Internet global photo project includes a-rabs of Baltimore On-line profile tells story of dwindling tradition

February 09, 1996|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,SUN STAFF

It was too cold and rainy to sell fruit yesterday, but Anthony "Frog" Savoy groomed his pony, Michelle, and put her in the harness so the photographer from Philadelphia could take pictures and put them on the Internet.

"The Internet, what's that?" asked Mr. Savoy, a 35-year-old "a-rab" -- one of a dwindling number of men and boys who sell produce from horse-drawn carts in Baltimore. "The Internet, that's TV, right?"

The pictures were taken as part of a one-day project called "24 Hours in Cyberspace," which was designed to demonstrate the reach of the Internet, a global data communication network. The photo shoot yesterday morning at the a-rab stables on Lemmon Street brought a dying tradition together with a new way of communicating.

Once common, a-rabs live an almost rural lifestyle. Fifteen a-rabs were licensed in the city in 1995, down from 60 in 1991. The origins of the a-rabs, or arabbers, as they are also called, are not clear: some say Arabs began the practice in the late 1800s.

"Here I am, trying to use the microchip to save the horse and wagon," said Steven A. Blake, president of the Arabber Preservation Society.

Sponsored by technology companies, 1000 photographers -- including about 800 amateurs -- fanned out all over the world yesterday to record scenes which were then posted on World Wide Web site (http://www.Cyber24.com).

Organizers learned of the a-rabs through a World Wide Web site on open-air markets maintained by a Roosevelt University professor in Chicago.

Michael Bryant, a Philadelphia Inquirer photographer, did the picture-taking. Later in the day, he photographed an Annapolis family with two autistic children who use the Internet to interact with the outside world.

Yesterday's worldwide photo shoot was organized by Against All Odds Productions, which has produced several "Day in the Life" photo books. Organizers said that by day's end, there would be pictures posted from Brooklyn, Malaysia, even the South Pole.

The photographs are supplemented by stories about the Internet written by students around the world.

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