I am a photographer with 26 years of professional experience. I moved to Memphis 4 years ago and coming face to face with the poverty that is here inspired me to use my skills to help create a better Memphis using photography.
I was selected as the 2014 Caritas Village artist-in-residence and my project is to spend a year in the Binghampton neighborhood of Memphis and create a "portrait" of the neighborhood. This will include the people, places, things, events, etc. that define what it means to live in Binghamton.
Binghampton neighborhood is in transition. It was one of "THE" Memphis neighborhoods to live in a long time ago but, over time, many factors have lead to neighborhood falling into disrepair. Recently, a revitalization has begun. Broad Avenue has reinvented itself as new center local arts in Memphis. Young people arriving in Memphis are discovering the joys of living in within the boundaries of the city and the lower prices now found in Binghampton make it an attractive choice. Longtime Memphians are returning to this neighborhood realizing that the best way to help is to live within the community and becoming good neighbors. The Binghampton neighborhood is a mix of diverse people. It includes immigrants from Central America, refugees from war-torn African countries and the working poor.
I feel that a large, public display of art, being a common theme throughout the neighborhood, is a good way to spark conversations amongst this diverse population. I will be working Caroline Orr and the "Inside Out Memphis" project to produce large (5'x10') vinyl portrait panels which will be displayed on some of the commercial buildings in the neighborhood. The portraits will be of residents of Binghampton! I will be having regularly scheduled portrait sessions throughout the year at Caritas Village and will be inviting anyone and everyone from the neighborhood to come in and have a free portrait taken. We will offer an 8x10 print or digital file to anyone who comes in for a portrait session. We'll select the portrait panels from these images and display them throughout Binghampton. This process will provide multiple opportunities for neighbors to get to know each other: as they stop at Caritas Village for their portrait sessions; when we host "unveiling events" as new portrait panels are added; and when neighbors view the images throughout the year and strike up conversations about the portrait panels.
We also will be producing large vinyl reproductions of some of the famous art masterpieces and hanging these panels on vacant homes with boarded up windows. This will help camouflage the blight and also bring great works of art to the neighborhood.
The money we are trying to raise will go toward three necessities for this project:
1) new computer with enough power to handle the post-production of all the images we'll be capturing of the "portrait" of Binghamton plus the design and printing of the display panels
2) wide-format printer so we can print the vinyl banners in-house which will allow us to have total creative control and turn-around time of the display panels
The biggest challenge I will face with this project is earning the trust of the citizens of this neighborhood. They are used to only receiving attention when something bad happens in their neighborhood and so, in the early stages, it might be difficult to convince them that I am looking to create a positive collection of images that reflect the life of Binghampton. I will overcome this initial hesitation in two ways:
1) I am moving into the neighborhood to become part of the neighborhood. I believe this will lead to me being seen no longer as "an outsider" who is trying to capitalize of their misfortunes and struggles but rather as someone who shares their victories (however small) and wants to share these "moments of glory" with the wider Memphis population.
2) I have spent 26 years photographing weddings and have developed strong inter-personal communication skills. I will use these skills to reach out to the members of the neighborhood in a positive way and explain to them the potential positive effect this project will have on Binghampton.
Expanded Hardcover Edition of "The Forgotten Faces of Memphis": 11x14 photographic book with 100 portraits from the series; signed by photographer plus 24x30 photographic canvas gallery wrap (pledger's choice of image) from "The Forgotten Faces of Memphis" Collection