Yesterday, I read in a photography blog, about «how to work a scene». It was really, really interesting, and highly recommended reading. It made me think of something I often experience in photography — I see something, have a feeling of «I know there is a picture in there somewhere», but never manage to frame it.
Now, that has only partly to do with the picture you see here. This is a section of Saint John’s ‘Old North End’, and it’s a sad part. I’ve taken a countless number of pictures from there, but still … never managed to convey the feeling of utter hopelessness I get there.
That’s something different from what he wrote in the photography blog, because here, it’s an emotion. I know I can do it, and I will, some day. It’s partly also due to the fact that I don’t feel comfortable taking pictures there with all the people sitting outside on the steps.
Before I started typing up this blog, I looked through my photos tagged ‘old north end’, trying to show you what it’s really like, but I find they all look ‘too nice’ (!).
There are some nice, well taken care of, buildings too, with people who have probably lived there all their lives, but they are few, and hardly noticeable in all this mess. My partner, who grew up in this part of Saint John, remembers North End as a lively, sprawling neighbourhood, full of people and businesses. Now it’s more like a fire trap — it must be the firefighters’ nightmare.
The above is the smoke, coming out of the latest fire on Victoria Street, on May 18 this year — a fire that took two dozen firefighters several hours to contain.
I’m just reading in the news now, that they’re finally going to take the wrecking ball to what remains of that building.
I wrote that I wanted to convey the hopelessness I feel, going through North End. This is personal — perhaps not all people see it as hopeless. The politicians make a lot of talk about what should be done but I can’t say that I’ve heard any ideas with any kind of substance to them and I don’t have any myself. Yesterday, one of them said that each time they take down a derelict building, something has to be done about the vacant lot — turned into a park or recreational space. Yeah, fine … then all of north end would end up one, huge park, and there are plenty of parks in Saint John.
Some buildings, you can still see how fine and grand they once were … buildings that probably still could be saved by someone with a lot of money and optimism. I’m neither an optimist nor a pessimist — I just don’t see it happening any time soon. I see the sneakers, hanging on power lines, I see young girls pushing baby carriages … girls who are almost children themselves. The number of teenage pregnancies here is overwhelming — one of the largest in Canada. Will these children ever make it out of North End?
These are my thoughts and feelings about Saint John’s Old North End. I can’t say I have any ideas or solutions to this. It just makes me depressed to see this poverty stricken section of this city, the food bank with its barred windows, the numerous, boarded up buildings that no one bothers about … buildings that you really don’t know who’s in there — raccoons or homeless people?! ‘Luckily’ the fire station is located in the very midst of all this.