(2010 - 2013)
This series was generously funded by The University of Akron's Summer Research Fellowship (2013), a major competitive grant promoting faculty research and development as well as a UA Mary Schiller Myers School of Art, Folk Faculty Tools & Materials Grant (2012.)
These photographs document the results of a long-term economic crisis in Youngstown, Ohio and the city's transition into a more stable, smaller city surrounded by the ghosts of its prosperous industrial past. Until now, the economic climate and its long-term effects on the area, has not been subject to serious photographic investigation. This is particularly significant since it is the first community in the United States to have purposefully set out to downsize its topographical footprint in order to remain viable. Rather that sensationalizing urban ruin, this series documents the city as it is and the measures taken by civic leaders and community activists to improve the quality of life for their city's residents.
Youngstown has an astounding 22,000 empty lots and 7,000 abandoned homes with only 66,000 residents remaining. The vacant areas within this community simultaneously stand as a reverent and melancholic reminder of the city's former glory yet also grant it its future. The city's East side, emblematic of more hopeful times, was developed after World War II; streets were carved into the landscape, lined with utility poles, and fitted with a water and sewer system in anticipation of economic growth. The expected surge of industry and people never came, leaving the area under-utilized, and finally, abandoned by its planners. Many of the existing streets are overgrown and blocked with concrete barriers. Expansive plots of land, once the promise of Youngstown's future, stand silent, overgrown with trees. Other neighborhoods plagued with blight are razing unoccupied structures. Only footprints of former structures remain, evidenced by sunken earth, overgrown sidewalks and driveway aprons; an indication of the passage of time.
Amidst the decline, there is hope. The city has designated some areas to return to the natural habitat or public-use green space while others will become urban farms or raised-bed community gardens. As the nation's poorest city, with 49.7% of its residents living at-or-below poverty level, these gardens provide a safe place, and through free education, enable the residents with the skills necessary to cultivate their own food. These things strengthen the fractured communities by empowering the people: improving their quality of life and increasing property values by reducing unsightly blight and crime.
Leaning House, Campbell, Ohio
Dedicated to the People
Phonograph Mural, Campbell, Ohio
Rope/Tree, Brier Hill
Youngstown Sheet and Tube Hospital
Deconstructed Railroad Bridge
View of Downtown from the East Side
Garden Shears, Campbell, Ohio
Youngstown Sheet and Tube Employee Housing
North Quarter Farm
Early Road Farm
Painted Windows and Door, Idora Neighborhood
Poland Road, Youngstown
Community Garden, Oak Hill
Lincoln Knolls Community Garden
Fairgreen Community Garden