Category: Photograph

A Year of Projects and More Travel

2013 was yet another year of big changes: I finished my fieldwork for my dissertation; I started regularly spending time in both Chicago and Cambridge, Massachusetts; and I started a major shift in the balance of my photographic and video work.

In previous years, I pursued a relatively equal combination of project and non-project work. Typically, that’s meant spending as much time developing formal projects as more loosely exploring a given city. This year, I have been so busy with the formal projects that I have had much less time to “just” explore.

I worked on the documentary film (still tentatively called “The Area”) more than any other project, although I even shifted that balance. I was visiting the neighborhood nearly every day for the first half of the year, but I am now visiting in concentrated chunks. I dedicated much of the time I would have spent in the neighborhood to either writing about the project or initiating post-production work with Scrappers Film Group. If you would like to read some of my writing about the project, I have been authoring a column about the work for BagNewsOriginals. If you haven’t seen the documentary short from the project, you can view it on Gapers Block.

Of the other projects, two of my favorites were documenting Bertrand Goldberg‘s Prentice Women’s Hospital and contributing to the Kartemquin Film’s Almost There. While Prentice’s magnificent exterior presented the usual opportunities and difficulties involved with documenting buildings, the interior documentation was particularly challenging. By the time our team was allowed access to the building, Northwestern University had already begun some elements of the demolition, and the many of the floors lacked electricity for anything other than emergency lighting. Still, the experience was unforgettable, and I am happy with the work we produced. Hopefully the next building will be saved.

I’ve included example photographs from those projects below, along with selected images from my visits to other U.S. cities. You can click through for larger versions of the images on flickr (except for the Prentice images) and can click on the titles to see other blog posts or flickr sets.

The Area

Walking in the Snow

In the Shoe Sign Shop

Prentice Women’s Hospital

Prentice Women's Hospital

Prentice Women's Hospital

The following is a short advocacy video we made for the National Trust for Historic Preservation about Prentice.

Almost There in Northwestern Indiana

Ice, After the Fire

Whiting, Indiana

Atlanta, Georgia

Johnny E. Parham, Jr., Participant in the Atlanta Student Movement

Wheatpasted photograph of Johnny E. Parham, Jr., participant in the Atlanta Student Movement from Sheila Pree Bright’s Project 1960.

Birmingham, Alabama

Bragg Cleaners & Record Shop

Boston, Massachusetts [f]

Walking Home

Covered Car, Boston Skyline

Buffalo, New York

Buffalo, New York Telescope Houses

A collection of telescope houses from Buffalo’s East Side.

Chicago, Illinois [f]

Residential Building in the Fog

Iced Truck, After the Warehouse Fire


A surprising find in the aftermath of a massive warehouse fire on Chicago’s South Side.

Cleveland, Ohio [f]

Modified Post-War Suburban Homes

Post-war suburban development in Cleveland-adjacent Euclid, Ohio.

Detroit, Michigan

Sweeping the Sidewalk

House of Soul (Now Burnt)


The House of Soul was one of several Heidelberg Project buildings burned by an arsonist in 2013.

New York City, New York [f]

Scaling Fish on the Sidewalk

Scaling fish on the sidewalk in the Bronx.

San Diego, California [f]

Silver Gate Three Stars Lodge #296

Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia


Urban Cowboy and Mural

Last week I traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to co-present a paper at an academic conference and spend a little time exploring in the region. I only had parts of three days away from the conference, but thanks to some planning, I was able to accomplish more than I anticipated. The following photographs are some of my favorites, although you can see others on flickr; clicking on any of the below photographs will also take you to flickr for larger versions of the images.

As usual, most of the highlights involved interactions with people doing what they love. The above photograph is of an urban cowboy named Brannu who runs an equestrian organization and is planning on offering horseback riding lessons in the pictured lot. I spent a little time walking around with him while he visited restaurants and barbershops in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood — until he headed in for lunch at a restaurant with Chicago connections. The mural behind him is by Mexican street artist Neuzz, who made the piece for last year’s Living Walls conference.


Talking to Brannu Urban Cowboy

I had similar experiences in the Vine City neighborhood, which is in the shadow of the (now likely doomed) Georgia Dome. I’ll share the interactions later, but visiting in November was quite a change from the kudzu-covered August: the receding foliage provided clearer views of the neighborhood’s context.

