In the early days of City Paper, photography was almost an afterthought, with small, single images—usually a portrait or a photo of a restaurant front—illustrating long stories.
Starting with the editorship of Evan Serpick, who published the first online galleries, photography become as important as the text, often dovetailing it. Editors Karen Houppert and Brandon Soderberg also recognized the importance of including a strong visual component to City Paper’s tradition of longform journalism.
We ran photo essays on Poly boys basketball’s star season, the city’s homeless, the local heroin trade, and even the national Democratic and Republican conventions. The styles of previous City Paper photographers like Jennifer Bishop, Jim Burger, Joe Kohl, Jefferson Jackson Steele, Sam Holden, and Chris Myers, all championed by former art director Joe MacLeod, continued to influence our young shooters.
Those young photographers—like Reginald Thomas II, Audrey Gatewood, and Marie Machin—who came up through the paper’s intern program, are now acclaimed in their own right for their stunning images in every genre from sports to portraiture.
The paper’s visual aesthetic became harder and more socially conscious as our communities demanded more serious coverage. Photographers and writers worked on stories like never before: We took readers inside the shockingly deplorable conditions at the J. Van Story building, spent the last 24 hours with a dealer who was facing a 15-year stint in prison, explored the bars of Baltimore hidden behind the city’s ubiquitous liquor stores, and worked round the clock to shoot the Baltimore Uprising.
We experienced the city’s parties and concerts through the eyes of photographers like Val Paulsgrove, Tedd Henn, Megan Lloyd, and, of course Brendan Fieldhouse, whose style came to define the photos of our annual Best of Baltimore party.
For the final issue, I’ve chosen four photos from my favorite stories that I’ve worked on. It’s been an honor to shoot for the paper, observe its development, and work within communities that would otherwise be overlooked by other publications. And now it’s over.
J. M. Giordano is the photo editor at City Paper.