Rising over the towns of the UNESCO-listed Nord-Pas-de-Calais Mining Basin are terrils, or spoil tips, human-made hills of mining debris more than 450 feet tall. During my recent trip to France to screen The Area and participate in RDV avec la Ville, I expanded my Hauts-de-France Mining Basin series with aerial images that highlight their context. The following images are a few of my favorites.
This May wasn’t my first time in St. Louis, but it was the first time I was able to actually get out into the neighborhoods. This post includes some of my favorite photographs from throughout the city, many of which are from its north side. While St. Louis has had a difficult 70 years, the north side has been particularly devastated by not only the typical story of racism, deindustrialization, and public housing demolitions, but also private developers like Paul McKee and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Numerous groups are fighting back. If you are interested in the history of the neighborhood displaced by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, you check out these interviews.
This mural, which used to read “End Eminent Domain Abuse,” has quite a history.
PAGE AVENUE BEAUTIFICATION PROJECT
Murals by Better Family Life on the side of derelict buildings on Page.
St. Louis has three spectacular water towers from the 19th century, two of which are on the north side, Grand Avenue Water Tower (1871) and Bissel Street Water Tower (1885), and one south, the Compton Hill Water Tower (1898).
Grand Avenue Water Tower
Pet Milk Building (left) and St. Louis Parking Garage (right)
Special thanks to Claire Nowak-Boyd.
In March, I was in New Orleans to participate in the annual Tulane School of Architecture Design Symposium and was happy to have some extra time to make new work. I’ll share images from an ongoing project later, but for now, I’ve included a few other favorites below. At the end is a small set of images from the most surprising moment of the trip: starting the day on a peaceful Magazine Street only to return at night to find it trashed by the Irish Channel Parade.
The Ashton Theater was designed by Ferdinand Rousseve, a prominent educator and civic leader who was Louisiana’s first African American architect. The theater opened in 1927 and closed in 1958.
MAGAZINE STREET AND SURROUNDS AFTER THE IRISH CHANNEL PARADE
After a string of years bouncing around the map, in 2017 I mainly traced the triangle between Minneapolis, Chicago, and France.
I spent most of my time teaching at St. Olaf and wrapping up The Area in Chicago, but I dedicated nearly two months to two different French projects. In January, I continued my “Resilient Images” residency in Hauts-de-France interpreting the character and identity of France’s former mining region. In August, I worked on a cultural heritage project in Paris, Hauts-de-France, and Normandy with Atout France. The next month, I returned to Hauts-de-France for talks, photography, and to open the residency show at the Centre régional de la photographie Hauts-de-France.
Back in the States, I showed a preview of my Resilient Images project at EXPO Chicago with the Hyde Park Art Center and then exhibited photographs from the Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation at the Chicago Architecture Biennial and the National Public Housing Museum.
I did make time for a little other travel. I visited New York City twice with The Area to participate in the IFP Filmmaker Labs and briefly visited to southern California and central Indiana. At the end of the year I hopped back to Europe to hail the new year in Scandinavia. A good year.
I’m starting 2018 with the American debut of Hauts-de-France Mining Basin at the Hyde Park Art Center and “Urban Art and the Block: Film Screening of Selections from The Area.” In other projects, my book with Michael Carriere is closing in on a complete draft, and The Area should also be premiering soon — more about that shortly. Check the website or follow me on Twitter or Facebook for updates.
And now a few of my favorite photographs from 2017. Thanks for your interest, and Happy New Year!
See more from Hauts-de-France Mining Basin in my photography section of the website.
Screening scenes from The Area at IFP’s Made in NY Media Center.
Visit The Area‘s website for more information about the film.
Le Havre, France
Read more about Le Havre and Auguste Perret’s St. Joseph’s Church elsewhere on the blog.
New York City, New York
Solana Beach, California
Mixed-use buildings with residential towers overlooking Place Auguste Perret
A modernist city designed by Le Corbusier’s mentor, Auguste Perret, sits on the coast of Normandy. Le Havre’s concrete origins date to September 1944, when the British bombed the German-occupied city’s coastal plain. The assault almost completely destroyed the district and killed more than 5,000 people.
The commercial core of Le Havre in January 1945
(Image source: stitched panorama from the UNESCO Nomination, “Le Havre, the city rebuilt by Auguste Perret.”)
