I was recently honored to win the weekly photography contest of the Great Lakes Urban Exchange. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, GLUE serves as both inspiration and support system to citizens and activists throughout the Great Lakes Region. Glue seeks to advance a progressive agenda and to provide a forum to share success stories about re-urbanizing the rust belt.
The image selected was "Sectional Spaghetti"
The image came from Thanksgiving 2006 on one of my first photography forays into Saint Louis. On that day I struck out to depict the essence of Saint Louis which I assumed lay in the industrial structures along the river that had been the driving influence of the city.
As I have gotten to know the city to a more intimate degree I have come to realize that the essence of the city and indeed the potential of its future vitality comes not from the dim vestiges of its historic might and national power but from the efforts of its citizens that belie its future. The economic stagnation and political indecisiveness that have led Saint Louis to be a shrinking city in a no growth region have also led to the sharp neglect of distinct segments of the population and the generalized neglect of certain aspects of responsibility towards citizens as a whole.
As the winner of the photography contest I was asked to chose my favorite community organization and write about it for the GLUE audience. While there were many deserving organizations that I gave great consideration to such as Bicycle Works it was the decades of selfless service given to the community that influenced by choice of the Karen House of the Catholic Worker Movement and especially the New Roots Urban Farm.
The willingness of citizens to provide service to the community in the absence of government responsibility and the incorporation of bold visions of social justice and sustainability prove to be a vision for the future of the city more compelling than that of a diocese bent on expanding surface parking for automobile entrenched suburban supporters or a developer steamrolling over acres of decaying neighborhoods for seemingly banal corporate campuses
My statement selecting Karen House and New Roots Urban Farm can be found here.