The Heights photo exhibit depicts the rich diversity of City Heights San Diego residents; the community they nurture and the humanity shared by all. The Price Center commissioned Matt Gainer, USC Digital Library Director and USC Price School adjunct professor, to make the photographs for the USC Innovating to End Urban Poverty Conference on March 27 and 28 in 2014.
Along with using a large format wooden field camera, Gainer’s process for making portraits often involves interviews. This enables him to have a deeper understanding of the people he photographs, and for them to play a role in how they are ultimately rendered. The process is laborious, but leads to photographs that are visually powerful, nuanced renditions of the people they represent.
Excerpt from Matt Gainer’s introduction:
“It’s a brisk January morning in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego, and I’ve just finished walking several miles of side-streets, alleys, and thoroughfares, hoping to get to know the community, and to find inspiration for photographs. The buildings here have the same weathered stucco façades that pepper much of Southern California, and the people on the street are incredibly diverse for such a small geographic space. Everyday I’ve worked here I’ve encountered beautiful, simple exchanges.
My experience with this project has been one of constant discovery, and of immense generosity from the strangers who took time to tell me their stories, share their lives, and allow me to photograph them. My hope is that having these photos here at the conference will help put a face to the important research, ideas, and decisions that emerge from the Innovating to End Urban Poverty conference. I also hope they remind us that as we go about the business of shaping policy, planning, and development, there are lots of folks already working on the same questions, issues, and places, whose local perspective and experience might be of value to our efforts.”