Last Sunday Ish and I took a drive down highway 99, taking the viaduct through the city to see Seattle’s skyline lit in bright setting sunlight. Going on advice from one of Ish’s photographer friends, we exited at South Park. Winding though the backroads, as industry became residential, I asked Ish, “Are we supposed to be here?” She answered with a definitive, yes. I drove on with renewed confidence.
Turning onto the main street we were immediately greeted with a huge bouncy castle, bouncing in the parking lot of an apartment complex. Hispanic kids were playing inside it, squealing, and jumping around. We felt a little creepy approaching the kids, to take their pictures as we didn’t see any parents around to ask permission of. It was too good to pass up though, and as I reasoned, it would be way weirder for us to take pictures from my car parked across the street. Ish agreed to do the talking, and we were given consent by the only parent present, as well as a 7 year old who may or may not have been in charge.
We learned that the bouncy castle was there in celebration of a baptism that had happened earlier that day. The newly baptized baby came outside in her fathers arms; he held her as though showing her all the fun the kids were having at her party. She was so little, only a few months old, her jet black hair fastened with a white bow. He looked at us, without any suspicion, and went back inside.
We chatted with Santa, a neighbor who had followed her son, Daniel who ran over when he heard the noise and fun that was being had in the bouncy castle. We learned that she loves living in South Park. The night before she went to a discoteca party at one of her neighbor’s apartments, where they danced all night. Daniel seemed to enjoy playing on the slide the most, and running back and forth between the hole in the fence that separated his yard from bouncy castle.
Last week my Aurora Motels shooting partner, Ish and I drove south to check out the stretch of Hwy 99 from Fife to Tacoma. Ish said Fife reminded her of her hometown Easklake, Ohio.
The light was strong and golden, slowly lowering closer and closer to the horizon. We shot until the middle gray-blue took over the night. Fife was filled with photographic treasures, including numerous mom and pop motels, a drive-up smoke shop, 24-hour donut shop, and a big fancy Bingo hall. I got one shot I am totally in love with, a little map of the United States I saw through the window of an antique clock shop.
Yesterday evening the beautiful weather finally got me and Ish out of the apartments and back onto Aurora Avenue. We scoped out some of our old favorites, as well as discovered some new corners and alley ways.
At the Georgian Motel, we were told to come back in a few days after they get some of the repairs done. Many of the motels there are clean and comfortable. This afternoon I spoke with Susie, a resident of the Shoreline Inn. “The rooms are clean, with no bugs. Just nice furniture, and a soft mattress to sleep on.” She went on to explain her contempt for the notorious Belle Italia and Thunderbird Inn, which had been closed earlier this year because of tax evasion. Both of those properties brought bad press to the Aurora neighborhood in recent years. Now many owners are wary of photographers coming to showcase the shameful, dirty aspects of their community.
I think I went into this project looking for that gore factor, too. In a way, it is still there. There is no way to sugar coat a body wasting to drug addiction. I want to continue this project with the intention of finding the community, compassion, and lust for life and beauty that can most certainly be found on Aurora Avenue. I hope to bring the photographic voice to a place that has been misrepresented.
I feel like the images I have here are of a dirty Aurora. I look forward to seeing where I can take this project with my new dedication. Will the images be just as dingy?