127: Keith Dannemiller

Keith Dannemiller 
City Bus, from the series "Urban Ecology"

Urban Ecology
As a young boy growing up in Akron, Ohio, I lived in a pink house beside a forest. “The Woods”, as it was known to me and my friends, was, for us, vast and mysterious. Its tall trees, open fields and muddy bogs were there for us for the discovery. During those years we roamed where we wanted, but we never found where the forest ended.

In those innocent days, to look around an oak tree -- for the pleasure and experience of finding what was on the other side -- was just a game. But today, when I look back, I realize it was also instructive and formative.

That experience gave me a model for my photographic searches when I was a young man and was living in San Francisco. There I looked -- literally and figuratively -- to discover who or what was, not around the next tree, but rather around the next corner. Crowded streets replaced forest paths, but the conclusion was the same: to wander the streets, like playing in the woods, would give me the opportunity for discovery. A camera could sometimes be, a ticket to worlds different from mine and always a way to record where I had gone and preserve what I had seen.

Today, here in the Historic Center of Mexico City, that exploration continues, motivated by an unfulfilled curiosity and a blind trust. I trust that the city will always tell me its story. One just has to be open to its light, its odors, its sounds, its movements. I don’t go to the Centro with a preconceived notion of what I want to photograph. Rather, I let the streets divulge what they will. The difference resides in the ability to see urban scenes not as static sets, but as something in process that begins and ends every day. I try to be a witness as to how people relate among themselves, and more importantly, how they relate to each other given their immediate environment: the streets, the buildings and the public spaces.

Although it is ‘historic’, the Centro is a modern and truly dynamic space. As Jane Jacobs, the noted urbanologist has stated: “ A city ecosystem is composed of physical-economic-ethical processes active at a given time within a city and its close dependencies.” Being a photographer of this ecosystem with unique characteristics, those urban ‘processes’ give a basis and a reason to my search. To be able to express them photographically, accords a rich narrative that encompasses, in the best of cases, past, present and future. And in place of one simple representation -- as if the image were a mathematical equation -- or one simple truth, hundreds of interpretations are possible.

Those adventures of long ago, that I thought were just kid’s games, are still part of the same, continuing process: a personal chronicle that rescues me from the immensity of this city without limits that surrounds me.

- Keith Dannemiller
17 October 2012
México, DF