White Center: So Close, Yet So Far

I admit it. I’ve got a crush on White Center.

I grew up in West Seattle, and if you’re from here, White Center is kind of the handiest butt of regionalistic humor. Rat City, it’s always been called. Known for having a pretty seedy strip of taverns and porn shops and martial arts palaces as its main street (featuring a disproportionately high incidence of public drunkenness, given the size of the town), White Center has a lot to live down to.

Given its location just south of the Seattle city limit on the west side (but not enjoying any Puget Sound waterfront), White Center has been a working class (or, depending who’s talking, “white trash”) neighborhood forever. In recent years, it has grown much, much more diverse.

Today it’s easy to find cars with the bumper sticker: “White Center: Not so white, not so centered”. Like a lot of neighborhoods in transition, it’s a bit scrappy, walking the line between gentrification and entrenchment. It’s got its own blog.

There’s a lot there. Lot of culture, lot of grit. Lot of surprises. I’ve been heading down there, shooting around a little, trying to feel the place out. I think I would like to engage the community in a photo project. Get people to invite me inside their houses. Show how people live. That’s what I really like to do.

Mostly I’ve been shooting with my 4×5 camera, but there’s no place in Seattle to process 4×5 sheet film these days, so I’m saving up to send it off to California. In the meantime, here’s a quick taste of the kind of stuff I’ve been shooting (these from the other day, with the 5D):

Tis the season.

Ah, Garfield, I miss you.

recycling

Open

Quinceañeritas in the Asian import five and dime. Well, one of the Asian import five and dimes.

Shopping carts. There are never enough pictures of shopping carts.

The smoking lounge at the bowling alley

I’m thinking this little set is as much about the snow as it is about White Center, come to give it some thought.

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