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Going beyond the Dome

Westside community members say what they want from the next mayor

“We need lights. I freakin’ hate walking down here in the dark. We tell them all the time, ‘Can you come and fix the lights? Can you fix the freaking lights?’ Can they make the police actually do something? I was robbed last week, and I have not heard anything back. The school right there, it is an elementary school, and they are tearing it down to build a parking lot. And the reason they are saying is that it was underperforming, and it’s like, well that does not mean you have to tear it down, you know? It means maybe get better teachers. I just feel like there is so much more they could do than build a parking lot. That does not really help the students. It helps no one except the parking lot people. It’s for the stadium. They are tearing down the other stadium, why not just build a parking lot there?”
Photo credit: Dustin Chambers
Westside resident, Honor

Atlanta photographer Dustin Chambers has spent the last few years working on a project called Beyond the Dome, which focuses on the communities directly impacted by the construction of the new Falcons stadium, which opened this fall. This area includes the neighborhoods Vine City, English Avenue, and Bankhead and is commonly referred to by residents there as the Westside. The $1.5 billion stadium project, which included at least $700 million in public funds was constructed just blocks from some of the poorest neighborhoods in Atlanta. Chambers completed a series of portraits and interviews of members of these communities about the upcoming election and things they would like to see changed.

— Joeff Davis, Photo Editor

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.



“We need lights. I freakin’ hate walking down here in the dark. We tell them all the time, ‘Can you come and fix the lights? Can you fix the freaking lights?’ Can they make the police actually do something? I was robbed last week, and I have not heard anything back. The school right there, it is an elementary school, and they are tearing it down to build a parking lot. And the reason they are saying is that it was underperforming, and it’s like, well that does not mean you have to tear it down, you know? It means maybe get better teachers. I just feel like there is so much more they could do than build a parking lot. That does not really help the students. It helps no one except the parking lot people. It’s for the stadium. They are tearing down the other stadium, why not just build a parking lot there?” “What I am expecting from the new mayor and what my neighborhood on the Westside needs from the new mayor are more activities for the kids. Give them something to do besides run in the streets. When I was growing up we had a whole plethora of after school activities.  There is nothing for them to do nowadays, so they find trouble. I would like my son to have access to something that stimulates his mind and makes him think. Another thing, the safety of the neighborhood. It's so many abandoned houses. They say we are getting grants from the stadium, but we we don’t see it on this side of the westside, we tried to purchase the house up the street, but nobody knows who owns the property. We can’t get any information from the city, but these abandoned houses are giving these kids opportunities that they can get hurt." “I've been staying here all my life. I feel like I need more opportunities and more jobs for people who messed up in their previous life. You know, who's trying to change or whatever. That’s what I feel like we need, like a second chance. I'm happy they passed that marijuana law, but before that you get caught with a blunt or whatever, they take your license. You don't have a license, you can't drive. Most folks who get locked up or get into it with the law get out on probation. Now you on probation and you can't even get a job. I hate it like that, but I guess that's just how it is. At the end of the day, your bills still due, your rent is still due. If you give a lot of people jobs and we can help build the community or whatever, but if you don't give effort, they only do what they know. They need to make a better opportunity for the city so it wouldn't be all this killing and all this violence because everyone is working and nobody is on the streets. Everybody isn't living in fear or scared.” “We need somebody with a real, true heart and understanding to give us equal chance. Stop looking at our color. Stop looking at where we live, because you’re the one that pushed us here anyways. All these big time politicians and everything. And here’s the thing that’s really degrading and embarrassing to us: That y’all figure we don’t know politics, but we do. The reason we chose not to participate in it is because that’s rigged, too. We built the United States, but we can’t go to the bank to get a loan. Do you think we’re just dumb, stupid, or illiterate? A person knows when they’re being done wrong. Why can a white men gun down a 12-year-old boy in Cleveland, Ohio? Why can this man kill this young boy and walk away scratch free? Something’s got to be really wrong with this government. You can’t justify gunning down a 12-year-old. What is this kid gonna do to you? I say there’s something really wrong with the United States government.” “I am looking for them to put in a speed bump for these cars speeding up and down the street. I am worried about somebody getting hurt. Also, do something with all the empty houses around here. Put the homeless in there. And get rid of all these rats running around here. There are so many rats, it is a shame. There is a lot that needs to be done. They want us to go up there and vote for them, but they are not doing nothing for our neighborhood.” “Whoever becomes the mayor for Atlanta, Georgia, this year. I think one of the first things they would need to do besides fix the streets is get jobs for the people in the neighborhood. Not just construction. Open it up so people can go through entrepreneur programs or get different trades. Let them get jobs doing something they love to do, because if people love to do something, they are going to do it right.” “If you say you want to help my community, I want to see you in my community, putting your hands in it. Don’t just do grandstanding when a big name is involved. If you are going to talk the talk walk the walk. That’s it.” “I want them to do their job. Get these folks out of here selling their dope. People don’t want that all around their house. I found a needle out here today. They’re supposed to have moved most of the stuff. We need their help here. They really need a recreational center so these kids have somewhere to play and go in, like an after school program. Our kids are not trouble. They expect them to be trouble, but a lot of these kids are not trouble kids. All the kids are not bad. While their parents are at work, they play and go to school. I’m willing to work with them.” "When they come into neighborhoods that are predominately black, and they fix them up and other nationalities come in, then they move us out. Anybody that’s on section 8, they move us out and move them in and then we have to go into more expensive neighborhoods where we can’t live. A lot of time we’re pushing our fingers down to the bones and still can’t get ahead because the system is rigged to keep us down. People may say that’s just how ya’ll feel, but if you truly look at it that’s truly the way it is. You got families out here with degrees, my husband has two degrees, but he has a felony that’s 20 years old and can’t get a job. He had to create his own job. It’s hard. More proper police control where they would do their job and not take advantage of us like it’s not okay. But to me, it’s like they get it from the president. Like when he said don’t coddle them when you’re putting them in the car, rough them up. It’s systematic and it’s coming down from the top down to a local level that it’s okay to treat us the way that they treat us. It was hidden, but it’s no longer hidden and it’s coming from the top and it’s sad.  That has nothing to do with the mayor, but it trickles down."


