I’m Jim Dobbins. I photograph my local urban environment.
My photographs are an effort to discover compelling images in this environment.
Beyond the images there is no narrative.
I prefer the name Smaltimore over Charm City. One overly ambitious mayor attempted to brand Baltimore, “The City That Reads.” Perhaps because of our history, there is a pervasive grittiness and determination from those that live in the city. There’s also pride in the quirky; respect for the absurd. Think John Waters and Formstone. We have come to accept imperfections. Though pockmarked and littered, Baltimore alleys speak to our character.
Baltimore once contained a thriving middle class supported by physical, industrialized labor. In the 1950’s, the city observed the beginnings of a persistent population decline as the nature of work changed and socio-economic conditions deteriorated. Demand for shipping, steel processing, and automotive manufacturing declined leaving the local economy dominated by lower wage service jobs and an unbalanced contribution from higher wage, higher skilled science and health-focused occupations. The decline in population accelerated due to race riots in the late 1960’s and crippling drugs and blight in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Time heals all wounds, it seems, and signs of growth are emerging.
I frequently find myself exploring neighborhoods at night. I appreciate the quiet. The change in light soothes our coarseness and highlights our possibilities. Welcome to Bal’mer, Hon.
If one would imagine that photographers were hunter-gatherers, I guess I would be more of a gatherer than a hunter. Occasionally I do hunt for some particular image or motive, but mostly I am gathering pictures. It’s not unlike people wandering off to the woods to pick berries or mushrooms. I pick photos from my surroundings. All kinds of photos. Some days I get a good catch, especially if I’m in the right mood. Other days I return home empty handed.
For me photography is both a way of exploring and researching concepts of looking and seeing, while it also is a language for conveying these explorations. I don’t shoot any particular subjects, rather I use different subjects to gain more understanding in my explorations.
Through this process, which is quite organic, themes, series and concepts slowly emerge, giving a photographic form to both observations of the surroundings as well as my own inner visions. These lead to new thoughts, new paths to follow, new pictures to be taken. It is a reflective and iterative process that keeps feeding itself.
One theme I have pursued for a long time is “of man and environment” where I collect evidence of human interaction, impact and influence without showing the humans themselves. These five observations are from the environment of my hometown, Helsinki.
Cincinnati. It doesn’t get much more American than this city on the north bank of the Ohio River. Often referred to as “The Queen City”, Cincinnati is well known for it’s Italian architecture, cultural diversity, baseball team and steaming hot plates of spaghetti, piled high with chili and cheese.
In this series, I photographed in the Western side of the city, an area called Price Hill. It is forlorn, lonesome and deserted, but still has many stories to tell. I tried to capture some of the subtle beauty in the aging structures and the deep, rich colors that go unnoticed. I searched for and found age, patina, history and the traces of the many folks that have passed by over the years.
I’m always amazed at what treasures can be discovered when you actually take the time to look. Enjoy!
Gene Dow / 2013
Winter is not the happiest of times in Sweden. To most people it is a transport route to the green and warm spring, a piece of life that floats away and leaves a distinct feeling of emptiness. The ones who have the opportunity flee to warmer parts of the world to create new memories, but the ones who does not walk the slippery streets every day with low heads living in the old ones. Creativity goes down to a minimum, and often I feel that it is more productive to stay inside watching tv than to actually getting out there shooting, or whatever you usually do to stimulate your minds. But, and here is the important part, sometimes you have to fight to see something, and this is what I have done creating this series of images. At night and with frozen fingers I have tried to see the beutiful views in life, which happened to be the phenomenon of city lights reflecting and blending in the low snowy clouds creating a pink glow that only is visible this time of the year. In a contrast to the ”childish” colour these skies make, I have chosen to show the not so beauiful buildings on the ground. I think that this conrast, together with the emptiness of night, sets you in a mysterious mood, and I hope that you will know what I mean by looking at the pictures.
City Focus – Paris
You read the name of the city and have already visualized the Eiffel Tower. However, Paris possesses a different kind of urban beauty; even in its infamous (and not so visually attractive) architectural accomplishments, reaching for the skies way below the tip of the legendary tower.
But a city will reveal itself only when you let yourself get lost in it.
“I am attached to my hometown, Düsseldorf. I grew up on these streets and I have recently learnt that there are new things to be discovered when you have a camera in your hands. All the details of the buildings, situations and people are more obvious when you look at them through the eye of the lens.
I am satisfied when my photos might represent some sort of a mental travelling to Düsseldorf for those who watch them and to transport the whole feeling of the city.