WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Photographing Forgottonia

Sep 8, 2018

Bruce Morton said he was born and raised in the Hancock County community of Bowen (2010 census: 494).  He couldn’t wait to leave and lived for 30 years near Phoenix, Arizona.  But he moved back to Bowen in 2007 and is glad he did.

“There is so much beauty in Arizona.  I wanted to come back here and find that same beauty. And it’s here. You just have to look for it,” Morton said.

He decided to use his skills – he said he’s been shooting photos for nearly 50 years -- to document the beauty of the 16-county western Illinois region nicknamed Forgottonia.  The result is a trilogy of photography books released over the course of the past few years:

  • Forgottonia
  • Forgottonia – The Audience
  • Forgottonia – The Suburbs

Morton will sign copies of the books on Saturday, September 15, 10:00 a.m. to noon and again from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at New Copperfield’s Book Service, 120 North Side Square in Macomb.

Bruce Morton
Credit Rich Egger

Morton said the first book documents the life cycle of people in the area, mostly in and around Bowen.  He said photos in the second book were taken at places where people gather and socialize.

He said for the newly released final book of the series, he traveled to all 16 counties in Forgottonia.  He said he discovered similarities in the challenges people face throughout the region.

“I find history very important in photography.  You look back maybe to the 1930s and see older photographs. And then I stop and think about, ‘Well, who’s doing this now? What kind of photography can we use that maybe people will see 100 years from now?’ And that’s why I enjoy so much what I’m doing at the moment,” Morton said.

And even if he is not working on a project, Morton said he enjoys grabbing a camera and shooting photos without worrying about the results.

“The actual act of photographing is what pleases me most about all of this. Just getting out and pushing that button releases some sort of endorphins or something in me. It just really calms me down,” he said.

Morton’s books can be purchased during the book signing and/or through his website.