Visualizing a Gentrifying Downtown Brooklyn

by Michael Anthony Farley on June 12, 2015 · 2 comments Baltimore + slideshow


At Guest Spot, a gallery in Midtown Baltimore founded by Brooklyn transplant Rod Malin, four photographers who live in and around Downtown Brooklyn are showing work that captures fleeting moments of transition in their neighborhood’s rapid transformation. It’s an appropriate show for its context—the Baltimore neighborhood has been rebranded as “Station North” and is experiencing a massive spike in housing prices and some new development due to its artsy image and transit proximity—not unlike many of the factors that fueled the flames of gentrification in “DoBro”.

The show, Work in Progress on in Progress Work, A Photographic Survey of Downtown Brooklyn features images from Maureen Drennan, Carl Gunhouse, Matthew Schenning, and Jason John Würm. All live within a half-mile of the Fulton Mall, the commercial epicenter of the neighborhood that city officials and investors aspire to transform from a shopping district frequented by the borough’s low-income and minority communities into an upscale destination. With that effort, there’s been a boom of demolition, displacement, and construction.

The project to document the neighborhood began as a collective Tumblr in 2010, and that aesthetic is carried over to the salon-style presentation—implying a chaotic, unfinished process rather than a completed series. It’s a fitting look for a subject that’s ever-shifting. Also appropriate, most of the photos are printed on a vinyl-like wall cling that references advertising and a sense that the images are grounded in architectural space. Their content ranges from photos of the neighborhood’s old and new residents, construction sites, and street scenes. One of the aspects of the show I like the most is its ability to feel loaded without overbearingly opinionated. The four seem to endeavor to take it all in and let the viewer pass their own judgments. More of the photos from the series are available in a New York Times slideshow.


I love the digital photos of vinyl advertising banners that have been reprinted a similar surface.



Several of the clusters juxtapose the emptying, closing businesses along Fulton Street with photographs of the sleek “coming soon” renderings that are inescapable on the area’s sidewalks.







The gallerist informed me that this is a photo of Matthew Barney’s townhouse steps on Halloween. It’s one of my favorite in the show.


At first, when I saw this enlarged in the gallery, I thought this was a voyeuristic shot onto a condo tower’s terrace with a pixelated digital zoom. It wasn’t until I opened the photo on a computer and saw it smaller that I realized it’s a CGI advertisement. Its a great play with scale.


Pallets of sheetrock forming a chevron.


Another photo of a CGI rendering that made me do a double-take.


Everything about this photo is so weird.

zine Work

There’s a limited edition, signed booklet with more photos from the Tumblr available for sale. Its a really nice item that feels special but democratic.

In lieu of wall-text or labels with individual titles or artists’ names, this slideshow projects background information about the series in the gallery’s hallway:


When I was leaving the gallery, which is around the corner from my apartment, I remembered that literally the entire block across the street from Guest Spot had been consumed by a rather hideous condo development. Gentrification here creeps at a slower pace than in Brooklyn, but it seemed like an appropriate backdrop for this exhibition—a quietly cautionary tale about living in a neighborhood that’s threatening to “transition”.


Marc Elton Blarney June 14, 2015 at 5:12 pm

Marc Elton Blarney June 14, 2015 at 5:14 pm


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