First exchanges: more bang for their buck?

Our first Community Day at the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) resulted in many surprising trades and exchanges. After just three weeks of photographing and wandering in this small south end neighborhood I settled on a few recurring themes: the first one is the driving force for the project and considers the people who work and live in this diverse neighborhood. Anyone who agreed to collaborate on making their portrait received a voucher, which they could exchange for a gifted photograph from the project at one of three Community Days at the BCA. All of the participants were strangers who I met walking on the street through a variety of serendipitous circumstances. We usually begin with a passing comment which then grows into a lengthier conversation and eventually the camera comes into play. I am still learning how to make good portraits – something that genuinely honors and captures a person’s likeness. Actually I am terrified every time I begin and this is one of the reasons I am pushing myself to do this project. I work with either my 4×5 camera (as in this first photograph below) or my DSLR:

Yulia, shop worker

Yulia, shop worker

Pat, store manager

Pat, store manager

Leo, fruit and vegetable vendor

Leo, fruit and vegetable vendor

Cynthia and Velma, Cleaners

Cynthia and Velma, Cleaners

John, carpenter

John, carpenter

Ashton

Ashton

Bruce, window-washer

Bruce, window-washer

Bob and Fred, at home in the South End

Bob and Fred, at home in the South End

Anna, artist reclaiming green space

Anna, artist reclaiming green space

Miriam, artist coming to work in her studio at the BCA

Miriam, artist coming to work in her studio at the BCA

Vernon, shop owner and worker

Vernon, shop owner and worker

Peter, South End postal worker

Peter, South End postal worker

I am also recording the neighborhood using a Holga, which is a plastic pinhole camera. The architecture, small shops and abundant churches are reminiscent of an earlier time which makes the use of B+W film more appropriate. Making silver prints in the darkroom rekindles this relationship even further.

Open for business

Open for business

historic south end lamp posts

historic south end lamp posts

B+W6

flight path 1

B+W7

hoping for spring

B+W5

Holy Trinity German Catholic Church: homage to the worker

Jesus, Holy Trinity German Catholic Church

Jesus, Holy Trinity German Catholic Church

flight path 2

flight path 2

Super Cleaners

Super Cleaners (with lamp post shadow)

winter's end

winter’s end

Handle with Care

Handle with Care

Flight path 3

Flight path 3

Tree fugue

Tree fugue

And finally, some days (and late nights) I need to record the neighborhood in color

Cathedral of the Holy Cross, sunset

Cathedral of the Holy Cross, sunset

historic south end lamp post (shadow)

historic south end lamp post (shadow)

Blackstone square, snowy night

Blackstone square, snowy night

South End sky with moon

South End sky with moon

Starlight, south end at night

Starlight, south end at night

sky conversation

sky conversation

Shadow fugue

Shadow fugue

Blackstone Square (Prudential in Background)

Blackstone Square (Prudential in Background)

Receiving the institutional support from the BCA for this project is making a huge difference to its success. First I have a studio in the neighborhood where over these last several weeks I’ve been able to return to and warm up (average temp these past weeks = 40 degrees!) and it helps knowing my production costs are covered. I am looking forward to the weather warming up, which is bound to create more opportunities for photographing people.

There were many highlights to the first Community Exchange Day. Eugene Finney did an amazing job converting the studio building entryway into a pop-up gallery and interns Bridget Lynch and Hannah Adams were on hand to help coordinate the exchanges.

Exchange detail_01

photograph by Olga Khvan

I met Bob walking down the street and ended up spending a lovely afternoon in his home along with his partner Fred. They each received a voucher and it was a wonderful reunion when they showed up to exchange their vouchers for photographs. They have lived in the South End since 1965 so it is especially gratifying to hear from them how well they believe I am capturing the spirit of the neighborhood.

photograph by Olga Khvan

photograph by Olga Khvan

photograph by Olga Khvan

photograph by Olga Khvan

I received 5 vouchers back in trade and in the last hour when the exchange was opened up to anyone in the community I received 9 more trades. I have more work to do in regards to finding ways of getting participants to return . Ultimately I want to re-gift the entire portfolio back out to the community.  I learned from some visitors that many of the workers who participated were unable to come because they were at their jobs. I hope to address this in my next Community Day which will take place in the evening after work (May 15th 6:30-9:30pm). Over the next month I will be looking for each of them to make sure they are aware of this opportunity. This is one of the challenges with this project.

the red dots signify exchanges

the red dots signify exchanges

BCA_01

A very gratifying but exhausting three weeks, I am looking forward to getting back to the neighborhood to continue building the project. Walking home that evening with my girlfriend Susie we were greeted with this encouraging sight: a confluence of flight paths in the fading sky

BCA_03

One thought on “First exchanges: more bang for their buck?

  1. Emily says:

    I LOVE THIS – from the concept to the execution! You rock sista!

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