeps from one side to the other through cracks that have not been plugged and has created an unintended waterfall there. The dusty vegetation is scrubby, weedy, growing despite being parched, tenacious.
When I sleep now in winter, I imagine the space, now impassable for vehicles, with clean snow, quiet and dark, ancient marine fossils yet untouched, the only prints those of wild critters reveling in chilly seclusion.
These photographs were made with a 1920's German medium format camera, converted by me to take circular negatives on film. They are exhibited in original deco-period cardboard photo folders from my personal collection and housed in a clamshell box.