James Singewald

For the past six years I’ve been living and working in Baltimore and studying the city’s history and why so many parts of it are in the poor condition we see today, while also exploring how it can be improved. My graduate work was focused on the failed urban renewal project in East Baltimore known as Old Town Mall, formerly Gay Street, and now a desolate two block pedestrian mall just east of downtown. I photographed each of the buildings on the mall, essentially creating a historical document of what is left of the neighborhood after decades of decline. I researched Old Town’s history, what happened to it, and what was being planned for its future. I also spoke with life-long residents and business owners to get a sense of what people remember about the mall and what they hope to see happen there. I combined all of the research and photography in to a self-published book titled, Old Town, East Baltimore. For the past four years I have been working on a project titled Baltimore: A History, Block by Block, which is a larger version of the Old Town project. There are ten main streets in Baltimore that I am photographing: Howard Street, Eutaw Street, Baltimore Street, Lexington Street, Fayette Street, East Monument Street, Pennsylvania Avenue, Greenmount Avenue, North Avenue, and Broadway. Using a 4×5 view camera and fujichrome velvia slide film, I photograph these streets, building by building, block by block. I find that a combination of good light and the saturated color of the slide film I’m using creates a glimpse of what these mostly dilapidated buildings once were and could be. My photography is meant to leave you not only with a sense of the condition of our city, but also a feeling of urgency to see that they are improved and preserved and that the rich history behind the architecture and the community is not lost, but rather embraced. When I’m not working on personal projects, I work part-time at the Maryland Historical Society in the Imaging Services Department where I am responsible for the photography and digitization of items in the collection as well as fulfilling requests from patrons for rights and reproductions.

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