Toward the Georgia Dome

The last time I was in Atlanta, I headed east to visit Sparta, Georgia, so this time I decided I to head west to Birmingham, Alabama. Other than being curious about the city, I was particularly interested in visiting important sites of the civil rights movement and Dawoud Bey‘s Birmingham Project exhibition at the Birmingham Museum of Art.

Among historic locations, I visited several churches, including the 16th Street Baptist Church, below. They are among the many thriving places in the city, but I was struck by the hardships still endured by residents of the historic neighborhoods that were so important to the birth of the civil rights movement. The two photographs below that of the church are representative of many of the older, unoccupied homes located in Collegeville, the home neighborhood for Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth‘s Bethel Baptist Church.


16th Street Baptist Church
Residential Building Residential Building Residential Building

A standout from Birmingham was talking with Ennis Bragg, the owner of the North Side Bragg’s Cleaners and Record Shop. He started the business thirty years ago and has been experimenting with a variety of services and products ever since. The records may be gone, but he still sells everything from CD of his gospel group, The Golden Hummingbirds, to groceries and laundry services. If you’d like you listen to a song from his group, launch the WFMU pop-up player for this episode and slide the bar to 49:24. The song is “He’s Listening” from 1964.


Bragg Cleaners & Record Shop
Ennis Bragg in His Shop

Visit my Alabama and Atlanta and Sparta, Georgia flickr sets for additional photographs and notes from my visit.

Almost There in Northwestern Indiana

As regular followers of my flickr stream know, since January I have been producing environmental video for the Kartemquin Films documentary Almost There. The film follows an 82-year-old artist who lives in the Northwestern Indiana region, and my goal was to provide a sense of the landscape in relation to his important life events.

While I don’t live far from the Indiana border, the Northwestern Indiana communities are outside my daily routine, so I was excited to have the opportunity to focus on the region. While my main work was video, I photographed many of the scenes and spent some time photographing my own subjects. I’ve selected a few of my favorite images from that work in Hammond, Whiting and East Chicago and included them below. Click on any of the images to view them bigger on flickr.

Look for Almost There on PBS next year. In the meantime, you can receive updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Whiting, Indiana

In the Steam

Ice, After the Fire

Good Shepard Apostolic Church

Burning

Cool Creations

Houses, Steam

At Night

Marktown Street at Dusk

In the Alley

In Whiting

Mills Electric Co.

In the Alley, Beyond

Visiting Detroit the Day it Declared Bankruptcy

Sweeping the Sidewalk

The news about Detroit’s bankruptcy broke as I finished packing the car for the four hour drive across Michigan. We weren’t visiting Detroit to cover its bankruptcy and didn’t seek out the choreographed events looping through the headlines. Other than bumping into a press conference complete with half a dozen news vans and plenty of grey and blue suits, there was little to even suggest the announcement had been made.

It’s unclear how the bankruptcy will affect everything from pensions to city services, but life away from the news cameras carried on roughly as normal: people visited parks, cleaned up streets and ate at restaurants. The landscape remained as dynamic as always. Detroit didn’t simply feel like “a city on the brink” or “a half-century of decline” and it certainly wasn’t scored with ominous electronic music. It felt like every day in Detroit.

The following is a small selection of photographs over the course of the visit. For more of my Detroit work, visit the Detroit gallery on my website, my post about life with Detroit’s failing streetlight system and my flickr set.

Millwood Apartments

With the Birds

Closing Up Shop

Dog in the Doorway

The Telway 6820

Johnson's

Loncheria El Parian

The Buffalo Telescope House (and Some Silos)

Last week I returned to Buffalo, New York for the Society of Architectural Historians‘ annual meeting. As usual, I took advantage of the combination of arriving early and a little free time to explore the city. While my last trip was primarily dedicated to photographing the great buildings of the city’s expansion era, I had greater latitude this time around. I’ve pulled out some favorite images below, but feel free to visit flickr for additional photographs from both trips.

I was most intrigued by the city’s preponderance of “telescope houses,” or buildings that were enlarged through rear additions that incrementally reduce in scale. The result is houses that seemingly could be collapsed into themselves.

Buffalo Telescope House 5

The buildings are located throughout the city but are clustered on the East Side. There, the combination of small houses, narrow lots, growing families and limited resources seems to have led to the distinctive expansion patterns. Years of concentrated divestment and neglect now provide windows into back and side yards to view the full depth of the houses.

Buffalo, New York Telescope Houses

The wide-open views also reveal the tenuous condition of many of the buildings — and the neighborhoods as a whole.