Rather than abandon the port city, the French government began planning for its reconstruction after liberation. From 1945 until 1964, the city’s core was totally reworked by a team assembled by Perret, yielding the singular city seen today. As with many modernist and brutalist developments, Le Havre fell out of favor towards the end of the 20th century before finding admirers in recent years. Perhaps the pinnacle of this recognition is the listing of the urban core as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2005. The designation recognizes the modernist area, with its standouts like Perret’s own Église Saint-Joseph and later structures like Oscar Niemeyer’s spectacular Maison de la Culture.
Now the city celebrates its concrete past and present, but this year it is also commemorating its 500th anniversary with more than a dozen art and architectural works installed as part of “A Summer in Le Havre.”
Earlier this month, I made a two-day visit to the city on behalf of Atout France and used my free time to visit some of the essential buildings of the reconstruction and the anniversary installations. I will publish additional images from the visit later, but these photographs are among my favorites.
Auguste Perret’s Église Saint-Joseph
Auguste Perret’s Église Saint-Joseph interior with Chiharu Shiota’s Accumulation of Power
Looking south down Rue de Paris towards Vincent Ganivet’s Catène de Containers
Vincent Ganivet’s Catène de Containers
Lang and Baumann’s UP#3, La Porte Océane
A resident in her cabana with Karel Martens’ Colors on the Beach
In their cabana with Karel Martens’ Colors on the Beach
Special thanks go to Eric Baudet and Atout France.
One of the things I was most excited about for my visit to Ethiopia with Brian Ashby and Susannah Ribstein was the opportunity to see its modernist buildings. The thing was, I didn’t really know what we would see.
African modernist architecture is chronicled in books like African Modernism: The Architecture of Independence or celebrated in international designations like UNESCO “World Heritage” status for the Eritrean city of Asmara; however, those projects don’t represent Ethiopia. When Ethiopian architecture is referenced, it is typically about its spectacular monolithic churches or the most monumental buildings of the modernist period, like Arturo Mezzedimi’s Africa Hall and Addis Ababa City Hall.
The late 12th or early 13th century monolithic church Bete Giyorgis in Lalibela
But modernist concrete is everywhere in Ethiopia. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, when many other African states were asserting independence from their colonists, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was conceptualizing how to assert Ethiopian modernity through architecture and urban planning. With a vision shared by many other African elites, he worked with European, American, and African architects to augment the dominant International Style with local characteristics.
The marquee buildings are interesting, but I was more intrigued by the smaller buildings scattered throughout Addis Ababa. The following photographs are a sample of the modernist and brutalist buildings we saw strolling through the city during the rainy season. A note about and a few photos of contemporary architecture follow the set.
Mezzedimi’s Zauditu building
Today, Addis Ababa is a construction site. The Ethiopian government is displacing thousands of residents and clearing large portions of the city in order to “modernize” the “slums.” New buildings for new people and businesses are replacing those areas, and shoddy low-rise “condominiums” are being built on the edges of the city to house the displaced and others.
In the context of this calamity, the occasional building is rising to serve social functions with spectacular design, like Vilalta Arquitectura’s Lideta Market. I wish we’d had more time to see other examples and better understand the entire situation.
New construction in Geja Sefer
Special thanks to Zacharias Abubeker and Marjan Kloosterboer.
2016 was another year of travel, but unlike previous years, my explorations were more international than domestic: for more than two months I made work in Belgium, Ethiopia, France, Ireland, Japan, Northern Ireland, and the United Arab Emirates.
One month of that period was for a residency in the North of France and Belgium. The residency, “Resilient Images,” is a joint program launched by the Hyde Park Art Center and the Centre régional de la photographie Nord—Pas-de-Calais and supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the French Embassy, and Institut Français. I will be writing more about my project in a few months, but if you’re interested in learning a little more about what I’m doing in the North, you can read a little more about it in this short interview. The rest of the summer, I continued my project about Eleventh Night and the Twelfth in Belfast, photographed in Tōhoku and showed photographs at Gallery Tanto Tempo in Japan, toured Ethiopia with friends, and visited with guest workers in Dubai.
But I also did some domestic travel, including for a show in Buffalo, New York at Dennis Maher’s incomparable Fargo House and a screening of scenes from The Area at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s Mobile Design Box in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I also made brief visits to the area around Louisville, Kentucky and New Orleans, Louisiana. Of course, I spent plenty of time in Chicago, Illinois and Minneapolis, Minnesota, which finally feels like home.
