This photograph was taken some time between December 2000 and February 2001, while standing in the middle of Ninth Street with a Nikon film camera mounted on a tripod, with one eye on the composition, and my other eye watching for oncoming traffic. I had been waiting to discover the correct way to document this corner of Ninth and University for months, or years, and yes, “document” had crept into my photographic vocabulary at this point.
A few months before making this image, I had seen an exhibit of Walker Evans’ work at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Evans was a strong proponent and practitioner of black and white documentary photography, working for over 50 years to document the Great Depression and both rural and urban America. The creative interpretation I had been seeking with black and white photography in the late 90s had begun to give way to a more literal documentary approach in the early 2000s, influenced in part by photographers like Evans. For some reason, I began to feel that it was necessary to document my city before what I was seeing and taking for granted was changed irrevocably.
Two years after photographing this familiar corner of downtown Columbia, the Heidelberg restaurant was consumed in a fire, and Osama’s, badly damaged, eventually moved to the north end of Ninth Street. The Heidelberg was later rebuilt on this corner.