How do you illustrate urban planning? Maps, renderings, illustrations, charts and graphs? It is not an inherently exciting or focused visual story.
So, when assigned to work with Tyrone Beason on this story about one of the city’s urban planners, we aimed to focus in on her specialty – displacement. We planned to look at who suffers as property values go up, transportation gets more difficult, and prices rise in general.
Working with my editor, Danny Gawlowski, we thought of projecting the images of people who had been displaced, or were in danger of being displaced, from the neighborhoods they or their businesses called home. We thought that the “ghostlike” aesthetic would be eye-catching but also highlight the fragility of our connection to place.
Finding people to participate in the project proved to be difficult – although gentrification and displacement is happening at an alarming rate, it’s not easy to round up people who want to talk about it on camera. I ended up finding four subjects, a former resident and a former business owner from the Central District, a current business owner in Othello, and the Somali Community Services director in Rainier Beach.
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I started by photographing and interviewing each subject on a black backdrop, which would hopefully drop off in the projected image. I then selected a still portrait of each subject and took a one-minute clip of their interview to play as a projection.
I had never done projection art before, but I knew that I would need a bright projector. We ended up renting a 3,000 lumen projector from Glazer’s Rentals, and they also helped us out with a large battery (really large, more than 100 pounds) to power it on location. The biggest worry for me was how to power the projector, as some tutorials recommend wiring a high-wattage inverter to your car battery. But the large power source provided a clean current as to not damage the projector.
For the video portion of the story, Gawlowski had an idea to play with the playback speed of the projection versus the “real life” scene in the background. So, I took a one-minute clip from each interview and exported it, slowed down times 10, to be 10 minutes long. So after we had projected the still into the scene and photographed it, we played the 10-minute long video that showed the subject talking really, really slowly.
In post production, we sped up the final clip times 10 to be one minute long, and matched the original audio of the interview, to show the person in the projection talking at normal speed but the scene around them to be moving 10 times as fast. I didn’t quite know how it was going to turn out, but I was pleased with the results.
A big thank you goes out to Glazer’s Rentals, Gawlowski and video editor Corinne Chin. Without their unfailing help and positivity, this project would not have been possible.
Be sure to check out the story.