Rogue Photo is a sort of notional imprint that I am starting to organize projects under. Pictures and text together, intended to be made into a cheap mass-produced book. Content over finesse. This is the second such project, and it aims to be more detailed, less political than US, the first one. This project is about alleys, alleys in Bellingham where I live, and in particular the alley behind my house. This is a rough draft of some introductory material.
Bellingham, old Bellingham, by which I mean the Bellingham that is about 100 years old, is a town of alleys. This is not all of Bellingham, there is much that is newer, more modern, with back yards and back lots directly against other back yards and lots. Modern Bellingham has the same curved street suburbs, the co-called coved design which allows more houses with less street, the very opposite of the alley based designs of a century past.
But downtown, and in the neighborhoods near it where I live in one of those throwbacks, every block in sliced down the middle by a narrow, little used roadway littered with whatever bits and pieces concerning the uses it was then and is now put. Gas meters, dumpsters, electrical connections, cooking oil disposal, recycling bins, storm water drains, cable television boxes, telephone connection boxes, access doors for people, access doors for trucks, access doors for cars, parked shopping carts laden with the belongings of the unfortunate, with bollards and concrete aprons and iron grates higgledy piggledy as necessity has dictated over the last century.
There are alleys downtown, with commercial dumpsters and the remains of streetcar tracks, with large-sized gas meters and massive interconnects for anything that needs a massive interconnect. Further out, there are the little alleys behind the 100 year old homes on the tiny lots. Alleys that sometimes provide access to the one car garage, or for household garbage, recycling, and compost pickup. Alleys that provide a little cover for the unfortunate among us to move less visibly about the neighborhood, as well as providing a foraging ground for those who gather cans to recycle for cash to ease whatever pains they have.
In some neighborhoods the alley is little more than a walkway and bike path, all essential services being streetside, to the front of the house. In others, where the alleys were laid out a trifle wider, the lots a little larger, the buildings set back a little farther, garbage pickup happens on the rear of the house and the Garwood compactor trucks thread their way through the maze of haphazardly parked cars and haphazardly set out bins, early in morning, as an occasional householder charges out in a bathrobe just ahead, or sometimes just behind, the truck to roll the bins out hastily, hopefully, to schlep the recycling crates to the appropriate edge for pickup.
In winter the alleys are dark and wet, in summer they are hot and arid. Always, they are a little tucked away, a little hidden. Only the people who live on the alley, really, use the alley, except for the occasional trash-picker, dog-walker, shortcut-seeker. Neighbors meet and chat for a few moments, one parking a car the other tossing a bag of trash into the bin, both with a little free time. More often in the short summer of endless sun, less in the wet winter with her brief, damp, overcast days and endless chilly, wetter, nights.