Daily Picture Show

Paving Paradise: Photos Of A Town's Forlorn Fate

The 400-ish people who live in Utica, Ind., are slowly coming to terms with a forlorn fate. The town, situated right on the Ohio river, which separates Indiana from Kentucky, will soon be paved over by a highway. The two states are planning to build a bridge over the river, and the highway leading to the bridge will cut right through Utica.

  • One of Mike Meyers' beef cows and a wild turkey feather.
    Hide caption
    One of Mike Meyers' beef cows and a wild turkey feather.
    Robb Hill
  • Utica residents Michael and Mike Meyers raise beef cattle on the farmland that has been family owned for four generations. The new highway project will bisect their fields.
    Hide caption
    Utica residents Michael and Mike Meyers raise beef cattle on the farmland that has been family owned for four generations. The new highway project will bisect their fields.
    Robb Hill
  • A field just outside Utica that Mike Meyers rents to keep his beef cattle on will become an offramp for the new highway.
    Hide caption
    A field just outside Utica that Mike Meyers rents to keep his beef cattle on will become an offramp for the new highway.
    Robb Hill
  • Mailboxes at the end of Old Salem Road in Utica, Ind. This small two-lane road will be converted into the arterial road that will lead to a new highway.
    Hide caption
    Mailboxes at the end of Old Salem Road in Utica, Ind. This small two-lane road will be converted into the arterial road that will lead to a new highway.
    Robb Hill
  • Old boats at the edge of a field on the James family's property.
    Hide caption
    Old boats at the edge of a field on the James family's property.
    Robb Hill
  • A family cemetery dating from the mid-1850s located in woods outside Utica.
    Hide caption
    A family cemetery dating from the mid-1850s located in woods outside Utica.
    Robb Hill
  • The Ohio River in the early morning.
    Hide caption
    The Ohio River in the early morning.
    Robb Hill
  • Amanda Svoboda watches for wild turkeys with her father, John.
    Hide caption
    Amanda Svoboda watches for wild turkeys with her father, John.
    Robb Hill
  • Members of the congregation of the Utica Praise Church receive prayers at the end of a Wednesday night service.
    Hide caption
    Members of the congregation of the Utica Praise Church receive prayers at the end of a Wednesday night service.
    Robb Hill
  • Longtime Utica resident Curtis Hooper, 96, on the couch in his home, died two months after this photo was taken.
    Hide caption
    Longtime Utica resident Curtis Hooper, 96, on the couch in his home, died two months after this photo was taken.
    Robb Hill
  • A 1965 Ford pickup truck at the back of Tim Cooper's property.
    Hide caption
    A 1965 Ford pickup truck at the back of Tim Cooper's property.
    Robb Hill

1 of 11

View slideshow i

For the past five years, D.C.-based photographer Robb Hill has been returning to his home of Utica — what he calls "a self-proclaimed river rat town" — to document the land and its people before construction begins. The planned highway will fall within a half-mile of his house, which dates back to around 1860. Many of the homes and farmhouses in the area share that sort of history. And the people who own them are slowly saying goodbye.

A panoramic camera

Robb Hill uses a panoramic Hasselblad to shoot his wide stills. Robb Hill hide caption

itoggle caption Robb Hill

On one hand, it might seem sad. But on the other, more practical hand, Hill explained, residents will appreciate a more direct way to cross the river. "I'm trying to approach the project as matter-of-factly as these people live their life," he said. "They know the bridge is coming. They just have to go on and live it." It seems appropriate that Hill himself is facing a big change: The film that he used for the first five years of this project has been retired. With only 30 rolls remaining, he will soon switch to another brand.

The moral of "HomeLand," Hill's project, is that change is inevitable. And that sometimes, the best thing you can do to save a place is to document it. "I don't think you need to go to far-flung war zones to make good photographs," he said over the phone. "You can do it in a backyard. And they don't have to be romanticized or sentimental; they're interesting on their own."

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.