WOODSTOCK – Just because you are not looking for them does not mean they are not there. When Woodstock resident Lisa Beard opened her eyes to the unsought, she found herself uncovering a beautiful new world that existed in the nooks and crannies.
Beard’s book, “Abandoned Illinois: Secrets Behind the Spaces,” sheds light on places that have been all but forgotten, but still hold clues of what they once were.
“I have always been interested in history and abandoned spaces, but hadn’t done much research,” Beard said. “I’m into fine art photography and when I really got back into it, I shot a lot of abandoned spaces. I was doing it for fun and blogging about it. A publishing company found me and emailed me about writing a book. I got lucky because the opportunity came my way.”
This is Beard’s first book, however, the former English teacher turned library director at Woodstock High School found herself very comfortable wearing the hat of author as she does a lot of personal fiction writing of her own. Beard first put pen to paper, or rather fingers to keyboard, in February 2018. The book was released by Arcadia Publishing on Jan. 28 and was available for purchase Feb. 13.
Within its pages are photos and stories of locations from Chicago and the surrounding areas to the near shoreline of the Mississippi River, and plenty of spaces in between. A prison and a vacant Army depot are just a few of the spaces that Beard uncovers in order to reveal the significance of their pasts.
There is even an entire chapter on an abandoned grease factory in Huntley that Beard found particularly interesting. In early February, UK travel magazine, Wanderlust, ran a feature on the book titled, “Secrets behind spaces: 12 chilling photographs of abandoned places in Illinois and their history.”
“It’s surprising to a lot of people in terms of what’s out there that they haven’t noticed before,” Beard said. “I have opened my eyes to it. Once you do that, you can see that there are a lot of things out there, left behind, that are near to us, some within just a few hours, which are worth exploring.”
Beard took all of the photos included in the book. Photography is a hobby of hers that turned into a second job. Her exhibit, “The Yellow Glove Series,” was featured at Perspective Fine Art Photography in Evanston, in her studio at Starline Factory in Harvard, as well as other spaces in California, Texas and New York. Beard also shot backstage at the 2018 Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago.
The mother of two already is working on the second volume of “Abandoned Illinois,” which she said should come out this fall. Beard will host a signing for the first volume from 6:30 to 8 p.m. March 5 at Read Between the Lynes in Woodstock. Books will be available for purchase in store, as well as online through Arcadia Publishing and Amazon.
“With this book, I hope people see that there’s a lot of beauty out there in things that don’t seem like they would be beautiful,” Beard said. “They can learn a lot about themselves and culture through what’s been left behind. It parallels us as human beings in a lot of ways and a lot of the time things are overlooked that maybe shouldn’t be.”