It can be difficult to make sense of things. Less than six months after the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody — and the riots that followed — Baltimore has mostly returned to business as usual, but in places slightly bruised and still a little tender. At High Grounds Coffee, owner Michael Wood uses a Diedrich roaster on hundreds of pounds of beans every day, importing organic and fair-trade coffees, selling directly and through groceries, with bittersweet aromas wafting onto the sidewalk and into the street, blurring lines between inside and out. In this photo, an incomplete diagonal of warm, orange siding transitions by red framing to a plate glass window hand-painted with the store's name and lyrical curls. A patriotic display of flags intermingles with burlap sacks from different countries. In reflection, a line of businesses across the street, blue sky, some trees and parked cars, plus — barely legible with everything else going on — a white police cruiser, the only object in motion, keeping a low profile.
Picture a three-year-old boy sitting on his father’s shoulders on New Year’s Day on a Philadelphia sidewalk — waiting, waiting, waiting for what has been promised: the parade. But he has never been to a parade and has no idea what to expect. And then the drums. And then the music. And then the Mummers appear in their fantastic costumes, brighter and more positive and energetic than anything even most adults have ever seen, all the more so to a child. He finds himself enveloped and delighted, and this event makes a huge impression. The following year, when his family returns to the New Year’s Day Mummers Parade, he is ready. Anticipation turns to attentiveness. When the parade appears, a wondering implants itself in the boy’s mind: who is this man, larger than life, that leads the pageant?
Long exposures always remind me of daguerreotypes and the early history of photography. In 1838, Louis Daguerre set up his camera to catch the Boulevard du Temple. Although the street was busy, it appears empty in the daguerreotype because of the long exposure. People moving too quickly for the photographic mechanism to capture them. The same thing happened in Raleigh at Big Boom restaurant, where — despite having multiple strobes — I just couldn’t quite get decent depth of field, so switched to a long exposure and one of the employees popped his head around the corner, pulling back too fast for any evidence of him to appear in the final image.
Having written a dissertation on school photography, I cannot help but view the opportunity to participate in taking prom pictures as a chance to create images that dance around academic institutions and explore how relationships form between students. Prom pictures maintain a formality, projecting into a future where they will function as aide-mémoire, but — in the digital age of social media — must be turned around quickly for sharing. These photos are public-facing, yet private and tender. Junior prom is especially unique, marking maturity without finality. This year, the group chose an abandoned nursing home as the backdrop: extensive rubble from the crumbling walls and ceiling; graffiti that could be generally aged by degrees of integrity, since it lay over peeling lead paint; and no interal electricity, so we had to hump a battery pack in.