As a photographer, I have an eye for light. The way the light shines on a subject, whether a person or a fern growing in the woods can make it beautiful or ugly. Today, I had a moment of illumination like a gentle brush of sunlight deep in the woods.
The truth might be painful to share, but I must. I almost quit this project.
When we were looking for a place to buy our home, I didn’t want to look in Delridge. But, as a couple on one income (a good one for middle class life), this was one of the only neighborhoods where we could buy a home that wasn’t falling apart. In fact, our home was brand spanking new!
I honestly had never lived in a new home before. And, part of me felt like I didn’t deserve it. Growing up in the lower-middle -working class, I felt like I hadn’t worked hard enough for a new home. But, here we are, and I have my husband to thank for that. Sadly, the newness has worn off as the noise, litter and grime have become more and more visible.
And then, I had children. With two kids under 2 years, I spent more and more time at the park and walking around the neighborhood. I started to feel sad about not having a home for my children in a better neighborhood. But then, something shifted. One night, I was complaining to my husband about the litter, and he suggested that I volunteer and pick it up.
Within weeks, I met a neighbor at the playground and she invited me to help build a new playground. While I had no idea what I was getting myself into as the Public Relations Chair, I learned on the job how to help the Seattle Parks Department communicate with a national non-profit and a corporate partner. Together, with several other dedicated neighbors, we built an amazing playground and gave our park a facelift with 275 volunteers in 6 hours!
That lit a new perspective on my neighborhood for me. I started to see the light. Where others see the litter, I see the richness in green space. Where others notice the mentally ill neighbors who act bizarre, I meet neighbors who work for non-profits or run a local art gallery or help renovate green homes.
When I started this project, I named it Poor Seattle Shines. And it caused a rife in my marriage. My husband didn’t like me talking about us living in a Poor neighborhood. So, that got me thinking. The truth is that we are not poor. Delridge as a neighborhood in Seattle is simply neglected when compared to other neighborhoods in terms of services and basic infrastructure.
We cannot change the fact that we live in a neglected neighborhood in Seattle. Delridge will always be one of the neglected neighborhoods, because of money. I’m not complaining about the local government, because it’s just like the rest of the country. The thing that divides us is money.
Pushing out the low-income housing, or the shelter won’t make this place suddenly get attention from the city and provide us with sidewalks, crosswalks and basic infrastructure. The only way to make a difference is to get involved. We can choose to see and help the people who are bringing light into the situation and making a difference.
To the neighborhood email troll who is posting camera phone photos and pointing out all of the bad details he or she sees in our neighborhood: You are not making a difference.
Those who are shining their light through positive actions are the heroes who will change the unfair balance in our city.
And so, the new name of this project is Seattle Shines. We will focus on photographing the neglected neighborhoods first, and then the people who shine.