Meet Miles Wildermuth, a sophomore SMAD major at JMU. He is excited to display a collection of photos of his hometown of Chicago. Welcome to “Chicago: Veins of Steel,” a show that aims to capture specific feelings of memory, nostalgia and growth.

Many of the photos in this collection were taken when Miles still lived in Elmhurst, a suburb of Chicago that he grew up in. He always loved going into the city, which was just a quick train ride away, and exploring all of the sights it had to offer. He found himself interested in the trains and railroads that lead into the city, and explains that it’s “often something people overlook.” Miles began to take photos of “what happened to be in front of [him],” and in doing so, he has turned the industrial, cold railway into a subject that appears personal in his work.

Miles cites the year 2020 as having a big impact on his trajectory as a photographer. Schools were closed due to the pandemic, and he used the abundance of free time to sharpen his skills and deeply explore his subjects. This collection of photos serves as a sort of time capsule for Miles, allowing him to look back and reflect on these moments that he has frozen in time. He remarks that “it’s a pretty big difference coming from Chicago, Illinois to JMU.” The photos “remind [him] of home” and embedded in them are his memories of growing up and going to high school. They serve as a way for Miles to access and remain close to his fond memories of growing up.

Miles has been doing photography for almost six years. He remembers always borrowing his parents’ camera when he was younger, until they eventually passed it along to him. This is the same camera he used to take all of the photos for this collection. “Once I started [doing photography],” Miles says, “I just kept wanting to do more and more.” He always thinks about the lighting and sun when taking a photo, but he mostly prefers to let the composition find him, making whatever he can find around him into art.

When viewing this collection, Miles hopes that people will enjoy seeing a new part of the country and perhaps enjoy the perspective he offers on the often overlooked railway. For him, these photos are reminders of home and familiar places, but for many, they are a glimpse into a completely new space. He hopes that you enjoy this foray into his memory, and that he has been able to offer you a new perspective on his subjects.  

View the full collection here 

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