Buffalo is one of my favorite cities, with its amazing architectural history, telescope houses, and activist culture. So when in Upstate New York for the International Visual Sociological Association’s annual meeting, I added a few days onto the trip to head west. The following photographs are a few highlights from my time in Saratoga Springs, Amsterdam, and, of course, Buffalo.
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.
After working on the Telescope Houses of Buffalo, New York for the last three years, I happily showed the series in Buffalo for the first time last weekend at Dennis Maher’s The Fargo House gallery. When I wasn’t at the gallery, I continued shooting the project and supplemented earlier photographs of the city with new images of neighborhood stores and Silo City. Photographs of the installation and several new images are below.
For more information about the Telescope Houses of Buffalo, New York, check out my recent interview in The Public conducted by University at Buffalo architecture professor Gregory Delaney and a ArchDaily/Satellite magazine feature on the series.
New photographs of Buffalo telescope houses.
The Fargo House on opening night.
An installation view.
Neighborhood buildings featuring convenience stores.
The major disappointment of the trip was the demolition of a former synagogue that had been converted into a church. The above sequence is from 2012, 2014 and my recent visit.
Silo City was compelling as ever — this time with original plans, thanks to Isabella Crowley.
2015 was another year of change. After splitting my time in Chicago and Cambridge over the last couple of years, it’s time to add another city into the mix. Since August, I have been hopping between Chicago and Minneapolis, where I am now an assistant professor of sociology at St. Olaf College. Even with the change in location, I’ve actively worked on several projects, including two which have come to a close. The following includes highlights from that work and a few notes about what I’ll be up to in 2016.
The Affordable Housing of New York City, New York
Among the most exciting developments of 2015 was the publication of Affordable Housing in New York, edited by Matthew Lasner and Nicholas Bloom. I contributed a photography essay and dozens of additional images to the book. The project extends my work on public housing in Chicago and can be read as a companion to my efforts with Devereux Bowly on the revised and expanded edition of The Poorhouse. Samples from the project can be seen in a New York Times feature and an upcoming exhibition at Hunter East Harlem, details forthcoming.
Four years into the displacement of more than 400 families by an intermodal freight yard project, few residents remain in “The Area.” Instead, the community better resembles a worksite than a neighborhood. After a productive editing period in 2014, we put editing on hold for the year while I continued to work with residents who have both stayed and settled elsewhere. Even so, the rough-cut material was shown at a couple of events, with more scheduled for 2016. In the spring, I presented a small sample of the material at the Place Hacking Sociology conference at the University of Liverpool, and David Weinberg Photography hosted the first public screening of material from the film as part of its An Invisible Hand exhibition. The Weinberg screening was particularly special, as community activist Deborah Payne was present for the Q&A. I expect we will return to post-production work later in 2016.
The Bloomingdale Trail
In 2009, Paul Smith, Ben Helphand, and I held several conversations that would ultimately result in developing the few images I’d made on the nascent Bloomingdale Trail into a project that I would pursue for the next six years. Now that the underused rail spur has been transformed by its own multi-year construction project, I am concluding the series. I’m sure I will continue to spend time on the Trail, but any future work will be a coda to a project about a semi-wild, semi-public place above Chicago’s near northwest side.
Buffalo, New York Telescope Houses
I am nearly three years into working on this small typological project about one of Buffalo’s vernacular architectural modes, the telescope house. Now that I have photographed nearly five dozen of the buildings, I have begun to exhibit the work. This year, I exhibited selections from the project at pinkcomma gallery in Boston, as well as published in Satellite magazine and ArchDaily. An exhibition dedicated to the series will be shown this spring in Dennis Maher’s Fargo House gallery in Buffalo.
As in previous years, I visited a couple of dozen cities in the United States, much of it in support of my now six-year book project with Michael Carriere about creative solutions to local social problems. Below are photographs from some of those visits, as well as a few from a short trip to Norway and Sweden.
Amsterdam, New York
Buffalo, New York
In Cambridge, I spent a lot of time treading around during the area’s greatest recorded snowfall.
In 2014, I posted a photograph of Tyree Guyton’s House of Soul, which had been burned by an arsonist that year. The image on the left is the replacement, as of winter 2015.
In Houston, I worked on a small project about development in the city’s Third Ward.
I haven’t yet started a formal project in Minneapolis, but I am exploring the city. Now that the weather has turned, I’m especially looking forward to photographing in the snow and cold.
St. Paul, Minnesota
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.
Prentice Women’s Hospital
The following is a short advocacy video we made for the National Trust for Historic Preservation about Prentice.
Wheatpasted photograph of Johnny E. Parham, Jr., participant in the Atlanta Student Movement from Sheila Pree Bright’s Project 1960.
A collection of telescope houses from Buffalo’s East Side.
A surprising find in the aftermath of a massive warehouse fire on Chicago’s South Side.
Cleveland, Ohio [f]
Post-war suburban development in Cleveland-adjacent Euclid, Ohio.
The House of Soul was one of several Heidelberg Project buildings burned by an arsonist in 2013.
Scaling fish on the sidewalk in the Bronx.
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.
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.