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  • I live in St. Louis County. The same St. Louis County that is home to Ferguson, a once unremarkable name that has since taken on worldwide significance.

    St. Louis County is a hodgepodge of no less than 90 municipalities plus 10 unincorporated areas. My house is in one that lies adjacent to St. Louis city, University City.

    U. City (as it is nicknamed) is one of the few truly diverse areas in a county and city that are as segregated by race as anywhere in the United States. Unusually, the police force here is about 50% black and 50% white, for once in this area a fairly close match to the actual population, which according to the 2010 census, is about 51% white, 41% black, 4% Asian and 3% Hispanic.

    I always feel this is big contribution to the sense of relaxation that I sense when traveling on bicycle or foot through my neighborhood. There's crime here for sure, but not on the levels found elsewhere in the county and city and the racial tensions that were a large contributor to the riots in Ferguson and some adjacent municipalities are muted here. Not absent - I don't believe it can ever be truly expunged alas; there's simply too much social and historical baggage. But respect and consideration play a far larger role.

    So, on the whole, it's a happy neighborhood. There are disparities of wealth, a curious gradient that, not uncoincidentally, mirrors the distribution of white to black as you move from the wealthy south to the modest north. Mostly suburban homes with a little light industry to the east and a thriving Asian commercial strip to the west on Olive Boulevard, the hub of the city is an area on Delmar Avenue known as The Loop, a name derived from the old trolley tracks when St. Louis was a trolley town. It's a restaurant and entertainment area, popular and bustling.

    Over the past few years The Loop has been extensively redeveloped. One mark of this construction is the return of the trolley tracks. The trams are not running yet, but they are not far off. Already the overhead cables are being put in place and the track is now completed, stretching from the U. City Library all the way to the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. As the track was being laid, a concurrent surge of building and refurbishing spread alongside east into the city of St. Louis. The goal is to bridge the gap between U. City and the relative wealthy DeBalivere region of St. Louis City, creating a lengthy strip of prosperous businesses.

    It's not there yet. In between, there's still about a mile of unimproved buildings, steel bar shielded small supermarkets and hair salons, the stereotypical markers of St. Louis poverty. Not for nothing does the trolley line, handsomely split into two tracks in The Loop, converge into a single central railway line running slap down the middle of Delmar Avenue over this stretch. This area has always remained stubbornly resistant to development - gentrification you might call it. Will the trolley finally break this pattern? I suspects bets are being hedged.

    I photographed Delmar Avenue from almost the exact point where the lines come together. Behind me Delmar Avenue stretching into St. Louis City. In front The Loop. A note on the photographs - these are scans of color film negatives taken with an old camera and an old lens. I am shooting film this way more and more these days, finding the relentless perfection of today's digital photography dispiriting.
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