How My Art is Capturing a Disappearing Cultural Core

Rachael stands in front of wall with huge blue graffiti letters holding painting Pyromaniac

Photographing My Art in the Urban Core

Since 2011, I have been photographing my artwork using settings from Jacksonville, Florida’s urban core... and those settings are constantly changing or disappearing.

Photographing myself with my artwork was the idea of my husband. At first, I thought that putting myself into a photograph with my artwork was a bit ego-centric. I wanted photographs to be of my artwork, not me... but I also wanted people to connect with my art.

My husband said that a person's experience at a computer screen was very impersonal. He convinced me that people would better connect with my art if they saw the person who created it.

To appeal to my pragmatism, he also said that people could better gauge a painting’s size if I was next to it in some sort of setting.

So, I chose the urban core as my backdrop. I taught my husband how to take photos, and I scouted locations.

I’ve been using buildings and settings with interesting flaws, colors, textures, and graffiti throughout Downtown, Riverside, Avondale, San Marco, Brooklyn, and Murray Hill for 6 years now.

My Photos Preserve What's Disappearing

Over the last 6 years, I’ve watched many building façades and urban settings either change or disappear within the urban core. 

The continual change of façades is very interesting. For example... graffiti appears, a building gets painted, the sun bleaches the building into new colors, new graffiti appears. Or perhaps a building’s façade is the canvas for graffiti war – one type of graffiti appears on a wall, then another appears over it, and then another... and so on.

When I notice an interesting façade, I try to use it in my photos before it changes again.

Urban development is the cause of the disappearing settings. It hasn’t been unusual for me to do a photo session using a location that quite literally disappears within a couple of weeks or months. Trees, buildings… everything just gone.

So, my photographs are capturing more than my artwork in interesting settings, they are capturing parts of Jacksonville’s changing and disappearing cultural core.

9 Photos of Settings from the Urban Core that No Longer Exist

Artist Rachael Harbert standing in concrete structure of urban core with a painting leaning on the structure
#1 location info: Concrete structure brought in to prep for development of Brooklyn area

Artist Rachael Harbert standing in urban core against a graffiti wall holding a painting
#2 location info: Graffiti on wall of an industrial building within Brooklyn

Artist Rachael Harbert sitting in urban core rubble holding two paintings
#3 location info: Rubble from building undergoing wreckage within Brooklyn

Artist Rachael Harbert squatting next to painting on steps of building with graffiti within the urban core
#4 location info: Metal door and steps of building shown in previous photo

Artist Rachael Harbert holding painting in front of house within the urban core
#5 location info: On steps of house within Brooklyn, 328 Chelsea Street

Artist Rachael Harbert holding painting on side of building with a graffiti wall within the urban core
#6 location info: Side of downtown building that burned down

Artist Rachael Harbert standing in front of concrete and graffiti wall within the urban core holding a painting
#7 location info: Free standing concrete wall in downtown 

Artist Rachael Harbert standing in front of brick and graffiti building within the urban core holding a painting
 #8 location info: Side of building in downtown that undergoes regular changes to its graffiti

Artist Rachael Harbert standing in front of large graffiti letters within urban core holding a painting
#9 location info: Side of building within Riverside

Interested in any of the paintings featured in this article?

Please contact me for pricing information or to make an offer. You can also click on the photo to learn more.

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