The Encampment

July 9, 2008

Family, Friends, and Neighbors

In March, 1973, I spent a week of great weather photographing kids and streetscapes in the southernmost part of South Baltimore, where Light Street ends and a complex of old warehouses and railroad yards begin. Or at least that was the scene then. These days the area has been gentrified somewhat and many of the warehouses are now apartments and condos. (The railroad yards are still there, now owned by CSX.) I saw the group of kids pictured here on several occasions. It was always the same girls and boy; and the boy, to quote from an unpublished story of mine about city kids, seemed to be the “leader in charge.” The girls, meanwhile, usually appeared distracted, or—perhaps a better way to put it—self-absorbed in the classic “tween” girl group manner. They laughed and chatted while paying scant attention to me, if that. The boy stood off to one side, serious (he never smiled at me, just stared), hyper-alert, protective, as if he were on sentry duty. I came to think of the group in dramatic terms, as a family, a tribe, or perhaps an encampment of gorilla fighters hiding out in the mountains. Romantic ideas aside, I composed the image with the boy foregrounded, as dominate in the frame as he appeared to me to be in his relationship with the girls, and I was careful to include enough of the background buildings to give a feeling for the industrial character of the area. To provide more context to this layout I’ve added two other images of the “campsite,” made on the same day. I don’t know what those huge metal cylinders are, but since the neighborhood is only blocks from the harbor, I figure they may be buoys. (Click on any of the images for larger views.)

Copyright © 2008 Jim Sizemore.