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Bringing My Camera to Work

In which our hero invites you, dear reader, to enjoy previously unreleased material. These street-style photos, taken at an undisclosed location in the wilds of East St. Louis, Illinois, documents the esteemed individuals working so hard to preserve and record the pre-historic site buried beneath the carcass of a former industrial giant.

For the last three years I’ve had the great privilege to work at one of the largest archaeological excavations in North America for the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS).

This is one excavation block on the site. The site itself has been estimated to be about 478 acres. So, due to the size, it was necessary to deal with it in smaller chunks. Taken on Fomapan 100, then digitally stitched together to create the panorama.

Beneath almost a meter or more of historic gravel and slag and trash in East St. Louis, Illinois lies the remains of ancient communities spanning from 1050 to 1400CE. Over the last three years we’ve dug thousands of features collected reams and reams of data, and discovered countless artifacts. We painstakingly catalog all of this information, take numerous photos to document finds, and with a fine tooth comb, pour over it to ensure accuracy.

But, during my time here I realized that though we do detail every aspect of our excavations we don’t necessarily capture the essence of the job, the hands on the shovel, the faces of the people who are actually digging the holes. Sure, sometimes posed crew shots are put together for reports and presentations, but I’d recently gotten into street photography and sometimes it’s nice when multiple facets of life come together. Late in the summer of 2011, having recently picked up film again, I mustered up the gumption to approach my project director to request permission to ply my street photography fancy at the site. I wanted to capture images of people digging holes candidly. Sure, a posed shot looks good in a report, but I had this notion that it would somehow look more real to take these shots on film and in this style.

Long and short, I got the go ahead and began taking pictures on site with various cameras (500dtl, La Sardina, Ultra Wide and Slim, et al). Since our site covers so much area, I’m still working on photographing everyone digging at the site. Hopefully, by the end of this summer I’ll get everybody.

Over the end of 2011 and early 2012 I had amassed a good number of rolls of film (mostly Fomapan 100 with the odd roll of Arista Premium 100 that I developed at home in caffenol) scanned to my computer. Now, an active site is a curious thing. I had these photos, but for fear of detailing exactly where we were digging all over the internet I just hung on to them. Then, one fateful day in March of 2012 when our Director was on site and I asked him if it would be ok to write an article about the site for this photography site I’m on with the pictures I’ve been taking with it? No questions asked, he said “Yes.”

I was elated. Typically, I scan and upload every single one of my pictures to the community. Not sharing these photos has been gnawing at me ever since I started taking them. I’ve selected what I feel are the best of the collection thus far. Without further adieu, I present you with the first batch of photos of the archaeologists working at the East St. Louis Mound Center site:

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written by rrohe

1 comment

  1. neanderthalis

    neanderthalis

    Nice, I have much respect for archeology.

    over 2 years ago · report as spam