All Photos by: Dustin Chambers

 



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   I went to the funeral for Christina Baber, 25, at Refugee Temple Ministries on the Westside on Saturday afternoon.  She grew up in the English Avenue neighborhood.  On Thursday, she died while sitting on her grandma’s porch in English Avenue. The Fulton County Medical Examiner's office is awaiting toxicology reports to help determine the cause of her death. 
   
   My friend, Ms. Walker, who lives in English Avenue, called me the night before the funeral and asked me for a ride to the church ceremony on Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard.  I picked her up at her apartment the next day and we headed to the church.  When I pulled up to drop her off, she invited me to attend the funeral service.  I had not prepared to see death that day, but I knew I wanted to attend. 
 
     
   I met Walker during my time documenting the evolving English Avenue and Vine City neighborhoods as the new football stadium looms larger by the day. The stadium is adjacent to the Georgia Dome and Georgia World Congress Center, two structures that had a large hand in the continued decline of the cluster of historically black neighborhoods west of Downtown. 
  
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   During the burial ceremony, final goodbyes were said and Baber's casket was lowered, I photographed family-members laying on and kissing the casket.  In these kinds of situations I'm constantly observing if and when people notice me photographing, and adjust my distance and frequency of my shutter based on the looks I get, or don't get.  At this point, I felt accepted as someone who was there to respectfully document a loss.
   
   After the burial ceremony, I found myself back in English Avenue in Baber's parent’s living room. The house was packed with family, including eight little kids running through the maze of people's legs and folding-table legs.  We all enjoyed full plates of homemade baked chicken, fried Church’s chicken, rolls, homemade mashed potatoes, carrots, and peas. 
  
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  As a photographer, I approach these situations knowing full well that I am an outsider, that I have not lived the life that any of these people have, and never had a question in my mind that I would make it past the age of 25, unlike Baber.  However, in every look, every word, every hug and handshake, I want to exude a sense of personal comfort and understanding in hopes of connecting — not as a photographer from another universe who is there to document another species' grief processes, but as a human spending time with other humans.
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   I met Walker during my time documenting the evolving English Avenue and Vine City neighborhoods as the new football stadium looms larger by the day. The stadium is adjacent to the Georgia Dome and Georgia World Congress Center, two structures that had a large hand in the continued decline of the cluster of historically black neighborhoods west of Downtown. 
  
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   I went to the funeral for Christina Baber, 25, at Refugee Temple Ministries on the Westside on Saturday afternoon.  She grew up in the English Avenue neighborhood.  On Thursday, she died while sitting on her grandma’s porch in English Avenue. The Fulton County Medical Examiner's office is awaiting toxicology reports to help determine the cause of her death. 
   
   My friend, Ms. Walker, who lives in English Avenue, called me the night before the funeral and asked me for a ride to the church ceremony on Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard.  I picked her up at her apartment the next day and we headed to the church.  When I pulled up to drop her off, she invited me to attend the funeral service.  I had not prepared to see death that day, but I knew I wanted to attend. 
 
     
   I met Walker during my time documenting the evolving English Avenue and Vine City neighborhoods as the new football stadium looms larger by the day. The stadium is adjacent to the Georgia Dome and Georgia World Congress Center, two structures that had a large hand in the continued decline of the cluster of historically black neighborhoods west of Downtown. 
  
