Industrial Sights

Photographs by Matthew Kaplan and Robin Michals

Marshall J. Gardner Center For The Arts

“Industrial Sights” features the work of Matthew Kaplan and Robin Michals, two photographers who document industrial areas and their surrounding residential neighborhoods. Each has a different way of working and brings a different set of intentions to their images. Matthew Kaplan has for decades been photographing in and around the same midwestern refinery town where he grew up. Robin Michals has traveled widely throughout the country, exploring with her camera a broad cross section of America’s industrial communities.

Through his long-term documentation of Whiting Indiana, and the surrounding Calumet Region, Matthew Kaplan has captured a coevolution between community and commerce as it has played out in one geography, over many years. Home and industry often exist in the same frame in Kaplan’s photographs, with houses near the refinery, and other industrial complexes in his home town, representing the lives of the people living, raising families, and growing old there. These are people and places Kaplan has grown up with, and which he still knows and cares about.

Robin Michals came to photograph industrial neighborhoods through her work on climate change. In 2017, while in Louisiana to work on a project about sea level rise, she photographed the Mississippi River town of Norco, which hosts a sprawling Shell Refining and Chemicals facility. She saw images of homes abutting the refinery there as metaphors for living with and being resigned to climate change. Pursuing this vision, Michals has since traveled to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana and Texas to work on her ongoing project, “Our Neighborhood”.

At one level, the joint exhibit documents a slice of today’s industrial landscape and its surrounding built environment. On another level, the show juxtaposes work that looks deeply into one specific region, with work which makes connections between a number of widely separated localities.

“Industrial Sights” puts into dialogue these two bodies of work, similar in subject matter, but each with different origins and intentions.

Check out our press in the NWI Times! Thank you Joseph Peete and Meredith Colias Peete for hanging out at the Artist Talk.

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“Industrial Sights” is part of our Exhibits series.

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