Field Notes

Emmanuel College Residency – Day 6

It took a couple days to settle in at Emmanuel College, but now I feel like I’m really in a work rhythm. Research and prep work on what I will be shooting in Boston is moving along reasonably well, and as that is developing I decided to try and wrap up some outstanding work on other projects.

At the top of the list is completing a book dummy for a project I shot over the last two years in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood in the city of Baltimore. It was in this neighborhood where Freddie Gray was arrested by police in April 2015. His death a week later sparked massive riots, with the epicenter being at the intersection of Pennsylvania and North Avenues in Sandtown. Over the course of the next year and half I photographed in the community, trying to better understand what happened and why. Some of the early work was published online by TIME on the anniversary of Gray’s death last year.

I kept shooting and over the summer and in the fall felt like the project was nearing completion. Now came the hard part of editing the work and pulling it together into its final form. The project, both in execution and planned presentation, was always highly structured based on the geography of the neighborhood and how Freddie Gray was arrested.

The first dummy I produced really helped me figure out how to structure the work and sequence the images. I showed it to a number of people close to me to get feedback, which is super helpful but also something I feel one shouldn’t put too much weight into. For example, one person would say they loved a particular pairing for a certain reason only to have another person specially mention they did not like the same pairing for the exact same reason. You can’t please all the people all the time.

However, having something tactile and real to show people, to engage with and manipulate, really helped. The first dummy helped me figure out what size book I wanted to aim for and how to further push the boundaries of layout and presentation. The differences between the first dummy and the second (which I am working on now) will be significant, although the images and the order they appear in will be nearly the same. This process of iteration has helped me immensely and I hope that this second dummy will be solid enough to show more broadly to people as well as solicit an introduction and companion essay for the work.

I will be posting daily updates from Boston to Instagram with notes about what I’m working on. Please follow along if you like @benhoste