PROJECTS: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
"Wildness is a necessity." -- John Muir
Seven and a half miles of beach stretch along the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in the Ocean View neighborhood of Norfolk, Virginia. There are few, if any, spots in Ocean View where one can actually see the Atlantic. It's a place of inherent contradictions. Vulnerable to weather's every whim, the connection to the natural world -- even if not embraced -- can't be denied. Once a rowdy playground for sailors, the picturesque seascape was rampant with drugs and prostitution. Over the decades, it's been a siren call for transients and misfits.
But low rent in Ocean View also provides a way out of the projects for working-class families. For them, the beach is free. And it's always there. Ocean View is an area filled with pride, yet perpetually changing. Old cottages are being bulldozed to build million dollar homes. "We're gonna reclaim some of this property, and make it what it should be," said a woman who moved to the neighborhood's affluent subdivision a few years ago. Competing desires are at the heart of this community.
Gentrification is far from egalitarian. Though lower crime is an obvious upside, other effects of the changing demographics are far murkier. They are, as the saying goes, somewhere between the devil and the deep blue sea.
When I first moved to Ocean View in 2009, I found the beauty and complexity overwhelming and intoxicating. I felt compelled to photograph it. Having grown up in a homogenized part of the Old South, I’ve long been drawn to -- and felt liberated by -- difference.
I have never seen a place as eclectic as Ocean View. I find its imperfections attractive and, perhaps more importantly, truthful. As a hairdresser here once put it to me, “A place so diverse must be forgiving.”