In 1999 I started documenting these. I have lived in Baltimore Maryland twice, from 1969 to 1974, and 1985 to present. Statistics of Baltimore Maryland, since 1990, POPULATION DROP: 100,000, HOUSES DEMOLISHED: 50,000+, READING GRADE LEVEL: Low, HIV/AIDS: High, HEROIN ADDICTION: High, and a MURDER RATE of approximately 300 per year. It is this murder rate as manifest through the graffiti "R.I.P." that I have been documenting since 1999.
Born New York City, 1945.
1959 High School of Art & Design, Photography.
1990 Maryland State Arts Council Grant
Observational from birth, expressive soon after, 50 some since making my first exposure. New York City (Manhattan) born, Subway raised, Public, (Art & Design) High school.
"R.I.P. BALTIMORE" 11 year project, bringing awareness to the ongoing high murder rate in Baltimore City.
A Wall project, examining the interior walls of 'Row Houses' as the appear briefly, externally, after the demolition of the house next to where they stood.
The printing of a body of Black and White images spanning 50 plus years. Many of them never in print.
From the time of sitting next to my mother on the NY Subway, feet dangling off the edge of straw seats, ceiling fans turning, and the endless supply of every type of face parading before me, I enjoyed LOOKING!
All of my relatives expressed themselves audibly, or visually. Painters, Sculptors, Designers, players of violin, piano, and wind instruments. I loved LISTENING!
I found myself visiting Raleigh, North Carolina in the mid 50's to see my Uncle, who was Professor of Design at N.C.State University. It was the first time I saw, 4 bathrooms, and 2 water fountains. I never thought in terms of, 2 kinds of MEN, and 2 kinds of WOMEN. I never thought of two different supplies of, WATER. I looked at the signs, the plastic engraved ones, the brass etched ones. I thought about the machines that made them, the people operating those machines, the spelling out of words:"W-H-I-T-E M-E-N", "COLORED MEN", "COLORED WOMEN". The drilling of the holes, the person screwing the signs to the door, mounting them to the water fountain. Days later I saw new signs on two fountains in the Sears and Roebuck, downtown Raleigh: "MEN" and "GENTLEMEN". I hated HATRED!
It was more as, not understanding the thought process behind it all. But there I was, LOOKING at it, wondering, was I the only one seeing it? Back in Manhattan, we had 2 bathrooms, 1 water fountain. Later I came to understand the the thought process was not unique to North Carolina in the 50's, but everywhere. Just not as that graphic. The same without the 'Signs'.
I returned to NYC, to Junior High School, to Eisenhower's February, 1955, "Brotherhood Week". There was a Poster competition for the Week. I depicted a traditional movie theatre, bright Marquee, carpeting, ticket booth, and movie posters. The theatre was bordered with a sidewalk out front, and an alley on the side. The alley wall I did in charcoal grey with a single door lite with a single yellow light bulb illuminating a sign: "COLORED". I was told by my Art teacher that it would not be accepted, because that "Was NOT Brotherhood", I responded, I know.
I have been involved in photography 50 years. The joy is in the seeing, story telling, assembling. Years ago I heard a woman describe, define, DOCUMENTARY: " The function of documentary is not to make a court case, Thats the function of the courts. The function is to raise a reasonable doubt that perhaps the world works in a slightly different way then the way in which you had previously perceived that it did."
In 2004 I wrote, We must hold the mirror up, there should be no bliss to those who choose to ignore.
In 1999 I started documenting these. I have lived in Baltimore Maryland twice, from 1969 to 1974, and 1985 to present. From childhood in my birth city of New York on the Island of Manhattan I have been observing my surroundings.
Statistics of Baltimore Maryland, since 1990, Population drop: 100,000, Houses demolished: 50,000+, Elementary school reading grade level: Low, HIV/AIDS: High, Heroin addiction: High, and a murder rate of approximately 300 per year. It is this murder rate as manifest through the graffiti "R.I.P." that I have been documenting since 1999. In the mid 1990's I started to notice the tagging: "R.I.P.", Troy was my first, across the street from the Sugar Hill Tavern on Druid Hill Avenue in "Whitelock City". I had been seeing them more and more, in more places, E.A., PK, westside, eastside, everywhere. I asked people, "You know what R.I.P. means?" "It's on tombstones!" I ask, "You ever see any R.I.P's?" "NO". They were not seeing them EVERYWHERE like I was. I started to record the images because I felt people were not aware of the scale of that graffiti citywide. I wanted to show the amount, the connection, THESE ARE DEAD PEOPLE!. I'm going crazy, so I wanted other people to be crazy with this, with these, "Fat Herb", "Little Mike", "Ricky", "Nard", "Boo". I wrote to myself in 2004: we must hold the mirror up, there should be no bliss to those who choose to ignore.
This is the city that has given T.V. viewers the shows: "HOMICIDE, Life on the street", "THE WIRE", and "THE CORNER", all having to do with the drug use and trafficking, and the murder rate in Baltimore. These dramatic depiction's have have been rated highly by both critics and viewers, yet real life is ignored. In October of 2002 a house was firebombed, killing 7 people (2 adults, 5 children). From across the street, looking past the Mayor, Governor, police, clergy, and the community, I saw the same painted hand gun with projectile coming out of it on the house next to this families that I photographed approximately 1 1/2 years earlier.
Included in this study are images of painted: tombstones, names, birth and death dates, bottle and teddy bear alters, gun shapes, before and after (same wall with graffiti and after painting over), evolution of the same wall (the building up of multiple "R.I.P." names), and, what I call, Utterances' ("Soldier from the cradle to the grave", "Death before dishonor" references to money, The pluralization of the word NIGGER with, S,Z, or $.) Along with this photographic record I have collected Newspaper articles pertaining to this subject. When the mode of our seeing changes, ............................
"When the mode of the music changes,
the walls of the city shake." ......Plato
This is our job. .........peter
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if we do not recognize peace,
if we don't identify,
we will not understand,
if we do not take responsibility
to keep the peace,
police will exist,
peacekeepers will not,
law enforcement florishes'
when we do not look
we do not see
we don't identify
the people lose sight,
no sight, no vision
no vision, no information,
no memory, no record,
what do we do now ?
we've given up the responsibility
to problem solve
enter the thinkers
the talk shows
to translate for the people
no order ... friction
friction = heat
heat = fire
no thinking = no responsibility
no thinking = fire
the DAWSON's, Eden and Preston Street
Livin in a foreign land.
Standin on some foreign sand.
I don't see to many smiles,
But trash forms in piles.
The children havin children,
the parents havin none.
The teachers are the keepers,
T.V., video, Game boy's the fun.
The foods made of Numbers,
the Kitchens in a bag.
Mamas got a mustache,
Daddys walkin fag.
The lessons come from salesmanship,
their bought and sold with cash.
The goals to keep them wanting,
the Fashions, hawkin ass.
Transportations well planned,
it's done from up on high.
Grandmas last to board,
they drive, they don't know why.
The governments governing for us,
police not keepin peace.
Teachers bein jailers,
Rent court got the lease.
The addition of the parts,
don't equal to the sum.
Yet the the shirts, the walls, the alters,
are "R.I.P.", dead by gun.
Law enforcement bring no peace,
courts can bring no justice.
The markets "Super", got no food,
6, 11, News, on just for us.
The Guiding Light is all but dim,
billboards, posters, bright.
Papers tell us what to do,
but all we do is fight.