2018 Lens Culture Exposure Award Finalist - work shown at Somerset House London UK

Solo show at APG - Atlanta Photography Group Gallery

In the shadow of 200ft high concrete grain elevators in Buffalo, NY is a community known as The Old First Ward. The buildings and people share a similar defiant and vulnerable look, worn down but standing unflinchingly before you as if to state, “I’m not goin’ anywhere.” This series captures the coexistence of the monolithic past represented in the dilapidated grain elevators and the enduring spirit needed to live in an area famous for its lake effect snow. Historically, The Old First Ward has been home to a strong Irish heritage where generations of families have lived in the same house and worked in the elevators. It is the kind of place where an unfamiliar car is given a scrutinizing stare and a photographer is questioned with skepticism. One early encounter I noticed a family sitting on their front porch. They were hesitant at first to let me photograph them but after a few moments the woman said, “I got somethin’ to show you.” She went inside and came out with a large tropical parrot. The realization that this colorful rare bird lived in a frigid grey climate seemed a metaphor for living in this area. 

I keep being pulled back to this neighborhood, these people. I find myself an outsider wanting to be accepted into their close-knit community. Their simple lives conceal layers of complexity. As they reveal themselves, faces so unguarded, buildings in perpetual inertia, I stand before them feeling respect and envy. Then they tell me a little more and I realize, I don’t have what it takes, I’m only cut out to observe. Regardless, after each encounter, each visit I am aware that I like who I am when I’m with them, I’m my best self. So, I keep going back to photograph, bringing copies of photos from the last visit to share and I find myself saying, “I got somethin’ to show you.”

For the installation, I chose to symbolize my experience walking and photographing the neighborhood, by “framing” the photographs using galvanized metal gates. The gates are a familiar element designating the small plots of space. Gates can be an opening or a boundary into someones life and they symbolize the experience I have felt as I navigate the Ward. Viewing the images in this manner brings context to the industrial Old First Ward. This show is available for traveling exhibitions.