New Photography Project Shares Local Lives Up Close and Personal

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"I didn’t know I could track so many good people to help me through the hard times. "
I didn’t know I could track so many good people to help me through the hard times.”  – Close Up Baltimore

Local photographer Joe Rubino brings the lives of ordinary Baltimoreans into focus with the new social media project Close Up Baltimore.

The project, inspired the the website Humans of New York, is a series of individual photographs accompanied by personal stories that will be featured daily on the Close Up Baltimore Facebook page and Twitter account.  The objective of the project is to shift impressions of the city formed during the riots following the death of Freddie Gray.

“By giving Baltimoreans a platform for their own stories, we create space for a more authentic narrative,” the project materials read. “We hope to deepen the ties of our own community, and ultimately compel a national audience to see beyond the soundbites and stereotypes that negatively characterize our city.”

From the Close Up Baltimore Facebook page:


My daughter is a straight ‘A’ student. She’s very talkative. Inquisitive. I want her to be a modest, strong, intelligent Black woman.”

close up baltimore

I didn’t expect that I would own a business. I thought that I was going to be an executive secretary, but I couldn’t type and I couldn’t take shorthand. I was able to get a loan and I went to Morgan State. After I graduated, I worked as an accountant. I’ve had this store in Fells Point for fifteen years. It’s the best thing I could have done.”

Rubino, a well-known Baltimore photographer and videographer who has shot for local schools, non-profits and universities for nearly 30 years, told supporters gathered for the project’s launch party on Monday that he has been surprised at the willingness of people to open up and participate. He has shot over 100 people and will continue to shoot more. The organizers behind the project have invited the public to suggest subjects to be featured on Close Up Baltimore. (Send them a message on Facebook if you have a suggestion.)

Although Humans of New York has a website that features its stories, Close Up Baltimore will stick to sharing its posts on Facebook and Twitter (and soon Instagram) for now.

“Our plan was to focus on Facebook and Twitter for a few months as we started to see if people would be interested in a project like this for Baltimore, and what kind of feedback and following we would receive. In our first few days, we’ve grown even faster than we’d hoped. If we keep this momentum, we will try to host a dedicated website sooner rather than later,” says Kevin Easterly, social media manager for the project.

The project is funded by a mysterious anonymous donor, according to the project’s director Maryam Bouadjemi.  At the cocktail and hors d’oeuvres launch party at Rubino’s Woodberry gallery, leaders of the Baltimore Community Foundation, the Abell Foundation, the Strauss Foundation, and local philanthropists mingled among the crowd. The project does not have a non-profit, 501c3 designation, Bouadjemi says.

“Why would the donor want to remain anonymous?” wondered one guest. “Why wouldn’t [he or she] want to take responsibility for such a cool project?”

View the Close Up Baltimore Facebook page here and follow Close Up Baltimore on Twitter @closeupbmore.

Susan Dunn

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