Using vintage cameras and throwback darkroom tricks, photographer Esther Hidalgo documents D.C.’s development and urban decay in “You Were Here,” an exhibition at the BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown, Md.
Hidalgo, a Corcoran College of Art and Design grad, photographed neighborhoods in Northwest, Northeast, and Southeast D.C., including U Street, Columbia Heights, and Petworth. “I usually find my subject matter just by walking around the city on my way to do different things—-living life,” she says.
Despite the sites’ disrepair, Hidalgo, who grew up in the area, feels wistful about the losses she documents. “Many of the structures and locations in my works—-areas that were so familiar to me—-have radically changed or no longer exist,” she says. “At the start of this project, I didn’t expect to feel so nostalgic, but now I do. In this way, the series is evolving to be part documentary project and part love letter to the place I call home.”
Hidalgo sometimes uses techniques and products like solvent transfers, liquid light on canvas or paper, cyanotypes, and Van Dyke Brown, but for this exhibit, she’s focused on unaltered black-and-white. “I felt it was most appropriate for documenting the scenes,” she says. “I also think that my vintage film cameras and toy cameras shared some characteristics with the subject matter. They are low-profile, have a history, and tend to be overlooked.”
There’s also a nearly endless supply of material for her to document. “I don’t see this project ending any time soon,” Hidalgo says. Through Nov. 9 at BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Dr., Germantown, Md. Mon-Fri 10-5, Sat 10-5.