The other big project news is that after nearly five years, The Area is swiftly moving towards completion with Scrappers Film Group after a party and fundraiser in December. “Thank you,” everyone who attended and contributed!
I can’t possibly do justice to the places I visited in this short post, but I’ve included links to locations for which I made blog posts, and posted a few photographs from each site. If I authored a blog post about a particular visit, the section title is a link to the post.
To 2017! It’s going to be a busy one, isn’t it?
Resilient Images Residency in Hauts-de-France, France
Residents calling for their dog from their street.
Young immigrants play soccer in Brussels’ Molenbeek neighborhood.
Shankill neighborhood residents ignite their children’s bonfire.
Post-tsunami and radiation contamination remediation in downtown Tomioka.
The formal and informal Calais “Jungle” camps before demolition.
Two boys look down to their village in rural Tigray.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Scrappers remove kitchen counters from a partially demolished house.
Six new telescope house photographs I made while visiting for my exhibition.
The beginning of the Scrappers Film Group party and fundraiser for The Area at Lost Arts.
Overlooking the Ohio River and Louisville, Kentucky from Jeffersonville, Indiana.
A major clean-up effort in a North Side neighborhood.
The Minnehaha Free Space before it was displaced by a new landlord.
Four teenagers posing outside a corner store in the Lower Ninth Ward.
Louis Sullivan’s National Farmer's Bank of Owatonna.
A former church in St. Croix.
I hadn’t been to New Orleans in more than five years when I landed at Louis Armstrong on Tuesday, so I was anxious to get back out in the city. I squeezed in a few hours of exploration in between two-and-a-half days of conference activities, including following up on my long-running project with Michael Carriere and revisiting neighborhoods. The following photographs are a few of my favorites.
The distinctive rebuilding of the Sendai coast
When Yohei Morita and I visited Tōhoku, Japan in 2014, I was most affected by the areas decimated by the tsunami — but it wasn’t for the reasons one might imagine. With the exception of the cities still in the radiation exclusion zone, most of the quarters destroyed by the tsunami had already been cleared by the Japanese government. In these places, there were few overturned cars, thrashed buildings, derelict streets, or even memorials. With few exceptions, they were remarkably sterile places, with scant clues that the areas had ever been inhabited, not to mention inhabited and then obliterated.
The occasional signs of mayhem, like the gleaming new headstones that filled nearby cemeteries, were amplified by this context, but my main reaction was still to what wasn’t there. I was affected because I couldn’t comprehend what we were witnessing. I wasn’t prepared for this kind of devastation and response.
So when Tanto Tempo Gallery invited me to return to Japan this summer, I set aside half of the trip to revisit Tōhoku to see what had changed and to experience how my understanding of it might change too. My approach would be twofold: to match photographs I made in 2014 and to seek out new areas, particularly revitalization projects.
I will keep the text relatively short, but I should make a few notes before I get into the first set of images. An enormous amount of effort put into the region: nearly all of the towns are cleared, harbors have been reconstructed, flood walls are everywhere, new housing has been built, and people have initiated creative community building up and down the coast. Even so, my main reaction to the place remains: I can’t help but be awed by the openness of coves, the emptiness of places I know were once inhabited, and those shining cemeteries.
In 2014, Yohei and I spent time with the community activists behind Space for Community, a local advocacy organization and meeting place in Ishinomaki city. After that experience, I knew I’d want to make Ishinomaki a focal point of this trip. I wasn’t able to meet with Space for Community this time around, but I visited with a number of Ishinomaki groups, including Ishinomaki Laboratory, a community-based woodworking shop. There I met with Warafuji, Takahiro Chiba, and David Wang, with whom I discussed the group’s founding, products, and future.
The organization is an hybrid community organization, essentially local but with inspiration and assistance from Tokyo-based designers. Founded in response to the disaster, the group creates and builds furniture with a straightforward, DIY design language. It is also currently strengthening a partnership with a local women’s weaving group to expand their small line of textiles. Their products are not yet available in North America but are available in Asia and Europe.
Warafuji and Takahiro Chiba in the Ishinomaki Lab workshop, some of their small wooden and textile products
After leaving Ishinomaki Lab, I took David Wang’s recommendation and headed to Hashidori Common for a meal. The food truck-like establishment was launched to provide opportunities for small restauranteurs to build their businesses while simultaneously creating an informal town square. Even on a rainy night, a dozen people were eating in the semi-covered dining areas.
