Cabbagetown is a small relic of a neighborhood, nestled out of sight to the East of Oakland Cemetery in downtown Atlanta. The neighborhood was built around the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill in the late 19th century and enjoyed a time of prosperity. The first generation of Cabbagetown’s residents ("Lintheads" as they are known) was made up of migrant workers from the Appalachians. Hired to work in the mill, the shotgun houses they built are still standing today, a testament to their Depression-era work ethic. When the mill closed in 1977, the majority of the neighborhood was left unemployed and destitute. With unemployment high, the neighborhood suffered from an influx of drugs, prostitutes, gangs, and violence in the late 70’s and 80’s.
It wasn’t until Atlanta’s Renaissance that a new group of residents: artists, musicians, gays and lesbians reclaimed the streets between Boulevard and Pearl Street. Now, as the Baby Boomers that revitalized this neighborhood in the mid-90’s ease through their 50’s and 60’s, Cabbagetown is turning over to a third generation of migrants. The hipsters come with their coffee shops and pizzerias, drawn to Cabbagetown’s air of artistic freedom and rebellious attitude. The Cotton Mill still stands, but is now a condo and apartment community: a sign of changing times.
When I moved to the neighborhood from the condo developments of Buckhead, I was inspired by the creativity of the locals. Like many others, I found myself strangely at home in Cabbagetown. I have photographed the residents and listened to their stories. I have conducted interviews with many of them and spent many hours in the city's archives, pouring through historic photos.
This series of environmental portraits captures a wide spectrum of Cabbagetown’s residents. My portraits are about the generational divide within Cabbagetown. Each resident feels a deep connection and kinship in the neighborhood, but even the oldest residents are migrants from elsewhere. How can each generation be so different, yet feel such a sense of home in the same place? Perhaps it is because they are all orphans and outcasts from a world that doesn’t quite understand them. Cabbagetown is more than the sum of its tenants, but cannot exist without them. Surrounded by land where everything has become the same, Cabbagetown stands alone in defiance, as it always has, a lost beacon of originality.
My series is nearly complete. I have spent more than a year photographing the residents and now the time draws near to have a gallery show. I am trying to raise funds for framing, transcription services (I need to transcribe the dozens of hours of interviews), and for production of an artist's book which will contain all the portraits, a history of Cabbagetown, excerpts from the interviews, and many other images. I am having my show at Cabbagetown's local watering hole, the Milltown Arms on October 22, 2011. Even if you cannot donate, please come by on the opening to see the work and share a drink. Thank you all very much, your donations mean a great deal to me and the community!
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