Documenting city's memorial graffiti
DISCLAIMER: Some of the photos contained within the link contain explicit language.
In 1999, Peter Barry began documenting the memorial graffiti he was seeing throughout Baltimore while roaming the city streets.
"Troy was my first, across the street from the Sugar Hill Tavern on Druid Hill Avenue in 'Whitelock City,'" Barry told me. "I asked people, 'You know what R.I.P. means?' 'It's on tombstones!' they said."
"I started to record the images because I felt people were not aware of the scale of the graffiti citywide. I wanted to show the amount, the connection."
With a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, he bought film and scanned images from all over the city. Tombstones, names, birth and death dates, liquor bottle and teddy bear altars, short messages that he calls "utterances" ("Solider from cradle to the grave," "Death before dishonor," for example). He took before and after pictures, of the graffiti tags and attempts to cover them up. One of the photos was taken at a gathering following the 2002 firebombing of the Dawson house - the graffiti was in full view of a ceremony that involved community leaders and elected officials.
One of the most striking to me, besides some of the messages left on the sides of buildings, was a collection of empty bottles of malt liquor. There must have been hundreds.
Barry said he wrote a note to himself in 2004 when he realized that many residents didn't even realize the graffiti was there: "We must hold the mirror up. There should be no bliss for those who choose to ignore."
"This is why I photograph, to tell stories," he said.
Click here to see Barry's slideshow of pictures. There's 72 in all.