  Walker talked to Baber's mother, told her about me attending the service, and offered for me to make some portraits of the family afterward. She agreed.  About 50 loved ones attended.  Many people cried but sang joyfully as the space filled with music.  Bishop Cooper convincingly reminded the congregation that we were not there to say "goodbye," but that we will certainly "see her later." I made this photo after the service as family-members carried out floral decorations to prop up outside before the casket was carried out, placed in the hearse, and taken to be buried at Forest Hills Memorial Gardens Cemetery near College Park.
   
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  As a photographer, I approach these situations knowing full well that I am an outsider, that I have not lived the life that any of these people have, and never had a question in my mind that I would make it past the age of 25, unlike Baber.  However, in every look, every word, every hug and handshake, I want to exude a sense of personal comfort and understanding in hopes of connecting — not as a photographer from another universe who is there to document another species' grief processes, but as a human spending time with other humans.
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Friday June 10, 2016 11:40 am EDT

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I went to the funeral for Christina Baber, 25, at Refugee Temple Ministries on the Westside on Saturday afternoon. She grew up in the English Avenue neighborhood. On Thursday, she died while sitting on her grandma’s porch in English Avenue. The Fulton County Medical Examiner's office is awaiting toxicology reports to help determine the cause of her death. 

My friend, Ms....

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Friday December 4, 2015 02:20 pm EST

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?  Photographs of concerts this big rarely represent the photographer’s experience. This photo is no different.  For each artist that night, we were allowed to photograph two songs of each act from a weird, VIP fan-filled side-stage pit at the Georgia Dome.  I usually try to photograph one opener to get a sense of where I’ll be shooting from, the light, interesting groups of fans near the stage, and, most importantly, making nice with fans if you’re actually going to be bumping elbows with them once The Taylor has arrived.  After the opener, we’re ushered back to the media holding pen and wait for them to finish.  This is an area that is probably even sadder than you’re imagining.
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?    View the full gallery from the show here
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?  Photographs of concerts this big rarely represent the photographer’s experience. This photo is no different.  For each artist that night, we were allowed to photograph two songs of each act from a weird, VIP fan-filled side-stage pit at the Georgia Dome.  I usually try to photograph one opener to get a sense of where I’ll be shooting from, the light, interesting groups of fans near the stage, and, most importantly, making nice with fans if you’re actually going to be bumping elbows with them once The Taylor has arrived.  After the opener, we’re ushered back to the media holding pen and wait for them to finish.  This is an area that is probably even sadder than you’re imagining.
?    
?    After 40 minutes, we’re ushered back into the Dome, buzzing rapidly now, it was about to happen.  Time is limited, the crowd is twenty times louder, she struts as I attempt to predict the choreography to follow along, looking for a frame that is surprising, or powerful and essential.
?    
?    I think this photo’s scope is powerful.  I am rarely interested in showing what the fans see when they’re there, or what they’d think they wish they’d seen when they aren’t, and I think this photo goes deeper by giving us an honest sense of Taylor’s experience — out there alone, spotlit and glowing amid a vast galaxy of anonymous fans.
?    
?    [/atlanta/taylor-swift-at-the-georgia-dome/Slideshow?oid=15878263|View the full gallery from the show here]
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  string(1649) "       2015-10-29T18:35:00+00:00 Time and Place: More Than Just Blank Space   Dustin Chambers 1306421 2015-10-29T18:35:00+00:00  image-1
?  Photographs of concerts this big rarely represent the photographer’s experience. This photo is no different.  For each artist that night, we were allowed to photograph two songs of each act from a weird, VIP fan-filled side-stage pit at the Georgia Dome.  I usually try to photograph one opener to get a sense of where I’ll be shooting from, the light, interesting groups of fans near the stage, and, most importantly, making nice with fans if you’re actually going to be bumping elbows with them once The Taylor has arrived.  After the opener, we’re ushered back to the media holding pen and wait for them to finish.  This is an area that is probably even sadder than you’re imagining.
?    
?    After 40 minutes, we’re ushered back into the Dome, buzzing rapidly now, it was about to happen.  Time is limited, the crowd is twenty times louder, she struts as I attempt to predict the choreography to follow along, looking for a frame that is surprising, or powerful and essential.
?    
?    I think this photo’s scope is powerful.  I am rarely interested in showing what the fans see when they’re there, or what they’d think they wish they’d seen when they aren’t, and I think this photo goes deeper by giving us an honest sense of Taylor’s experience — out there alone, spotlit and glowing amid a vast galaxy of anonymous fans.
?    
?    View the full gallery from the show here
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Article

Thursday October 29, 2015 02:35 pm EDT

image-1
? Photographs of concerts this big rarely represent the photographer’s experience. This photo is no different. For each artist that night, we were allowed to photograph two songs of each act from a weird, VIP fan-filled side-stage pit at the Georgia Dome. I usually try to photograph one opener to get a sense of where I’ll be shooting from, the light, interesting groups of fans near...

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