I wanted to take a moment to share the personal projects that I shoot when I’m not working with clients or photographing my own family. You might ask yourself, do I just take photos constantly? The answer is yes, I do.
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This is a current project I’m shooting with the cooperation of backyard chicken keepers in the District, documenting what keeping chickens in urban settings really looks like. The issue has been a strangely intense local fight which I first learned of in May, via WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show. I was intrigued partly because I grew up around chickens and partly because it occurred to me immediately that chickens would be pretty photogenic. So I started asking around in my network and pretty quickly got introductions to a few local chicken-keepers and began shooting. In the meantime I’ve read up on the slightly hilariously twisted tale of how the chicken keeping came to be an issue, and read nearly all of a disturbingly nasty 21-page forum thread on the popular DC Urban Moms website wherein a few chicken keepers defended themselves against an onslaught of uninformed and highly prejudiced city-chicken haters. It would seem that feelings run deep when you ask people about keeping chickens in the city. Who knew?!
The origin of the Georgia Avenue project lies in my first exposure to Diane Arbus, a NYC street photographer in the 1960s. Looking at her early work at an exhibit at the MET Breuer in Manhattan, I realized that not only was her work remarkable in and of itself, but the years since she first photographed her subjects throughout the boroughs of New York, her work has acquired an historical value as well – showing us how people and the city looked in that decade. This was my first exposure to street photography – I would soon learn that all good street photography carries these multilayered revelations. But it occurred to me that, while I might never be Diane Arbus, I could certainly create work that, sixty years hence, would tell a story of a bit of Washington lost to change/progress/time. And that started my work on Georgia Avenue. I live just a block off this street in an area still untouched by the wave of development that has engulfed other stretches of the Avenue. I started close to home but, in the months I’ve been shooting, have ventured through other sections little by little, finding beauty and oddity, and often, documenting the borders of old and new scraping against each other like glaciers on rock – but so much faster. I can’t help but wish I’d begun this work a decade earlier. Or two. The project deepens the longer I work on it, and it is shaping me as a photographer as much as the forces of economics and development shape urban neighborhoods. All images (c) Katie Jett Walls.
Other Street Photography
This is the work I shoot to find my happy place – when I need to retune, retool, relax. The streets in any city I visit offer endless glimpses into the lives as strangers that are as intimate as moments I might share with my own family. I like to get as close as I can to what I’m shooting. I like to feel my own discomfort and push past it to make a photo that pleases just me. If it happens to please anyone else too, then by all means linger. If not, that’s ok, this is the work I do for me. All images (c) Katie Jett Walls