Teen photographers stand against gentrification | KUOW News and Information

Teen photographers stand against gentrification

Dec 6, 2016

Gentrification and housing affordability are hot topics in Seattle right now.

They affect everyone, but typically politicians or media-savvy types dominate the public debate.

Now, a group of teenagers has weighed in on the conversation with an exhibition of street photos, captured by their cell phone cameras.

Exhibition organizers asked the teens to document their lives, and the signs of gentrification in their neighborhoods.

The show, “We Still Live Here,” was co-curated by Aaron Counts.

“We live in the selfie era,” Counts explains. “So we wanted the show to look a little bit like that.”

Counts is an artist mentor for the Creative Justice project, an arts-based alternative to incarceration for King County youth, sponsored by the county’s arts and culture agency, 4Culture. All of the participating artists are alumni of the program.

Counts was inspired by the work of late photographer Mary Ellen Mark, and artist Martha Rosler, who has focused her work on housing rights.

Counts finds the pace of Seattle’s gentrification alarming.

Creative Justice alums John, left, and Faisal, center, with artist mentor Aaron Counts, at Gallery4Culture.
Credit KUOW photo by Marcie Sillman

Given that he spends his days working with youth, he thought it would be interesting to see the problems it raises  from their perspective.

Faisal, 16, has first-hand experience with gentrification. He and his mother lived in a low-income apartment in West Seattle.

“But they tore it down, and the building next to it, to build condominiums,” Faisal says. “They basically tore down the low-income housing and they made us move out.”

Faisal’s family eventually relocated to an affordable apartment near Sand Point Way Northeast, near Lake Washington, but it’s across town from the community they knew well.

16 year old Faisal's self portrait, part of the group show "We are still here" at Gallery4Culture
Credit photo by Faisal Provincial

Faisal and fellow teen photographer John went back to West Seattle’s Delridge neighborhood to chronicle the new construction there. The teens also managed to capture some light-hearted moments; silly photos of themselves getting dressed, or hanging out with their children.

John says his infant son inspired him to participate in the project.

“It’s crazy to think my son is growing up in this environment,” he says. “You never know if you’re safe. It just scares me.”

The exhibition “We Still Live Here” is at Gallery4Culture in Pioneer Square Dec. 7-15.

JoJo Gaon, curator of show.