The DC I See—Art of a Vanishing City

By Editorial Team on September 23, 2019

“September 16, 2019 – Pretty soon, you won’t recognize the place. Promise.” Those were the words, inscribed on a developer’s billboard on the corner of 4th & Florida Avenue, NE, in DC, circa 2011, that prompted photographer and native Washingtonian Carolyn Toye to publish her images of the city in a new photobook: The DC I See—Art of a Vanishing City with a foreword by Phil Hutinet, publisher of East City Art.

Since 2004, Toye had quietly pursued her passion to photograph the city, rarely sharing her work publicly. But, after seeing the developer’s words, announcing their plans to develop near the historic DC Farmers Market, she felt it was time to share her images of DC—many of which had already vanished from the landscape, having succumbed to the city’s sweeping gentrification and redevelopment.

Toye explains her process as follows:

“I started my journey in photography in 2004. Less than ten years later, almost everything I had photographed had begun to vanish from the DC landscape. I decided to publish my images of the city, because I wanted to share the beauty of DC, as I see it—both as a photographer and as a native Washingtonian. But, more than that, I wanted to find a way to preserve that beauty, so that it could never be erased—or forgotten.”

The DC I See—Art of a Vanishing City is a retrospective of Toye’s decade and a half-long journey photographing, mostly, DC architecture, from 2005 to 2018. The 104-page photobook includes fifty-two color images, divided into ten themed sections. With images of classic DC architecture, ranging from aging DC rowhouses, historic edifices, corner stores, storefront churches, and street signs, the photobook is both a showcase for Toye’s singular artistic, urban esthetic, as well as a reflection of the changes that were occurring across the city during the same time period.

Conspicuously absent from Toye’s work are the usual images of the city’s iconic national monuments and memorials. Rather, her images offer the viewer a glimpse into the photographer’s unique, visual perspective of the city’s classic architecture and, by extension, into the lives of the Washingtonians who, like Toye, have lived, worked, played, and prayed within its walls.

“When I began my journey in photography, I didn’t have a destination—or, even, a roadmap. And, while my photobook certainly reflects the changes that are happening in the city, it was never my intention to, simply, document the city’s changing landscape or preserve its dying architecture. To the contrary, I wanted only to capture images that reflected the beauty and artistry of the DC landscape, the stories these images possessed, and the memories they inspired.”

The DC I See—Art of a Vanishing City is self-published by Carolyn Toye Photography.

Copies may be ordered at the website for the photobook:

(via Carolyn Toye Photography. Photo courtesy of Elise Bernard.)