Buffalo, New York Telescope Houses, 2

While I spent a couple of days documenting the telescope houses, I still made time for the city’s remarkable grain elevators. A few photographs of those better-documented Buffalo structures are below.


Buffalo, New York Grain Elevator

Deer, Grain Elevator

In Silo City

Houses, Grain Elevator

In Between Detroit’s Failing Streetlights

With Detroit’s pending emergency manager likely addressing the city’s failing streetlight system, and business groups funding streetlights on their own, I thought it was time to post an excerpt of a project on which I’ve been working since 2009.

When I moved from Chicago to Southwest Detroit for the summer of 2009, I was determined to photograph more than the ubiquitous Detroit “urban exploration” scenes. To do so, I developed strategies to photograph the built environment that could contribute to the discourse about Detroit rather than simply reinforce the dominant perception of the city as someting like an urban wasteland.

One strategy was borne from reflecting on the few functioning streetlights off of the arterial routes. While most every neighborhood in Chicago is fairly well illuminated, Detroit neighborhoods are not. Even my street in an active neighborhood in Mexicantown was totally unlit until about a month into the summer, when one light bulb was installed in one of the many streetlight posts.

One consequence of this neglect is that residents often provide their own light. Porch lights and commercial floodlights punctuate darkness nearly as frequently as do public utilities. Streets take on a patchwork appearance from the hues of private light sources: the bluish whites of fluorescent signs, reds of neon gas and pale yellows of porch lights. This private provision of a public utility is begrudgingly maintained like so many other services in Detroit: perhaps as equally from altruism as protection. Consequently, the relationship between individuality and community that is obscured elsewhere by the passivity of the disinterested taxpayer is exposed by the immediate need for action.

As such, the images in this series do not dwell on the absence of streetlights; instead, they focus on the relationship between lightness and darkensss. In so doing, I hope that they serve as a reminder of the commonality produced by casting light into one’s community.

Another selection of this work was originally published in Tinne Van Loon‘s 2010 book, Impressions of Southwest Detroit. Additional photographs from my Detroit work can be viewed on the main website.


Lit Sides

Lights

Family Treat

Illumination

Alpha Super Market and Liquor

The Fire: Walking by a House in the Haze

Illumination, Rain (and a Little Lightning Glow)

Streetlights, or the Lack Thereof

Nemo's

The Fire:  Walking, Liquor Sign in the Haze

Jaye Dee's Mart at Night

A Year of Demolition in Chicago (and Some Travel)

After filling 2010 and 2011 with travel, I changed gears in 2012 to spend most of the year in Chicago working on two local projects.

The first was the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation supported To be Demolished series, in which I photographed 100 buildings threatened with demolition throughout the city. Among my goals for the project was to get a sense of the range of buildings lost, from minor buildings receiving no public attention to those in the limelight. The full series is viewable on Gapers Block, and you can read more about it in this column by Mary Schmich.

To be Demolished Screen Shot

The second Chicago project was the simultaneous undertaking of my dissertation and a documentary film about a group of South Side Chicago residents who are being displaced. I will be posting more about that work within a month; in the meantime, here are a few frames from the film. Update: The film is now online, and I’ve included it above the screenshots.





While the local initiatives kept me busy, I still found time to extend projects in Belfast, Northern Ireland and nine other U.S. cities. I visited Belfast to continue documenting the activities of Eleventh Night and The Twelfth, and most of the U.S. visits were structured around wrapping up the fieldwork component of my collaborative effort with Michael Carriere, which I’ve previously mentioned on the blog and was written up in The Atlantic Cities.

Below I present a selection of photographs from most of those cities, alongside a few more from the Chicago area.

Elsewhere in the Chicago Region

With Train Yard, Fog and Car

In Their Garage

Marktown, Indiana Aerial Looking East

From Across the Street

Belfast, Northern Ireland


Burning the Kids' Bonfire

Building a Bonfire

Buffalo, New York


Towards the New York Central Terminal (Buffalo)

Cincinnati, Ohio


Frank's

Chama, New Mexico


Through the Trees

Cheyenne, Wyoming


In the Parking Lot

Denver, Colorado


Gothic Theater

Detroit, Michigan


Walking in the Morning

Indianapolis, Indiana


Dried Pond, Houses

Milwaukee, Wisconsin


At the B & C Lounge

Buffalo, New York

A couple of weeks ago, I visited Buffalo, New York to help the Society of Architectural Historians prepare for their April conference. Subsequently, I spent most of my time preparing traditional architectural photographs, but I did have time to do some personal work. No matter which kind of subject, I was immersed in buildings constructed before WWII.

