Fall River’s biggest problem is not 72% of its population using opiates, the 15% unemployment rate, the floundering school system, or the other thing. The problem lies in the city’s leaders, citizens, and local media refusing to see and speak the truth about the city and themselves. It’s us – plain and simple.
In all honesty, we as a community do not see or acknowledge who we really are – a declining city in denial of itself. If we did, Fall River would not be in the situation it is in now.
If we viewed who we are with a critical eye – and did something about it – there wouldn’t be any talk of a casino replacing the New Harbor Mall as businesses providing living wages would be relocating here generating an economic boon for the city.
Nor would the Capital Theater still be neglected in the Arts Overlay District, as the arts would be flourishing downtown. And most importantly, the same type of politicians would not be re-elected again and again spewing out the same empty political rhetoric that only benefits a selected few, as real leaders with real vision would be in power.
Addressing problems require an honest look at them with critical thinking. No one wants to see the bad, but to fix the issue you have to do it. If not, problems continue to fester – suffering from ill-advised quick-fix solutions from people not equipped to make those decisions.
Case in point. Four years ago, I started a project in photographing the city in an honest light. It was an attempt to address and create awareness of the city’s decline.
I photographed the city’s empty storefronts, decaying infrastructure, and the impact of high unemployment with nip bottles stashed in a pipe jutting out of a sidewalk. Instead of photographing the Braga Bridge from the usual viewpoint at Battleship Cove, I went over the river and photographed the city – turning our eye on itself.
My first public showings after the project was completed were outside the city in New Bedford and Tiverton, where it was well received. When it came to my first showing in Fall River at the now-defunct Cherry and Webb Art Gallery back in 2012, my work came under fire.
One person asked why didn’t I photograph Battleship Cove, which has become cliché subject matter to aspiring photographers in the area. I had another person tell me for over fifteen minutes that I should photograph the “good things” in the city.
The point of my project was completely missed by those I wanted to communicate my art with the most. My photos were designed to create awareness of Fall River’s problems, not bash the city. I did not create the empty storefronts or mills. They were already in existence.
When you recognize the truth, only then you will find the right solutions to move forward. This city and its people refuse, or don’t know how, to do that. They are more comfortable and secure in themselves in believing untruths that in reality only will hinder and drive Fall River further down the path of despair – like a casino.
Anyone passionate about Fall River who speaks out truthfully on the city’s issues and its causes are quickly branded as “nay-sayers,” “haters,” and “being negative,” and are told to leave the city if they don’t like it here.
In truth, it’s those who are quick to defend the city that are doing the community a disservice. Their blissful ignorance is condemning the city to death.
Granted, there are those who have a hateful tone when addressing Fall River’s many problems, but I believe it is more out of frustration than anything else. There is a distinct feeling among people here that there is nowhere to turn to in this city. No solutions. No way out.
Only when a problem’s source is identified, then proper solutions can be made to remedy the issue. The problem is, we are the source – and we don’t want to fix it.
It is always hard to look at oneself critically, but for the future of the community, we need to.
And that’s the God’s-honest truth.