The Photography of Cleveland SGS

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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.

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The Hyatt Regency at the old Arcade, Superior Avenue. (Dave Hawkins)

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Domino's Pizza, Lorain and W. 110th

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Stefanec's Barber Shop 3227 Superior Avenue East Cleveland.

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The Shoe Doctor, Hyatt Regency Arcade.

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.

daves

Good old Dave's Mercado, 3301 Payne Avenue

PJ's Luncheonette, Colonial Arcade

PJ's Luncheonette, Colonial Arcade

NW corner of Biddulph & Pearl

NW corner of Biddulph & Pearl

Tony's Family Motors, Lorain Avenue

Tony's Family Motors, Lorain Avenue

Sportman Lounge

Sportman Lounge

Public Square

Public Square

Shay's Restaurant, E. 40th and St. Clair

Shay's Restaurant, E. 40th and St. Clair

W. 25th

W. 25th

Wrestling event, W. 65th Dollar Paradise parking lot

Wrestling event, W. 65th Dollar Paradise parking lot

Carnegie Avenue

Carnegie Avenue

Bellaire-Puritas Arts Festival

Bellaire-Puritas Arts Festival

Charity boxing event, Halcyon Mason Temple

Charity boxing event, Halcyon Mason Temple

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.

6004 Grand

6004 Grand

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Joy Cranfield Memorial

Joy Cranfield Memorial

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“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.

-AS

11 Comments

Filed under Art, Headline, Real Estate, The Big Urban Photography Project

11 responses to “The Photography of Cleveland SGS

  1. Pingback: clevelandsgs.com » Blog Archive » It Takes One To Know One

  2. schmange

    It’s funny, I just ran into that guy Dave Hawkings at the arcade for the first time today. He was awesome. This is really a small town.

  3. Megan

    Ang,

    This is awesome! It’s funny too, the way these pictures are done, and some of the scenes- is very similar to the feeling you get in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh to me has and will always be a really big town. Everyone is down to earth, friendly and honest.

    I think Youngstown has the same qualities, but are just a bit too dispersed now. Maybe if we can find a way to have the suburbs be proud of our city, it will improve. So amazing pictures like this provoke these ideas… oh my bleeding heart 😉

  4. Bob Mason

    What a captivating series of photos. You have gathered the flavor of parts of Cleveland the rest of the world, including those suburbanites who live so close but so far from the soul of your city. But widen your lens. Look at other parts where there is beauty and character: Cleveland Heights, the square at Shaker Heights, the university area, the life at the Cleveland Clinic, the sound of fans raging with the Cavaliers, and on and on. Then you can publish a grand book about the suffering and the spirit of this American city. There is more here than meets the hurried glance. Congratulations!

  5. Josh Klein

    When I first saw the SGS sign at W. 25th and Detroit, I thought it was some graffiti crew’s work. This is great stuff. I can’t wait to go through all of the flikr pages.
    Bob Mason: This IS the beauty and character of Cleveland.
    Thanks SGS. There are photos that I’ve meant to take myself on just the first two pages.

  6. Brad

    If they were to “widen” their lens it would become something other than what it is … right?

  7. Denise

    They need to do more stories. I check the blog everyday.

  8. Special K

    Great find Angie and great work, SGSers. What am amazing set of images.

  9. Faith

    This is by far the best web site in Cleveland. Great job Rustwire on doing a story on this group of photographers.

  10. You know what I keep thinking is, what would these businesses look like if they had access to credit and capital?

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