The Boulevard Soul

The quickly disappearing city soul can be seen in bits and pieces, between the chain restaurants and coffee shops and shiny hipsters. Get there fast because the grit, grime and beauty of the urban is almost gone, vaporized, crushed. All that remain are loud and scary ghosts of an era where cities were a last refuge for the marginalized and square pegs.

In an effort to capture the tenure and grace of Granville in Vancouver, the timeless beauty of Pioneer Square in Seattle and the classical Steel Bridge spanning the Willamette River in Portland, I went looking for shards of pre-gentrification in the Pacific Northwest. It’s getting more and more difficult to see the old walls, buildings and alleyways as they seem to be getting obliterated by immense towers of glass and slews of chain stores. As I walked down Granville street I could see that I’ve missed it already. It’s mostly gone.

In all three cities, the only thing that does not seem to be disappearing are the people who used to be comfortable in past surroundings, but no longer fit into the cities desirable demographic. In Vancouver, where they actually take care of the poor and disenfranchised, there has been an increase of 300% in the homeless population. Just from looking around this seems to be happening everywhere.

I faced a moral dilemma during this trip. I saw so many beautiful faces of people living on the street, and I wanted to capture that. But is that right? Even if I offered them a bit of cash to serve as a paid model, am I benefiting artistically from someone elses hardship. Something just felt wrong about it so I abstained, but I struggle with it still. I want everyone to see the beauty and grace of these invisible people.

Sitting in a coffee shop in Seattle on a Sunday morning, I saw a man walk up and lean against the wall near the doorway. He looked clean, hard faced, and his eyes were sharp and focused; not the 1,000 yard stare worn by so many on the street. I wondered if he was homeless until he pulled off a pair of mismatched gloves. His face told a story that I badly wanted to hear. How did he get here? He quietly slipped in the doorway and laid down on some benches where he was invisible to the shops proprietors, and I’m guessing got some much needed sleep. I did not need to take his photograph. I will remember his face for a very long time.
Looking down one of my favorite streets, the mighty Granville in Vancouver
My rendition of a classic, the Public Market sign in Seattle
The power of neon and dead fish @Pike Place Market, Seattle
From the Granville bridge near Waterfront Station
Hipster hood in Seattle, Pioneer Square