- North of the Ditch
“North of the Ditch” is a documentary photography project about three neighborhoods and a highway in West Baltimore that was never completed, resulting in many displaced families and a domino effect of decay. Today, the neighborhoods of Harlem Park, Sandtown, and Edmondson are shadows of their former selves; working class neighborhoods with swathes of vacant houses that have essentially become open-air drug markets. As soon as construction lines were drawn in the 1970s, there was massive flight of middle-class families and businesses, resulting in decay in neighboring areas, most notably the Edmondson corridor. “North of the Ditch” will be a collaboration with residents in the area to share a collective history through audio and text alongside my photographs, designed to encourage discussion about the future of the highway with a public art exhibition of the work. I also plan to use archival photographs of these neighborhoods to show what they were like before the construction of the highway. This comparison between past and present will show how these neighborhoods have been allowed to deteriorate to their current state.
The “Highway to Nowhere” was built during a time in America when many highways were planned with little consideration for the low-income communities they were displacing. Nationwide, over one million Americans were displaced from their homes. There are many “highways to nowhere” as a result of this, and Baltimore's was a massive failure. Hundreds of homes were razed, destroying the fabric of mainly middle-class African American communities that existed in the area. Baltimore's policymakers used the highway to nowhere as an excuse to destroy African American neighborhoods deemed to be “slum areas” and harden lines of segregation.
Unfortunately, big redevelopment efforts have mainly bypassed the area. After many failed propositions for the highway, a Red Line metro station is planned for construction at the highway's end and many residents seem hopeful that it will bring development to the area. It also solidifies the decision to keep the mile and a half highway intact instead of demolishing it. The Red Line is a new light rail line that will connect East and West Baltimore. My project is timely in that it will serve as a reminder to include residents in the planning process of the proposed metro system.