“Why Are You Taking Pictures of this Bulls**t?”

 

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The character of a city like Jackson rests in its contradictions. Both welcoming and frustrating, monumental and abandoned, full of construction and dilapidation, this photo essay, completed for my Digital Photography course–and displayed in book form at The Purple Word, is interested in how people navigate these contradictions.

The title of this photo essay comes from a question posed to me while taking pictures of an empty storefront on Farish Street, a street stagnating in Jackson’s redevelopment plan for downtown. The rest of this project explore my attempts to discover an answer to that question: It is not the abandonment itself—or the politics behind it—but the spirit of Jacksonians navigating, marking, claiming, and even loving these spaces. A recurring motif is also that of the pedestrian perspective, walking in a pedestrian-unfriendly city. I am particularly interested in the combination of abandonment and construction, as both serve as liminal spaces where every day rule seem suspended. Most of the photographs were taken in the downtown and Midtown areas, as both contain development and dilapidation in close geographic quarters.  Inspiration for the mood of this photo essay comes from the poem “Steady 601” by Molly Knight, which observes with warmth the potholes, cracked streets, spewing water hydrants, and sounds of Jackson.

 

Steady 601–Molly Knight

Heat rises from your cracked streets
and you are mine.
Jackson.
A neighbor cackles
to himself
from his darkened den
The damp dirty smell
of you
from a pothole
ankle-deep
with black water.
The line o your trees
reflected bare against sky.
Your hills are my mountains.
Jackson.
A man’s name
but a woman’s form.
A lean cat
darts from under
a tire-less car
in the shadow of the station.
The City of New Orleans
stops to breathe
white smoke
to your white sky.
Jackson.
Erratic bass
throbs up the hill,
a hydrant spews
steady water
into a side street
where someone is shouting.

 

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