As humans we like to think that we are observant, keenly aware of our surroundings and whereabouts. So sure of where we are that the need for a GPS or a map may not even get a second thought. Although, what are the parameters for this awareness?
Here at Xavier these parameters are rather small, Bellarmine to Elet, maybe a grand total of a half-mile, with everything one could possibly need fitting on a campus that doesn’t even have a main road. This calls into question what lies outside Xavier and what could those surroundings uncover about the people we encounter each day?
This exact question is what inspired the entirety of my photography final. I have always found the relationship between the physicality and the meaning of a front door to be so intriguing. A door is the entrance to one’s home and says a lot about the home and even the personality of those inside the door. While other children may have collected snow globes or post cards from vacation destinations, I was the girl snapping pictures of architecture and the types of doors each place had.
When I first came to the Cincinnati area and began exploring outside the “Xavier bubble,” I came across the amazing variety of neighborhoods that Cincinnati offers. While these neighborhoods were drastically different in appearance, I also began to notice the stark differences in economic prosperity. In Cincinnati, one minute you are in suburbia surrounded by colonial-style houses, and the next minute you are in an area once greatly affected by rioting and violence.
When offered the opportunity to create a photography project, I decided to do the thing I wanted to have an excuse to do: take geeky pictures of doors and experience the disparities existing just a few steps from our university.
You may be asking — what could be so special about driving around the surrounding areas of Cincinnati and taking some pictures of random doors? You would be correct; taking pictures of front doors with no real aim in mind becomes meaningless unless you have an exact aim in mind. I decided to take a look at the demographics of the people that live behind these doors. After deciding to take a grand total of fifty pictures, I then researched areas of Cincinnati that fit into four different median income brackets. These were an income of less than 20 thousand, 20 to 50 thousand, 50 to 100 thousand, and then over 100 thousand. Within my chosen areas, the percentage of the total Cincinnati population that resides in that income bracket was then used to decide the total number of pictures I wanted. In case you are lost, just bear with me — the pictures will all make sense.
Blue Ash Doors
What I truly want to talk about, though, is what I took away from this venture. Besides running up to each door and easily breaking trespassing laws, I gained a far deeper understanding of those that suffer from the “gap” that the news covers very minimally. The United States has long fought the gap that exists between the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy. While I count my blessings each day that I am fortunate enough to reside somewhere in the middle of that gap, the majority of people reside towards the other end. Until one decides to purposefully step outside of his or her comfort zone and look further than the mere appearance of something, the “gap” doesn’t necessarily exist.
By seeing the rawness of the doors in Over-the-Rhine versus the well-kept doors of Indian Hill, I was able to gain a glimpse of the lives behind each door. The disparity that I found between a high-income place like Indian Hill, located about 9 miles from Xavier’s campus, and Over the Rhine, which has long struggled with high unemployment rates and lies only 3 miles from campus. I began to wonder how places that are so different could exist a mere 15-minute car ride away.
A Door in Indian Hill
For me, each of the doors that I took a picture of paints a wonderful picture of the society in which we live. The message became vividly clear as soon as I began printing each individual door: observe each and every piece of the environment around you. When you do, don’t ignore the questions that pop into your head because it is those questions that make a society stronger. A door may be a part of a house to allow some things in and keep certain things out, but I discovered just how perfect an example the simplicity of a door could be. Throughout this project I completely forgot that this was something for school. I became so passionate about the knowledge I was gaining that it was all that I could talk about. It was in those times that I realized the power of passion and, even more, the power of communication. Find your passion, live it and spread it, even if it means waltzing into people’s yards and taking pictures of their front doors.