I’ve seen a lot of photo collections that pay homage to the city of Cleveland. Often times they focus on Cleveland’s grand monuments: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Quicken Loans Arena, the skyline over the lake. They don’t show abandoned buildings. They don’t show poor neighborhoods. These are the visitors and convention bureau’s version of Cleveland. They’re nice, but in my opinion they lack something.
That’s why I think the photography of Cleveland SGS is so refreshing. I don’t know if I’ve seen a collection of photos dedicated to Cleveland that was this honest, that captures Cleveland’s color and personality so well. If you’ve ever worked or lived in the city, you’re bound to find something that you recognize in Cleveland SGS’s 276 Flickr pages, something that has personal meaning to you, an experience you share with the community.
What strikes me looking at these pictures is how vibrant the street life remains in Cleveland. This group has captured the incredible variety of the city’s businesses–something that has been lost in modern, suburban-style development. The contributions of the city’s small business people are apparent in looking at these photos. What was once a Polish or an Irish neighborhood may now be Hispanic or African American but the ingenuity and the enterprising spirit is still there, despite new obstacles.
SGS participants had this to say about their work:
“The truth is we don’t have a clearly defined mission. We are much like the majority of Clevelanders who exist in a world of polar opposites; we have both a hatred and love for our city. We talk of fleeing for greener pastures while knowing that in many respects it is this place that defines us; without it we are not ourselves.
“Places for us usually take the form of small businesses and public space. It is in these places that we’ve met first loves, witnessed the demise of others, purchased penny candy, and probably had that moment that defines us without actually knowing it. It is usually a place with a face attached to it. A sassy cashier, a grumpy short order cook, or a sole proprietor whose personality is the main draw. In our opinion signs and the places behind them are the anchor points of memories and this is why we capture and create with them in mind.
“Cleveland SGS is a group of men and women who have a variety of trades. None of us are confident enough of our crafts to call ourselves artists. We strive to be humble and hold only one thing to be true, Cleveland punishes those who build for kings. By this we mean that defining progress by measuring the distance between Cleveland and other cities results only in a deep depression that will eventually consume us. Cleveland is a city of small places owned and operated by beautiful groups of people. It is these people and their shared experience that are the secret to our success and this is why Cleveland SGS promotes them.”
Rustwire thanks Cleveland SGS for their contribution.