|MLK Boulevard||[ link | bookmark ]|
Sometime in the mid 1990s, I became interested in how many cities have a street named for Martin Luther King Jr., and how many of these MLK Blvds seemed to have an awful lot of abandoned property, scary-looking bars, and small groceries that accept food stamps. I though it would be interesting to do some sort of book, a photo book, on the subject of this “legacy.” In 2000 we moved to New Orleans, where I had many, many occasions to drive up and down the length of Martin Luther King, day and night. Just to give a sense of it: The business I found most intriguing was Project Food Store, which was just across the street from a housing project.
Anyway, by that time I had decided that it might be smarter to create a web site, and turn “MLK Blvd” into a sort of “open source” journalism project — interested parties could send in their own photos, or histories, or interviews, or documents. It could be open-ended. It would be a great thing for students of journalism or sociology or urban planning to participate in. I would be particularly excited if I could attract contributions from people who actually live on or near an MLK. Of course what I actually did about this was pretty much nothing. Except: I did take these photographs, in 2003.
Late that year we moved to Jersey City, and by chance I got wind of a showing of a documentary called MLK Boulevard, which later aired on the Times Discovery Channel. At the showing I also learned that a book was about to be published: Along Martin Luther King: Travels On Black America’s Main Street. This book, written by Jonathan Tilove and with many photographs by Michael Falco, evolved out of a series for Newhouse News Service, which had appeared in newspapers in 2002.
Obviously I felt at that point that my idea had lost some of its, you know, claims to originality.
I enjoyed the documentary, and the book as well. However, I remain attracted to the idea of something a little bit different, and ideally more collaborative. I don’t have, at this point, any specific agenda about shaping a particular meaning of MLK Blvds. Maybe my generalizations above are all wrong — certainly Tilove and Falco’s book (which says that there are 650 MLKs in the U.S.) suggests different points of view.
Now I have somewhat belatedly become familiar with Flickr, and decided upload a batch of my MLK Blvd photos from 2003. These are now part of a "group pool," and anyone who has pictures — or wants to make pictures — of any MLK Boulevard, or Avenue, or Street, can contribute. I make no claim to being any kind of photographer, but to see the group, go here. Questions? Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.