A customer places her order in Hashidori Common
Other than this time in Ishinomaki, most of my visit wasn’t in the town centers but retracing Yohei’s and my previous route through the costal towns and coves. I did make some new compositions during this part of the trip, but I focused on rephotographing the scenes, matching images from 2014. In these areas progress is both monumental and surprisingly slow.
Minor construction work continues along the Ogatsucho Mizuhama port
While the emergent theme of the first half of the Tōhoku trip was rebuilding, driving south to the radiation affected area changed the tone. With each mile, the landscape appeared increasingly like my 2014 visit, although with warnings about radiation (and that nagging feeling about whether or not I should really travel into the former exclusion zone).
I was driving to Tomioka, a radiation-blanketed town Yohei and I visited with Deputy Mayor Hirofumi Sanpei. This time I would do the visit alone. While Yohei and I needed to be officially cleared and accompanied to visit in 2014, much had changed in the two and a half years, including that the town’s radiation levels have been partially remediated. As a result, the town is open for some redevelopment. Construction workers move relatively easily, and residents may return to some areas on a limited basis. I wouldn’t need to pass through security checkpoints before entering an exclusion zone, although I was stopped and questioned by the police during the visit.
The newfound opening of the city did not affect much of National Route 6, which — while open — was flanked by temporary gates preventing access to houses and businesses along the road and radiation monitors. Each provided tangible reminders of the area’s invisible contamination.
Temporary gates and a radiation monitor along National Route 6, the Rikuzenhama Highway
Because I wasn’t with Deputy Mayor Sanpei, I was unable to revisit a portion of the town we visited in 2014, but I was able to see the majority of the town center. Arriving near the old train station, I freely moved among cleanup crews along streets once surrounded by buildings. The area had been cleared of structures, leaving only the streets, a few utility poles, and the hills to remind visitors of what was once there. An occasional dignitary would arrive accompanied by staffers only to take a few photographs with a cellphone and then duck into a waiting car. I was surprised by how the area was both empty and busy.
The most visible signs of tsunami damage have been removed from downtown Tomioka
The concentrated nature of the cleanup effort was clear in the city’s residential neighborhoods, where the streets were near motionless. Along these streets, dereliction is rampant and there are few visible workers. The occasional building has even collapsed in on itself. Here, I regularly stopped my car in the middle of the street to stand on the sills and get a slightly elevated view of the blocks.
After 30 minutes of driving through these neighborhoods I hit the edge of the former exclusion zone and began my long return trip to Tokyo.
Four quiet Tomioka streets
I expected that this visit would be just the second of many trips to Tōhoku, but I was surprised by how much had — and hadn’t — changed in two and a half years. Some of the modifications are masked by the tension between tangible and intangible changes, but the continued need for infrastructure development and residential cleanup makes me especially curious about the region’s future. I left Tōhoku more energized than haunted, and I can’t wait to return.
The cliffs and plateaus of the Agame massif.
One of the unexpected experiences of my trip to Ethiopia’s Tigray region was witnessing the daily conflict between local boys and gelada monkeys.
Endemic to Ethiopia, gelada monkeys are especially plentiful in the country’s central northern mountains. While some of these areas are protected “natural” lands, a significant portion of the habitat is primarily agricultural. I visited one such area with Brian Ashby and Susannah Ribstein: the Erar community of Tigray’s Agame mountains. In the massif, plateaus are cultivated for barley, chickpeas, lentils, linseed, wheat, and other crops. Because geladas are scavengers, the monkeys often take advantage of these fields and their easy nutrition.
As one might expect, the farmers aren’t thrilled by the monkeys eating their crops. The solution is hiring local boys to protect the fields. From dawn to dusk, the boys scan the plateau for gelada harems who might raid the crops and then scare the monkeys away. In exchange, the boys will be paid 5kg of the crops raised by each farmer in their territory. For example, one of the three boys with a domain on the small plateau we visited took home 5kgs of linseed, lentils, barley, and wheat last year.
The following photographs are a glimpse of the back and forth between the monkeys and boys.
Special thanks to Kiros Zeray for the background and translation.
Geladas climb the cliff to access one of the fields on the plateau.