Adieu to the Rochambeau


September 24, 2006|By Doug Kapustin | Doug Kapustin,Sun Staff

In a city where progress is constantly celebrated, where city blocks are cheerfully condemned and replaced with office parks or where high-rise subsidized housing is imploded with fanfare, it was somewhat surprising to me to see the varied mood of the crowd that gathered on North Charles Street between Mulberry and Franklin last Saturday, when the first pieces of facade were stripped from the venerable Rochambeau apartment building.

Some had come to shed a tear and pay last respects to a 100-year-old Baltimore landmark while others showed up with their cell phone cameras on a dreary day to calmly document the end of an era.

Armed with something a bit more substantial than a cell phone to record the beginning of the end for the Rochambeau, I faced the challenge of photographing a giant mechanical claw 70 feet in the air and those reacting on the ground in the same frame.

The Sun's photo editors chose to use a two separate images: one with debris from the building crashing to the sidewalk and another with a group of onlookers, well, looking on. Still, I was compelled to try to include some of both in the same shot. Putting the camera on the sidewalk, an interesting composition was made in this frame as one by one, people would walk by, stop and stare skyward for a few minutes to watch the demolition.

While there were many distraught to see the structure coming down, the fact that it is not being transformed into a parking garage or office building, but rather a prayer garden for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, could be of some consolation.

That didn't keep Lisa Pintzuk of Owings Mills from reacting to the image on the front of our Maryland section last Sunday.

In a letter to the paper she noted: "The sad photo of the beginning of the end of the Rochambeau made me wonder why any religious organization would chose to destroy a building that could provide housing in a city with so many in need. I hope that when the planned "prayer garden" is complete, it can become a place for people to come and pray for a place to live."

If our photos help provoke such thought and reaction from our readers, we feel as if we've done our job.

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