Youngstown, Ohio is often presented in photography as a desolate place filled with decaying buildings—a post-apocalyptic landscape presumably bereft of humans. Recently, the Brookings Institution listed Youngstown as having the highest concentrated poverty rate of any city in the country. There are over 5,000 vacant properties in the city, and Youngstown has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the U.S.
I was born in Youngstown, but I have spent most of my life outside of the city. Three years ago I returned to find my hometown in a state of severe depression. I responded by using my camera to document the blight and decay I saw all around me, in an attempt to understand what had happened here. My interest in Youngstown soon spread to the stories of people trying to make the city a better place.
The main purpose for this work is to show the “other side” of Youngstown. These photographs focus on people not commonly shown in media depictions, as well as those working to contribute positively to the city, whether through community leadership, arts and culture, neighborhood development, or other such venues.
Hopefully, these images leave the viewer with a sense of a Youngstown beyond the headlines of crime and economic collapse. For Youngstown is not yet a city abandoned; instead, it can be a place of both struggle and joy for those who still call it home.