Downtown Baltimore is caught up in an enormous refurbishing effort. Facing the changes, local shops are holding out, others won’t and some time soon, new fancy ones will take their place. Office-buildings are turned into luxurious city homes. Only a few years ago, 10 Light, the highest building in the pictures, was quite empty. I never thought of it as empty – it seemed impossible – but it was, and perhaps still is, who could tell? Physical access is limited. Information is only available in the form of advertisement. The former banking hall with a beautiful mosaic on the ground is inaccessible. It allegedly shows some Greek mythological figures. The art deco from the outside can be touched by a long focal length.
Heat in the city is oppressive. It often kept me from sleeping and I started taking extensive walks until the morning hours. The necessity became a habit. Even during fall and winter time, I kept walking the nights, shooting in mist and cold.
In every weather, 10 Light shows off its golden ornaments. Definitely a remnant of another time that should not be measured in natural cycles. 10 Light’s actual name is Bank Of America Building. It used to be named after a lot of other banking houses that went broke or merged and then merged again. That night in the mist, in black and white and seen through a 135mm lens, it seemed unusually close and related to the environment on the ground. The super sensitive film also showed me that I have light leaks on the top of the Minolta. I must have exposed the poor camera to the cruel Baltimore daylight, later that very morning.
On the other side of St. Paul Street, there was an open lot, there still is. When using google maps, one can see lot of empty gray, and a leftover, also gray but suggesting three dimensions of grayness. While the rest of the block has already been demolished, the leftover on the corner seems to be awaiting its fate. What google maps does not show, there was a McDonalds in this building until last year. You better remember that yourself or ask somebody who has been around before today. I never bought anything at this McDonalds, also, at times I felt harassed by the drugged souls hanging out in front of it at night. Still, I don’t want it to be forgotten.
The city offers a surplus of colors. It comes with a brightness only light-depraved Europeans consider to be exceptional. Baltimore enjoys roughly 2500 hours of sun, Rome offers 1400. Also, Baltimore has the same latitude as Sicily. When the sun is up, it is up. If you are not equipped with sun-glasses it will tear out your eyes and draw funny shapes in the remaining holes.
There is a romantic notion of progress. It comes to life whenever we see an industrial ruin. I do remember going by train from Philadelphia to Princeton. I can only hope, the next Blade Runner will forget the CGI-studio and shoot on location – along the train tracks leading to Trenton, New Jersey. Also, I once saw a Peterbilt-truck, caught up in the century long process of sinking into a moore. It was at some place in Idaho, or still in Wyoming. The sun was up high and everything out in bright light for my memory to work, but 75 miles per hour kept me from taking a photo. It made me look up ‘Kairos’ on Wikipedia, later in the Motel and also taught me some other things. When I take a photo, I literally shoot at something, and it will be a life-time of work not to think of it as a thing.
In general, neither the decay of New Jersey factories nor of all the trucks of the West does threaten me. We still produce and transport everything I need in order to feel fancy during my moments of melancholy.
In a way, we soon forget about other places that we have seen and where we have seen things. Your relationship to light is not just local, it is directional. The eye is getting used to a perspective. It is motivated by your environment but your environment doesn’t have to be in the frame.
Now, look up, there is a bright sky, frame your view properly, there is some green to be found. Trees are somewhat alive objects. Next to the green, we find cameras – interested in the humans on the ground: They are everywhere and treat them so badly. I hesitate to become one of them. Obviously my gaze would fall into their hostile tradition.