Murrow Park Photography Exhibit Connects Community
Boards covered in photographs lined the edge of Murrow Park in front of the World Bank as Preacherman Lance invited pedestrians walking down Pennsylvania Avenue to take a look at the July 3 District Displaced one-day exhibition.
“God bless you all! Go to districtdisplaced.com for more pictures! Here, take a business card!” he called.
Some people slowed down to glance at the exhibit on their walk by. Others stopped and stayed for a few minutes, some for over an hour. Aleia T. said she came to the exhibit after passing the park earlier in the week.
“Lance had yelled out to my friend and I, and you can tell he’s very passionate. He even spelled out the District Displaced website for us, so I decided to come check it out,” Aleia said.
As Lance and Aleia discussed his favorite photographs, David, another District Displaced contributor who stays at Murrow Park, pointed out some of his favorite photographs to the crowd. Many of his pictures were taken on the banks of the Potomac River, some during the day and some while the sun set over the river. David’s favorite sunset picture is of a couple fishing on the banks.
“They were real Native Americans and I’m Cherokee Indian,” David said. He calls himself an “environmental photographer.” Growing up near the Chesapeake Bay instilled a love of the water in him from a young age. But his photographs also reflect his day-to-day life in Murrow Park.
One picture in particular, he said, tells an important story. “I took this one because this bag flew towards this woman in the wind. She didn’t see it, but it almost touched her. It could have had needles in it and one could have struck her. She could have gotten HIV. I want people to know that bags on the street can be dangerous and that they should look out for them,” David explained.
David isn’t new to photography. He said his first camera was a Polaroid that he had in 1984, using it to photograph family weddings and church events. Glen, another District Displaced contributor, has also been passionate about photography for a long time. “I’d look up pictures online, save them, and then blow them up as prints,” Glen said.
Glen’s pictures focus on urban life in D.C, especially the people and animals he encounters. “After someone says it’s okay to take their picture, I like to catch them while they’re doing something. I like that a lot more. I can’t really explain it,” Glen said as birds gathered around him. “I also feed the birds every day. I like to throw one piece at a time and see who gets it.”
He recently moved back into Murrow Park after staying at a bridge encampment. “They were kicking out people from Watergate and Rock Creek, so I left after they put a note on my tent saying I couldn’t leave it unattended. I was under that bridge because there was wind, and I could have a fire pit.”
Glenn doesn’t plan to stay in Murrow Park much longer and intends to relocate to another part of the District. Two other Murrow Park residents, Walter Elliot and his fiancee Sandra are also planning to leave the park soon.
“I’m going home in two weeks,” Elliot told Street Sense. Home for Elliot is Lynchburg, Virginia. Sandra recently found Elliot’s sister on Facebook; the siblings hadn’t spoken in fourteen years. Elliot and his sister reconnected and the sister found Elliot and Sandra jobs on a farm.
“I’m a black hillbilly,” Elliot said, motioning down to his outfit: a cowboy hat, bandana, and boots. “I cry night and day. The city makes me ill. When I was in the country, I was a lot healthier.”
Sandra described always wanting to live on a farm. “I’m from West Virginia,” she said. “He can take care of the pigs, I’ll take care of the chickens.”
Elliot met District Displaced founder Mark Thomas for the first time during the event. District Displaced distributes disposable cameras to people experiencing homelessness to document their daily lives and exhibit what is most important to them. Before he moves to Lynchburg, Elliot intends to learn more about photography. “It’s never too late to be a photographer,” Elliott said, “and also, before we leave, I’m getting a pole and going fishing on the Potomac.”
As the park began to fill with more people interested in the project, Lance stayed busy offering everyone food and water. Victor, another District Displaced contributor, snapped photos of the crowd. Victor has been with District Displaced for two years, and was interested in photography before meeting Thomas. The Nikon camera he once owned was stolen.
“I’ve been told I have a good eye,” he told Street Sense, pointing out a picture of a bird resting the fingertip of a park statue. He pointed out his photos of last winter’s snowflakes, which he calls “little tinkerbells.”
Victor is a fifth-generation Washingtonian who graduated from George Washington University. He has worked on tech projects for the Department of Justice, Discovery Channel and the United States Navy. When his parents fell ill, he left his job to care for them. He used up all his savings in the process. Because his mother was the victim of an equity scam, her house was no longer in her name by the time of her death. As a result, Victor has been without a home or his family for six years.
He is currently working on a sci-fi project and is interested in virtual reality design. When asked what he would change about the District if he could redesign its reality, Victor had plenty of ideas.
“I would send the Congressmen back to their Districts and have all the house bills online so constituents could access them and the Congressmen could vote online. Then legislators wouldn’t need to travel as much and we could cut their salaries in half. They could be in their communities. We need the social communication of primitive societies mixed with the technology of modern societies,” Victor said.
As he explained his redesign of Washington, more students and families gathered around the photos. Clothing and shoe donations were organized into bins. Conversations and laughter echoed down Pennsylvania Avenue as the crowd gathered for a group picture. The only District Displaced contributor not present was Robin, who Thomas said was housed by Pathways to Housing D.C. in April.
“God bless you!” Lance said to a passing family before he turned his attention back to the event, “Did everyone get enough food? There’s enough for everyone!”