Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bus on Navarro Avenue

Posted by John Henry Baliton, PASADENA, CA -- Alex, the young man in this photo, arrives to a home of former gang members located on Navarro Avenue in Pasadena, California. Typically, in this neighborhood, one would not associate a home full of ex-gang members as a positive thing, but to Alex, it has been a saving grace. When Alex's father decided that he could no longer care for him because of his mental health issues, this was where Alex was dropped off. It is a home that specializes in caring for people just like Alex, and was founded and is staffed by former gang members. Alex attends a special school during the day and receives more specialized care at home after school.

John Henry Baliton is a photographer and graduate of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. You can see more of his work at

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday in the Park With a House Beat

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, ATLANTA GA -- Weather permitting any weekend late spring through early fall is always a good time to have a picnic with family and friends. At these lazy, fun-loving affairs kids play, adults cook, socialize, and somebody is always tossing around a Frisbee or a football. But mix in some House Music and these leisurely warm weather occasions come alive to the beat. All afternoon and well into the early evening everybody – young and old -- dances, sweats, laughs and enjoys the soulful fellowship that the funky beats bring. Nobody wants it to end and everybody looks forward to the next one.

Multiply this by numerous families and friends; throw in a park, some hipsters, bikers, club-crawlers, and even a few aging Deadheads and you have House in the Park. Held in southwest Atlanta’s Perkersen Park the day before Labor Day for the last six years, House in the Park is the brain child of DJ Ramon Rawsoul who realized that unlike Chicago or Detroit, Atlanta didn’t have such a family-friendly House Music event. As some of the Nation’s best House DJs, Rawsoul, Kai Alce, Kemit, and Salah Ananse spin the groove for free purely for the joy of bringing their favorite music to the picnic.

House Music emerged from rubble of the Disco scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. By then popular culture had decided that “Disco sucks”. Even the Bee Gees were booed off the stage at Shea Stadium. Not so for House Music. House initially catered mainly to an African American and Latino audience beginning in Chicago, and then spreading to cities like Detroit, Newark, New York City, Atlanta, San Francisco and eventually overseas. Although its popularity is now wide, it still remains a largely underground scene.

Every city has its own brand of House Music, but its foundation is always Disco’s steady four-on-the-floor beat with varieties of soul, funk, jazz, salsa, gospel and reggae over-dubbed. The result is a multi-layered, highly danceable mix without the more synthetic quality of Disco, a quality that became its downfall. Yet, perhaps it is because of the Disco beat blended with a mix of musical genres that House appeals to such a diverse group of people spanning multiple generations.

House in the Park has become known for attracting all sorts of people. No one is unwelcome – it doesn’t matter what your age, gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation is: getting your swerve on is about peace, unity, and having a good time. In 2009 a crowd of over 4,000 showed up; this year almost 10,000 did. Perhaps it keeps growing because there’s enough going on for everybody including the people who want to dance, those who want to socialize and just hang out, artists who want to paint the scene, musicians who want to jam along with the beat, and the serious barbequers who want to cook with their industrial-strength smokers. The delicious smells, the beat, the artistic creativity, the sweaty heat, the generosity of spirit, and the rhythmic movement of the crowd converge creating a vibratory atmosphere where the drink of choice is bottled water – and lots of it. Not everybody burns calories at House in the Park, but all leave feeling happy.

The bikers didn't dance but they hung out all afternoon enjoying the scene.

This guy was so flexible he could bend over backwards and touch his head to the ground without hands. At first he told me he charges $10 per photo. But I didn’t have any money so he let me take his picture for free. Everybody is generous at House in the Park.

DJs Kemit and Kai Alce, along with the other DJs not pictured here, take turns spinning the groove. Their day was long. Set up started around 10:30am. The music began at Noon and didn’t end until 8:30pm. Then the DJs broke down their set up and headed to the after party which began at 10pm at a local club where they spun until about 3am.

Dancing makes people hungry and for those who forgot to bring a picnic there was Sister E.O.'s spread. A plate of fried chicken, potato salad, mac & cheese and greens was four dollars, or one side dish for a dollar.

This artist’s canvas was blank when the party started at Noon. But by 5 o’clock he had captured the spirit and movement of the dancing crowd in living color. He wanted to finish the painting by the end of the party but he lost too much sun light by 7:30pm.

Deirdre Oakley is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University and Editor of Social Shutter. You can contact her at To view more photographs of House in the Park, log on to our Facebook page.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Introducing Social Shutter

Both researchers with a passion for photography, Deirdre Oakley (Editor) and Angie Luvara (Managing Editor) have come in contact with many others who were also writing articles and taking photos that touch on sociological issues. Frustrated by the small number of venues for these types of work, we decided to launch Social Shutter. Social Shutter is a weekly venue for photo essays and single photos with extended captions about everyday social life. Powered by sociologists, journalists, poets, observers of life, writers, creators and thinkers—all with a passion for photography—Social Shutter will post one new submission every Sunday. We look forward to sharing our stories with you, so be sure to bookmark our site and add us to your Sunday morning reading routine! We will go online this coming Sunday, November 21, 2010.

We are also always accepting new submissions. For information on how to submit works to Social Shutter, click the Submissions link on the right.

We here at Social Shutter are interested in bringing together like-minded people and creating a venue for them to share their works with our followers. Feel free to spread the word to any and everyone you know that would be interested in reading or submitting works to Social Shutter.

Thanks, and we look forward to sharing our works with you, and your works with our followers!

Deirdre and Angie