Thanks to Buffalo’s early access to hydroelectric power, it is among the cities with the best per capita early Twentieth Century architecture. Among the luminaries are those familiar to Chicagoans, including Adler and Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, Frank Lloyd Wright and the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Still, the decline of the Erie Canal’s importance and well-known effects of deindustrialization and suburbanization have challenged the city since the 1950s. That contrast is clear as one moves through the city.

The following is a small selection of images from the visit. As always, more are available on flickr.


Towards the New York Central Terminal (Buffalo)

Ellicott Square Building, 1895-6

Buffalo City Hall Lobby Temple Beth David, 1924

Sloan's Antiques & Modern Furniture Office

St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church, 1883-1886 (Towers, 1908) Dun Building, 1894-5

Memorial, New York Lottery Advertisement

Silos at Night

Denver, Colorado and Cheyenne, Wyoming

Last week I traveled to Denver, Colorado to attend the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting and to continue my work on creative grassroots responses to urban problems. The conference and Denver kept me busy, but I was also fortunate to have an extra day to make a supplementary trip to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

During the visit, I was struck by how each state capital was defined by its history as an important thoroughfare. While both were enhanced by 19th century Western expansion, they have been more recently and visibly affected by transcontinental automobile traffic; for Denver, it was U.S. Highway 40 and, later, Interstate-70, for Cheyenne, it was the Lincoln Highway and, later, Interstate-80. The corresponding mid-century development framed my experience of both places, where I often focused on place, commerce and transportation. So while I photographed throughout both cities, I’ve primarily selected related sample images below.

As always, click on the city titles to see other selected images I posted to flickr.

Denver, Colorado

Englewood Self Service

Gothic Theater

In the Park

Queen City Architectural Salvage

Rio Grande Co.

5380

Drive Thru

Cheyenne, Wyoming

Rail Passage at Dusk

1972 Committee, Frontier Days

Pioneer Hotel Mailroom, Lobby

Family, Cowgirls of the West Museum

In the Parking Lot

At the Eagle's Nest

The Loyalist Bonfires of Belfast, Northern Ireland

Bonfire on the Street

I recently visited Belfast, Northern Ireland to continue documentation of Eleventh Night and The Twelfth, two controversial holidays during which Protestant Loyalists build massive bonfires and parade through city streets. While Loyalists describe the events as “family friendly” cultural activities, doing so ignores their role as expressions of Protestant political power and steadfast support for Northern Ireland’s membership in the United Kingdom. Given Belfast’s ongoing conflict between the Loyalists and the Catholic Republicans who desire a politically united Ireland, the holiday activities operate as claims over the contested city.

While the political nature of the parades is somewhat buried in historical references on banners and the often unspoken lyrics of flute band songs, the bonfires unambiguously express political perspectives. Viewers need not know that the stacked pallet and tire bonfires are references to a 17th century Protestant victory over Catholics to know the political and religious stakes. In most communities, political allegiances are boldly proclaimed through flags, whether through the nearly ubiquitous flying of the Union Jack or the burning of the Irish Republic’s Tricolor, as well as through political slogans such as “KAT” (shorthand for “Kill All Taigs” [Derogatory slang for Irish Catholics]) in more aggressive districts.

As the Troubles fade and the reconciliation process continues, the City Council is attempting to facilitate a transition to a new Eleventh Night model by offering financial incentives to burn wood chip beacons in recognition of the historical victory without burning of flags and tires. Still, most Loyalist communities rebuff the subsidies not only because the beacons are fast burning and less visually stunning but because they fear loss of the tradition and the already waning youth interest in bonfire construction — and, ultimately, the political conflict in general. These communities’ perspective on the issue can be summed up by one 2012 bonfire banner: “Culture Above Cash.” When put in context, the banner could just as easily read “Politics Above Cash.”

The following bonfire photographs are selections from my recent work in Northern Ireland. I will be updating my Belfast series page with some of these images shortly. Many additional images may be viewed on flickr.

Loyalist Bonfire, ASDA

Burning the Kids' Bonfire

Massive Bonfire Through Fence

City Center Bonfire

In the Shankill

Bonfire Near the Westlink

Bonfire in the Village

Watching the Bonfire Burn

Watching the Shankill Bonfire