Common Ground

Common Ground

A visual study of the surprising similarities between a farm family and a suburban family who sequentially shared the same land.
In 2002, Jean and Harlow Cagwin watched as their home — the last remnant of their 118-acre Illinois cattle farm — was torn down, clearing the way for a new housing development. Several years later, Ed and Amanda Grabenhofer and their four children moved into that new subdivision, their house just yards from where the Cagwin’s home once stood.

Spanning nearly 14 years of documentation, this MediaStorm video introduces us to the lives touched by this land, as we embark on a visual journey exploring both the differences and “common ground” of these two families. What distinguishes this project are the juxtaposed images of each family and its distinct lifestyle, interspersed with video profiles of family members reflecting on the significance of their land.

As farmland morphs into suburbia, the juxtaposing lifestyles built upon it raise stirring questions of the modern world. The parallel images compel us to ponder the sharp contrasts and surprising similarities of starkly different realities on the same stretch of earth.

This visual essay chronicles the transition from the Cagwin’s rugged and picturesque agrarian lifestyle to the Grabenhofer’s WalMart-dependent two-car-garage lifestyle. The imagery poses provocative questions on the nature of change in the 21st Century, and forces all of us to consider the ghosts of those who once dwelled on whatever place we now inhabit — and the future souls who will replace us when we move on. Ultimately, the photographs maintain an uncanny objectivity, as they leave viewers to draw their own conclusions about the evolution of the modern American lifestyle. Be sure to watch right up to the final, surprisingly poignant denouement.

Length: 7:21

Photography: Scott Strazzante
Video: Wes Pope
Original Music: Andy Webster
Producer: Chad A. Stevens
Executive Producer: Brian Storm