Help Me Shoot (Pictures) Gary, Indiana
August 6, 2014 10:17 PM   Subscribe

As a kid, I happened to pass through Gary, IN, on a handful of occasions. I was always blown away by the frightening industrial sprawl; it looked like Mordor, or Blade Runner, especially at night. Now I'm a grown up, and I would like to take cool pictures of this.

I'm about to take a rare cross-country drive that will bring me through the general Gary area (via Interstate 90 E). It may well be around dusk, too, so I thought I might indulge my photography hobby by getting some snaps.

Basically, I'm hoping to get some tips on places -- either on I-90 or near it -- where I can pull over, set up a tripod, and do some shooting. "Safe" places, by which I mean the following:

- Not in danger from/a danger to passing traffic
- Not in danger of "homeland security" type hassling from local LEOs
- Not in danger of being robbed (even ignoring the blazing-hot racism of the "travel tips" I've googled, Gary does not have a very friendly reputation)

Specific locations (exits, cross streets, etc.) would be fantastic. Also helpful would be links to forums that discuss this sort of thing (similar to those used by people who spot planes for fun?). If it helps, I won't be burdened by equipment/gear (just the aforementioned tripod, and the Sony RX100 affixed to it), but I won't want to spend too much time, wander too far from my vehicle, or do any trespassing. I've spent a few hours googling/searching old Asks, but I'm not much of a ninja, and I need to get some sleep before I hit the road.
posted by credible hulk to Travel & Transportation around Gary, IN (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any tips about visiting Gary, but you may be interested in the work of Chilean photographer Camilo Jose Vergara. He's done a ton of urban decay photography, and Gary is among the places he's shot.
posted by charlemangy at 10:41 PM on August 6, 2014

Here are the pictures on flickr taken in Gary and tagged "ruins". (it seems you need to hit the little green "refresh" icon to make it load results filtered to the map reticule.)
posted by contraption at 11:38 PM on August 6, 2014

I am from NW Indiana and am familiar with the area. But don't get off the Toll Road ( I- 90) unless we are going to a Railcats game.

Dusk heading into night isn't the best time to get off the interstate in that area. Also, some of the abandoned factories and grounds can't be reached because the Mills and Railroads have them pretty well cordoned off for casual " look sees" You can get into to the abandoned areas using the local's access, but I don't recommend it. And it's illegal .

The Steel Mills which are neat to look at while the sun goes down are gated off, a fair distance and you wouldn't be able to get close. The steel mills are like mountains, they are huge and not as close as they seem.

My daughter took the Bike Trail that runs through that area. It ran along streets in a heavily industrialized area. She said that it was one of the most surreal places she has ever been. The pics she took reminded me of the Alan Parson's Ammonia Avenue LP cover. Getting into those areas is a fair distance away from the Gary exit. They did their traveling during daylight hours.

You can get off the Toll road and go to the Railcat baseball park. They placed it right next to the toll road and there is pretty easy access to some blighted areas. Mostly Urban desolation not industrial. But from City Hall there are some great views of the older mills that have been closed. Gary was quite proud of their bread and butter back in the day. The Rails to the mills and manufacturing plants run right in front of the city hall and courthouse.
It's the route the toll road takes. The city was built on the lake, but it was also built so the mills were in full view.
posted by moonlily at 2:11 AM on August 7, 2014

Looking at google maps, shots from a boat might be pretty effective.
posted by sammyo at 5:54 AM on August 7, 2014

I really enjoyed photos I saw a few years back by Eric Holubow, who takes interior shots of abandoned buildings. Here are the ones from Gary, which may give you an idea of some possible locations. This urban exploration Meetup group out of Chicago may also be helpful.

I was born in Gary, but left as a young kid. I went back a few years ago and found it a fascinating city, visually and historically. The new mayor is trying to do good things there.
posted by megancita at 7:14 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

To build on what megancita referred to, never do this sort of thing alone. Most communities have urban exploration (urbex) groups that are worth contacting for help. Ask them when their next activity will be and join them.
posted by tommasz at 7:54 AM on August 7, 2014

The Idiot Photographer is one guy who's been doing just this in Gary (he was featured for a month on Sometimes Interesting).

I have seen occasional mention of Gary on the FB group Forgotten Chicago [website] and Living History of Chicago and Illinois. I couldn't find a comparable group for Gary on FB, but one way or another I think this is a particular situation where local knowledge would be essential.

Another FB resource you may want to have passing familiarity with: Gary Crime News
posted by dhartung at 8:50 AM on August 7, 2014

Good question! One thought is you might try googling up East Chicago, which is just northwest of Gary and includes Indiana Harbor in all its glory. Cline Ave / Rt 912 through East Chicago used to be my favorite route to see a bunch of neat old industry, but the road is closed now (at the bridge?). I haven't tried to drive that way since it closed, but I'd probably try to take Cline/912 as far as it goes, then assuming Google is correct and it spits you out near the harbor/canal, just meander around the area and see what you can see.

Ooh, I just came across this cool flickr stream, but he seems to be shooting all the East Chicago stuff from great distance.
posted by gueneverey at 10:06 AM on August 7, 2014

Response by poster: Wow, what a great bunch of tips, everyone!

Sadly, my route had to be adjusted (shifted south), so I didn't even see Gary, let alone ruins/burning stacks. :'(

But these are some excellent suggestions. I'll check the links and do some advance research, before my next pass.
posted by credible hulk at 10:32 PM on August 7, 2014

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