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.
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.
The wide-open views also reveal the tenuous condition of many of the buildings — and the neighborhoods as a whole.
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.
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.
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.
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
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Buffalo, New York
Chama, New Mexico
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.
Your Company Name & Logo Here (2011)
Since Fall 2009 historian Michael Carriere and I have been working on a project documenting a range of community and economic initiatives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
On Friday, December 16, the first public presentation of that material will open at the Grohmann Museum in Milwaukee. The exhibition, entitled “Working Legacies: The Death and (After) Life of Post-Industrial Milwaukee,” will run at the Grohmann, 1000 N. Broadway, until February 6, 2012. A Gallery Night event with the two of us will run from 5-9pm on January 20, 2012.
Additional information about the show is available in this interview on Salon. Background information can be found on The Huffington Post. An image of the exhibition and sample photographs follow.
A view of “Working Legacies” at the Grohmann Museum
Foundry Worker at Falk Facility, Rexnord (2011)
Growing Power (2009)
House, Froedtert Malt Corporation/Malteurop (2011)
Chicago and Northwestern Transportation Company Swing Bridge (2011)
Sweet Water Organics (2009)
As I’ve been traveling in the last few weeks, I’ve visited Occupy Wall Street affiliated locations in six different cities: Baltimore, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and both locations in Washington, D.C. Now that winter is approaching and Occupy locations are changing, I thought I should share a couple of photographs from each location.
I will add additional photographs here as I have occasion to visit new sites.
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – Grant Park
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – McKeldin Fountain Square
CLEVELAND, OHIO – With Occupy the Hood
DETROIT, MICHIGAN – Grand Circus Park
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Freedom Plaza
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – Garden Park
WASHINGTON, D.C. – McPherson Square
I recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to present at the American Society of Criminology annual meeting, around which I tacked a couple of extra days to photograph throughout D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland.
I was particularly interested in following up with Perlman Place, a row house block in Baltimore I photographed when visiting the area in 2010. The product of years of decline and a failed redevelopment project, the city planned to demolish of 67 of the approximately 80 houses on the block. Two images of Perlman Place are below: the first is from the day demolition was initiated in 2010, the second image is from Saturday.
The pair is followed by several of my other favorite images from this recent visit to Baltimore. I will share other images from Washington, D.C. later, but more images from both locations can be viewed on flickr.
Perlman Place – April 16, 2010
Perlman Place – November 19, 2011
OTHER IMAGES FROM BALTIMORE, MARYLAND
Throughout October I looked forward to my recent trip to Cleveland, Ohio. Despite regularly visiting the city throughout the 1990s, I hadn’t spent any time there in a decade. I was anxious to see how some of the neighborhoods hardest hit by deindustrialization (and other critical social dynamics) had fared since earlier visits. With that in mind, I mainly focused on the East Side and the Cuyahoga Valley, although I covered considerable ground in a few busy days.
A handful of my favorite images from the visit are below, and additional images are available on my flickr account.
Special thanks go to Jeremy Shondrick for the company and wayfaring advice.
I just returned from a visit to Lubbock, Texas for the opening of my show at the Texas Tech University School of Art on September 2. While my schedule at TTU kept me busy, I was fortunate enough to have some free time to explore the city along with the Director of Landmark Arts, Joe Arredondo, and TTU MFA photography students Sarah Jamison and Tom Turner. Here are a handful of favorite images from the visit. As always, additional images from the trip can be seen on flickr.
I recently visited Las Vegas to attend the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting, during which I was able to build on my previous visit to Las Vegas by photographing the neighborhoods surrounding the Strip. A selection of my favorite images is below.