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A view of Newark's Main Street. An architectural photography class at UD
is working with the city of Newark on historic preservation of Main
1:25 p.m., Nov. 11, 2013--Some say a picture is worth a thousand words.
But to a class at the University of Delaware and the city of Newark, a picture can be worth a lifetime of historic preservation.
In David Ames architectural photography course, a team of graduate
and undergraduate students is photographing historic buildings on Main
Street. They have joined with city planners to help document whats
there for survey, design, promotion and preservation.
On a recent blustery day, junior Jessica Lang and senior Marek
Jaworski strolled down Main Street photographing the buildings on their
list. They were supposed to focus on capturing one primary detail of
each building -- starting at the Post Office and ending at the former
Marine Corps recruiting building -- and one perspective shot.
We look for things like a balcony, designs on a railing to tell the
types of buildings, and where it is, to preserve the history of the
building, Lang said.
The class was divided into five teams of two, said Ames, professor and director of UDs Center for Historic Architecture and Design, part of the School of Public Policy and Administration.
Each team was armed with a list of buildings to document, and once old
Main Street was complete, the class moved on to East Main Street and Old
Theyre having fun, Ames said. Its part of the learning process.
It motivates them. They know its more than just an exercise.
Years ago, Ames worked with the city to help conduct a survey of
Newarks historic buildings. But the city didnt keep it up-to-date,
said city planner and Downtown Newark Partnership administrator Ricky
Nietubicz. Ames said the technology used at the time was outdated,
This year, the Newark planners approached Ames to see if he wanted to
help do it all over again. Ames was willing and eager to give his
students a real hands-on experience, and decided to use Flickr as a
database and warehouse for the photos.
By using the online photo-sharing site, the city has access to the
photos during every step of the process, even before Ames students are
finished. Photos can be manipulated, tagged, classified and quickly
surveyed. They can also be shared.
On a recent afternoon, Ames and members of the class sat down to look
at the first round of photos. He asked whether they had fun.
Students spoke up: Cars and people make it hard.
Obstructions are hard to photograph around.
The time of year is tough; theres no light exposure.
The class is, first and foremost, a material culture photography
class. The students first learned about historic architecture. Then they
learned how to use their digital cameras, how to achieve the desired
lighting, how to frame their shots.
Then they learned what elements of a building are necessary for
documenting historic buildings, usually a detail that defines the
building or an elevation or perspective shot.
Ames went through each teams photos with the class, listening to
their experiences and how they chose the photographs that ended up on
the Flickr page. He gave them tips about framing, lens choice and their
use of perspective.
As the students talked about their photographs, Nietubicz weighed in.
He explained a lot of people think most of Main Street is brick, but
their photos demonstrated otherwise. He talked about the new Newark
architecture, the false chimneys being added as architectural details
and the cobblestone work in some new buildings.
The work Ames students are doing is invaluable, Nietubicz said.
Their efforts work toward preservation, but also toward understanding
what is already there, what elements unify the diverse buildings on the
street and how the development of updated guidelines can influence
future historic buildings.
We can figure out where we are going based on where we have been, he said.
The project is part of a larger Downtown Delaware program
through the Delaware Economic Development Office, modeled after a
similar national program. Newark has one of eight Main Streets in the
There are no accidents in the design of a unified place, Ames said.
Often, people argue that new development of old spaces ruins the
historic character. But the upper floors are usually left untouched.
Ames believes the changes reflect how the street develops and evolves.
For many students, they were surprised to find the commonalities
among Main Streets buildings, even when they differed. The white marble
and ornate floral columns on the M&T Bank Building are echoed in
the Post Office, for instance.
Travis Olson, a first-year graduate student in historic preservation,
said the project helped him engage with Main Streets buildings, which
had seemed cold to him before.
Nietubicz said the project was helping him take a step back from the buildings he sees day in and day out.
For the students its an educational experience, he said. The
students know what they are looking for and they have an eye for
composition. They are not all from here and have a fresh perspective, a
fresh set of eyes and talent.
Ames said the hands-on experience is stock and trade for people who
embark on career paths in historic preservation or in architectural
Our mission in public policy is research and education, outreach, training them for their career, Ames said.
Lang and Jaworski dont think they will pursue careers in historic
preservation or even in photography. Both have enjoyed it as a hobby,
they said, and found the class formative and exciting.
It brings a whole new perspective to whats cool about buildings,
things you dont look at in detail, Lang said. You notice all the old
buildings on Main Street you never noticed before.
On helping Ames and the city with a project larger than the class itself, Lang said, Its cool he gave us that responsibility.
Article by Kelly April Tyrrell
Photos by Evan Krape and David Ames
Originally published by UDaily
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