All photos by DeAngelo Scott – Faces of Baltimore
DeAngelo Scott stopped by the What Weekly office on his way to his first college level math class. He’s just begun his first year at the University of Baltimore, but he’s already made a name for himself in the area.
I mean this figuratively: Scott doesn’t mention his name on his up and coming project, Faces of Baltimore. Not even once. He doesn’t even display his own face.
Faces of Baltimore is a photography project that Scott begun on his birthday in April. “That’s when I got my Nikon D3000,” he said with an excitement that made it clear how much he treasures his DSLR. With his new toy in hand, he took to the streets.
The project is simple: the photographer stops Baltimore folk, takes their picture (with permission), and asks them a few questions. “Usually I’ll just ask them to tell me about themselves…I just want to hear everyone’s story.” He chooses the individuals on a whim, generally looking for those who “stand out from the crowd” or “catch your eye for whatever reason.” He listed a gay couple (“One of their exes showed up! That was really awkward.”) and a French diplomat as two of his favorite subjects.
In just five months, Scott has captured Station North, Charles Village, Fells Point, Towson, and Druid Hill Park among other areas. Those he selects are not, however, always down to be captured. “People are real skeptical,” he said. “For every three yeses I get a no or two. I don’t think people in Baltimore, or anywhere, really, are gonna get used to just getting stopped for a picture at all.”
Despite this ever present shock, the lure of Faces of Baltimore lies not in originality–projects like Humans of New York and the documentary The Faces of Los Angeles have long been capturing the faces of cities’ general population in the name of virtually created unity.
The endearing idea, however, redeems itself by way of its human factors. The earnesty of the young man who birthed the project is remarkable. I’ve heard roughly a billion amateur artists speak of their desire to “hear everyone’s story,” but I’m not sure I’ve heard anyone say so with this level of conviction. He’s not telling you what you want to hear. He’s wearing his heart on his sleeve.
Scott also never claimed to be rapidly changing the world at large. He just takes pictures and puts them online. “This city is usually portrayed in a negative light…so I thought I’d stop some people who were interesting.”
These subjects of the photographs are also worth noting. The nearly 300 photos on the Faces of Baltimore Facebook page (“I’ve probably taken way more, but I don’t post all of them”) feature social organizers such as Martha Cooper and the other organizers of Open Walls Baltimore Project and Downtown Kevin Brown of the Station North Arts Cafe and Gallery. “I hope to get some more community leaders,” said Scott.
Since its genesis in April, Faces of Baltimore has garnered some exposure. Scott has worked with Citypaper, for instance, and has shot a birthday party at Red Maple. Scott seems simultaneously hungry for more opportunities and equally humbled by their existence. “I’ll see certain people who will say they follow me already,” said Scott. “This is amazing.”
One man even contacted Scott and asked him to be photographed. “He’d just gotten laid off from his job in construction. He wasn’t homeless, but he was definitely down and out, on his way down,” he said, quickly adding that “they’re not all sad stories.” Many of Scott’s more jovial and playful portraits make that obvious.
The way he rapidly qualified his previous story speaks to the very reason Faces of Baltimore exists. “I thought I’d try to remove some of the stigma from this city,” said Scott. We’ve oft heard the sentiment. We’ve seen the (perhaps hackneyed) idea, too. But he’s so passionate and driven that we can’t really argue.
There is an infinite number of photography lovers who receive nice cameras as birthday gifts to replace their point and shoots. Few, however, put these tools to such intensive and specific use. Scott already seems quite confident in his young age, and 300 photographs is nothing to scoff at.
As he perseveres and grows as a photographer, I think we can continually expect bolder photos–photos that speak to the positive truths of Baltimore on which he hopes to shine a light. Scott exhibits an eye for the interesting, of which we all know that this city is full. As a face of Baltimore himself—one with hope and determination written all over it—he’s just the right fit to document it. Let’s hope he makes it to class on time, too.