I’m photographing ten main streets in Baltimore: Howard, Eutaw, Fayette, Lexington, Baltimore, Monument, Pennsylvania, North, Greenmount, and Broadway. This work is an extension of my Masters thesis completed at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in 2010. I photographed the entire two blocks of what is known as Old Town Mall (formerly Gay Street) in East Baltimore; a failed urban renewal project attempted in the 1970s. I photographed every building on this strip, researched the history of the neighborhood, including what it was and how it changed, as well as what the future may hold for it. I combined all of the photos and research into a self-published book titled, Old Town, East Baltimore.
Two years after my initial, fully funded Kickstarter campaign for Baltimore: A History, Block by Block, I’ve made significant progress. However, I have a long way to go before I complete the work.
There are many areas similar to Old Town Mall in Baltimore, which is why I’ve chosen to continue this work and begin building an archive of city buildings and streets, or in many cases, what’s left of them. The city is beginning to change, albeit in more areas than others. I am documenting what exists now because much of it will either look completely different in the next 10 to 20 years or cease to exist entirely. I feel it’s important to capture parts of the city rich with history before it’s gone so that a record exists for future generations to look back on.
One hundred years ago there were several photographers documenting Baltimore as it was being built and in some cases rebuilt. I’ve chosen to use their work as an influence for my own. I plan on including historic photos in my book in order to better illustrate the history of each place I’m photographing.
So far I’ve shot over 200 sheets of Fujichrome Velvia 4x5 inch transparency film with a 4x5 view camera. This translates to roughly a couple hundred buildings at least. I chose this type of film because of the vivid color saturation it creates and excellent detail it captures. This film is expensive and hard to come by in this digital age, specifically in the 4x5 inch format. Eventually this film will cease to exist. I intentionally try to shoot when the sun is shining on the façade of the buildings because it’s a great way to get a sense of what the buildings looked like previously and highlight the potential they hold.
Since 2011, I’ve managed to photograph at least one block from each of the ten streets on my list. I’ve photographed most of Howard Street from Lombard to Madison Streets and almost the entire strip of West Baltimore Street from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Fulton Avenue. There is much more I want to photograph and will need more film in order to do this. My supply ran out in April and in the meantime I’ve shifted my focus to research.
If this campaign is successful, I can begin the second round of shooting this fall/winter. If possible, my goal is to finish photographing by the end of next spring. At the same time I will continue researching these streets and neighborhoods to learn about their past and how they’ve progressed into their current condition. I’m also seeking solutions as to how these places can be improved and revitalized.
Finally, I will compile all of the photography and research into either one large book or possibly a smaller series of books or zines. I also intend on exhibiting the work in various galleries around the city, preferably within the neighborhoods I’ve been photographing.
The funds raised will help me pay for the following expenses:
·Film & Processing
·Publishing fees, rights & reproductions, research, etc.
·Printing & Framing
This is a very large and ambitious project and while I’ve made a lot of progress, I still have a long way to go. You can view what I’ve photographed so far on either my main website, www.jsingewald.com, or the Tumblr I started for this project, bmoreblockbyblock.tumblr.com. With your help, I believe I can make this project a reality and a resource for future generations.
Risks and challenges
The biggest obstacle to this project right now is the availability of the slide film I am using. As digital technology continues to dominate the photographic world, film is slowly disappearing. For certain types of film and formats, it is disappearing even faster. If this campaign is successful, I will have to purchase as much film as possible, because there's no telling when it will be discontinued for good. If by chance I'm unable to get my hands on more 4x5 Velvia film, then I would have to choose the closest substitute I can find and hope it gets a similar result.
Another fairly obvious obstacle is the mere size of this project. Photographing Old Town Mall was easier because it was only two blocks long, but it also took me about a year and a half to finish. The streets I'm photographing now are long avenues and could easily be individual projects on their own. While I'd like to photograph entire strips like I've done with Howard Street and West Baltimore Street, I've decided that for a huge street like North Avenue, I'll have to simply pick and choose certain blocks and buildings instead. The more film I can get my hands on, the more ground I can cover.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (60 days)