What does it mean to belong somewhere? To be from somewhere? To live in a city? To inhabit a place? A neighbourhood? What does it mean to belong in Baltimore? To belong to Baltimore? To be from Baltimore? “Who” is Baltimore?
Those are a few of the questions I am exploring through Meeting Baltimore. I don’t intend to come up with clear and definitive answers, but to develop a thinking about the identity of a place, through the diversity of the people that live in it.
Almost three years ago, I moved to Baltimore, from Paris, alone, with one suitcase. Before moving there, I had only stepped a foot in Baltimore once, for one day, and for some reason, I had an irrepressible attraction for this city I knew very little about.
What did I knew? I knew it was where The Wire takes place, but I had never seen The Wire. I knew about the 2015 Uprising, but I was not really sure what it was all about. I knew there was an Aquarium, but it did not seem like useful knowledge. I knew about John Waters, I knew the Devin Allen picture on the cover of Time Magazine, I knew the Nina Simone song, and of course “Good Morning Baltimore”. It was about it.
Before moving to Baltimore, I had always been taking pictures, like one would write in a journal, I was always carrying a camera, documenting, and trying to find beauty in the mundane. Taking pictures at work, with my friends, in the street. With Baltimore, this practice became more intentional, and more obsessional. Photography was more than ever a way to apprehend the space, to get to know the city, to sonder it, to get closer to it, and start a relationship with it.
A big part of my practice became Street Portraiture. A practice that pushed me out of my bubble and forced me to do exactly what all kids have been told not to do : “Talking to strangers”. After almost 3 years, I can say that I have talked with a lot of strangers, and along the way, shared a lot of beautiful moments, and heard a lot of stories, each getting me closer from “knowing Baltimore”... and I intend to continue.