Neighborhood Gentrification, A Photography Documentary

Neighborhood Gentrification is a photography documentary about the inevitable destruction of a culturally rich historical community. This photo documentary captures the destructive process of gentrification in the Dallas neighborhood called Old East Dallas.

Living In Old East Dallas

When I moved into an old house in this neighborhood in 2013, I immediately fell in love with its character. It was full of history and a diverse group of people. My neighbors were African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and some White people. For some reason, I feel more at home in areas that are culturally and racially diverse than ones that are more monolithic. One of the great things about diverse neighborhoods is that they usually also have a wide range of mom-and-pop businesses and restaurants that are a joy to visit.

The neighborhood was also a bit dangerous at night. There was sadly a lot of homelessness in the area as well. Though, I did get to know some of the homeless people on a first-name basis and used every opportunity I had to help them. In some ways, I appreciated the edginess of the neighborhood. It kept me grounded and neighbors friendly and close. My wife and I married in Old East Dallas. In a little church built by Swedish immigrants nearly 100 years ago. The church is actually an official historical marker.

While I lived here, an explosion of new homes and apartment complexes started popping up all over the place. The places I had become familiar with were being bulldozed down left and right. The interesting art deco buildings and mid-century storefronts were disappearing. They were replaced by rows of four to five modern-looking townhouses all smushed together on a property that used to have a single home. Suddenly the rent and home prices started skyrocketing. The neighborhood completely changed within a few years. The African Americans, Asians, and Hispanic people I loved having as neighbors slowly disappeared. Unfriendly rich white millennials took their places.

Photographing The Gentrification

I was shocked to see such dramatic changes take place right before my eyes. I had never seen or experienced anything like this before. The Old East Dallas gentrification process felt destructive and wrong. But I also met residents who had lived there all their lives that were glad their homes finally were worth a lot of money. They told me they enjoyed the new calmness and safety of the neighborhood even though it was sad to see their neighbors of so many years sell their homes and move on.

When I first start documenting these changes I was mostly concerned with capturing the people and characters that were disappearing. Things progressed so quickly that my project shifted to focus more on the sad overwhelming and inevitable nature of gentrification. I started seeing it like I see time and aging. This unstoppable movement forward forces us to change against our will. During this project, I turned 40. I started to feel old for the first time in my life. The interesting and diverse character of my youth is beginning to fade just like this neighborhood.

For this project, I decided to make all the photos on medium format analog film. I felt this format helped convey a sense of nostalgia and timelessness for the project. Also, I love the aesthetic of analog film.