I’m starting a new project, hoping to document a neighborhood in transition. The photo above, a scene photographed by many photographers over the years, is a view looking west from the western edge of the Church Hill neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia. I shot this scene today, March 17, 2014, as a late winter snowstorm swept through the city. In the foreground of the scene is the Shockoe Bottom neighborhood, and behind that, on the distant hill is downtown Richmond.
Shockoe Bottom, situated at the falls of the James River, has been a crossroads of culture, trade and a place of transition. It has been a Native American trading site, one of the largest slave markets in the United States, a manufacturing center and an alcohol theme park at various times. It may be about to change again, as developers attempt to push plans to build a ballpark, hotel and retail center in the old creek bottom. Local residents are pushing back, though, hoping to preserve and memorialize the land as an international heritage site to honor the Africans who were enslaved, imprisoned, bought and sold here from just after the first slaves arrived in Virginia, in 1619 until emancipation and the end of the United States Civil War in 1865.
I’m hoping to document and help shape the coming changes. Wish me luck. It is quite a struggle.
The image below is very special. This is a composite panorama made from original photographs taken in 1865 by Matthew Brady Studios. I made the composite from scans of negatives that Brady made in 1865 that I downloaded today from the National Archives. ( see: http://www.mdgorman.com/Photographs/church_hill_panorama.htm ) After downloading, I merged them in Photoshop and added some toning effects. This view was taken from very nearly the same spot as the photo above. Look at the changes!