Tagged: Birmingham

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.