Ohio in the Crosshairs

03 Mar 2008



I managed to visit the town of Chillicothe, Ohio about eighteen months ago. The visit was part of a solitary three-day road trip that I made on the old post road, route 50, from Cincinnati to Washington, DC. In my dispatch, I focussed more on the relationship between photography and deserted places. I had not, in my short time there, spoken to a soul or had time to dig deeper into the causes behind what struck me as a forlorn, but visually arresting location. During the afternoon stroll I took through the town I found myself looking down the barrel of an idyllic tree-lined street; standing at its dead end I watched as two teen bikers approached. I knew that there would be time for one shot, one shot only.

The question, as they approached: should I shoot directly down the street and capture all of its small town goodness, perhaps using the approaching subjects as props in my Life Magazine portrait of the town? Or should I focus on the subjects themselves — two teens I had seen biking through the parking lot of a supermarket earlier — and put on hold any notion of capturing a postcard image? As I settled into a shooting crouch, the teens focussed their attention on me and the decision became fused with the moment.

“What’s he looking at?” I heard one ask the other. They looked toward me as they began to round the corner.

Zoom in tighter. Pan with them. Hold. Hold. Wait for it. Boom.

“Oh, he’s looking at us.”

I could feel the crest of their expectations wash away upon the realization. They completed rounding the corner and rode away, their minds drifting back to more important topics.

I bring this up because Chillicothe has made its way into the news, as I suppose it does every election cycle. 60 Minutes journalist Steve Kroft paints a more complete and entirely different image of the town vis-a-vis the Democratic nominating fight currently being waged on its streets. And though I was pleased to see the CBS news cameras trained on some of the same locations I had photographed, it is the picture of an American electorate, very much in flux, that emerges from the news piece. At this moment, many more eyes are clearly trained on Chillicothe.

Here are the rest of my Chillicothe shots.

It didn’t help with the bikers, but two days later I learned about the burst function on my camera while sitting on the front bumper of a fire truck at a county fair tractor pull contest in Virginia. The camera does video as well.


  1. 3 Mar 2008 Ross Smith

    Very nice shots. Some students and faculty in our department have taken the barren and abandoned looking areas in rural Ohio. Katie Shannon is one of the lecturers in our photography department who’s done some similar works.