White Center sits at the southern edge of Seattle. The 1920’s brought waves of working class people to work in the war industries along the Duwamish. Later in the 1970’s until today, it also brought waves of immigrant families resulting in one of the most diverse communities of the Northwest.
For 17 years I have photographed it’s people — in my makeshift studio on the street to community fairs and parades and walking up and down it’s streets.
A favorite bumper sticker is: White Center — not so white, not so centered.
On Delridge contains photos taken in this makeshift studio mostly on the corner of Delridge and 16th, outside of Lee's Produce and across from Platinum Cuts and Salon.
My photos offer a view of a Seattle that is largely hidden, or certainly not featured in the glossy magazine or newspaper write-ups. This is a Seattle much more like much of the rest of the United States today; a city with a growing immigrant population that comes from all over the globe - Asia, Africa and Latin America. This population is not centered in the fast-growing tech industry but in the traditional Seattle working class of aircraft manufacture, ship building, construction, small industry and the service sector - the same people I work with on the shop floor at Boeing.
Michael aka "King", 2009
Mother and Son, 2002
Dora and her daughter, 2005
White Center: Off Delridge
Time seems to slow down in White Center. It has a small town feel, far from the fancy boutiques and wealth that predominates in other Seattle neighborhoods. Instead, small, mostly family owned businesses add to a more friendly, colorful neighborhood.
When I ask most people what they like most about White Center, the answer is most always "it's diversity".
Captain America and Thor, 2012
Mr. White Center and grandchild, 2013
At the Parade, 2007
Diana and Jennifer, 2001
16th Ave., 2012
Mike and Robert, 2 Friends, a bit down and out, 2010
Hannah and Isiah, 2004
Jose and Gabriela, 2004
White Center: Changing Landscape
The White Center neighborhood at the edge of Seattle is changing.
“White Center has the reputation of being outside the boundary of the civilized world” said Richard Hugo, White Center’s most famous son and poet. It's nickname is "Rat City".
Today it strikes a balance between bars, hair and nail salons, marijuana shops, auto body repair shops, and some fantastic local restaurants.
Last July brought the news that two of the five wealthiest corporations in the U.S. (ranked by market valuation) are based in Seattle. Not surprisingly another recent story reported “Seattle rents now growing faster than any other city.” News like this captures the popular image of Seattle these days — a high tech outpost becoming ever more dominated by the wealthy. This Seattle is pushing the edges and spilling over into White Center.
I wonder where this neighborhood is headed with the wealth and growth spreading just to the north. I expect I may not recognize much of what I’ve taken in another ten years. So, with a bit of a sense of urgency, I have begun to take more images of the landscape.
Wild Bills Auto Body
Thunderbird on 16th Ave
On the Wing Line
I work on the Wing Line at a big aerospace company in Seattle. We work on the factory floor building wings. The pace is demanding and the pounding, drilling and blasting of horns is deafeningly loud. Like most blue collar jobs, our wages and working conditions are deteriorating, but it's still possible to make a decent union wage. I'm not sure if we are what most people envision when they think about the blue collar work force. I doubt it. We are varied in our beliefs and political outlooks and come together daily pumping out wings to meet an incredibly fast monthly rate of 47 airplanes a month. We come from Russia and Kenya, Cambodia and Vietnam, Puyallup and Kent, Washington and elsewhere.
Jon Paul, Tooling Crew
Les, Retired Mechanic
Holidays at Anne's
The only Thanksgivings I have any real memory of are those in the Skagit Valley with Anne's family and friends. It's a feast over a couple of days with time to wander the Skagit's sloughs and Samish Island.