Dark Around the Edges
You know, it’s interesting – Baltimore has honestly changed the look of my photography. I notice that I’ve been doing stuff that is a lot darker, more contrasted, with stronger light, lately. Everything about life in Baltimore is so extreme that I find it’s showing up in my work as well. It’s as if the city exists in “high key” light.
There’s a creeping dark here. Everything is just a little dingy, a little in shadow, a little mysterious. It’s as if the light doesn’t penetrate as far here as it does elsewhere. It feels like the eye of the world doesn’t reach here anymore, which is part of why the city does whatever it wants. The light here either barely makes it to you, or it beats down on you with such an intensity that it blocks out everything but what it touches. It’s almost as if the sun and the shadows have struck a deal: the light stays outside, blinding those who venture out, while the shadows rule behind every window and door.
There’s a very real reason for this. The city has very few trees, thanks to a serious bout of Dutch elm disease in the early half of the 20th century, so there’s not much shade to be had. The brick rowhouses are built in lines that cast tremendous shadows, and most are built facing either directly east-west, or directly north-south, meaning that they’re very dark inside except at the extremes of the day – the morning and the evening. As a result, most of the time I see this city I’m either blinded by the unadulterated brightness of a sun unfiltered by nature, or I’m shaded by the monolithic lines of brick rowhomes. When I’m inside, it is often only that low, strong, golden light of the evening that makes it through the windows of those homes. In film, this light is generally used to invoke a feeling of the end of things, of decline. It’s a quality that I feel that Baltimore embraces, which makes me even more inclined to emphasize it. These things combined lend a very unique look to the work I’ve done here, and I’ve found that I’ve started to shoot with the same ambiance in mind even when I’m not in the city.
As someone who has moved around a lot, I’m well aware of the fact that my work changes every time I move somewhere new, but it has taken me living here for close to a year for me to finally be able to put a finger on what has changed about my work this time around. I look forward to seeing how it evolves as I continue to integrate myself into the city more completely.