Saturday, April 11, 2015

Pictures of the neighborhood and a sense of place

shoot-334“So what are you going to do with all these pictures of the neighborhood?” Steph asked me the other day.

It’s a fair question. We take walks every day. To and from the grocery store, to and from Cheeseman or City parks. Sometimes out to Wash park and back via the flower gardens at Alamo Placita. Sometimes just a ramble around to stretch the legs. And because the best camera is the one you have with you, I always shoot some on these walks.

I know I’ve taken these pictures purely to exercise my eye. Sometimes they’re memorable, most of the time they are not. But they always help me to become a better photographer. Like any muscle group, the eye has to be exercised in order to make it stronger. And only regular exercise is going to help.

Maybe there’s a project in there. Sometimes you can look back at the sheets of negatives and think “hey, here’s a common theme” and make something of it. Not always, but sometimes. I’ve been shooting the decline of the old Central Catholic High School. Built as a high school, used as a homeless shelter, an AIDS hospice, and art studios, it was almost torn down a few times. The latest owners bought it to make it an office space, but nothing has happened for a couple of years now. It sits, empty, forlorn, vandalized, and rotting away. I’d love to see it make a comeback, but I kind of doubt it will. I’m the only person who seems to pay attention to the building on my walks where I shoot a few frames of it. Everyone else seems to ignore it.

Maybe that’s what I’m doing when I shoot these little walks we take. I’m recording change, keeping memories of what was once. I haven’t been in Denver that long, but the city has changed quite a bit already. The influx of people has led to buildings vanishing and apartments springing up in their place almost literally overnight. Even having only been here a short while, I have lost a few of the places I used to drink and dance. I got here right at the end of the Rock Island, and the pictures I took are pretty much all that remains of it for me.

shoot-335I suppose what I am doing is just establishing a sense of place. Memorializing the background where people lived their lives and had significant things happen that aren’t obvious without the back story. There’s a particular bike rack on 13th Avenue, for instance. Doesn’t look different from any of the hundreds of bike racks in this city at all. But it’s where I first kissed the woman I am spending the rest of my life with, and where I took her back and asked her to marry me. You never know how important a particular spot can be.

Pictures of the neighborhood and a sense of place

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