"The Wire" at 20: a Baltimore photographer reflects on its impact

A Baltimore photographer considers the impact of the HBO drama on the town where he grew up, 20 years after the show debuted. P...


A Baltimore photographer considers the impact of the HBO drama on the town where he grew up, 20 years after the show debuted.

I was born and raised in Baltimore. I was in middle school when ‘The Wire’ was shot – it was shot near McCulloh Homes and also sometimes near Harlem Park, where my school was. At the time, everyone thought, wow, it’s Baltimore time. It was a very exciting experience for the city.

I was too young to watch “The Wire” in middle school. When I saw him in college, I thought the acting was really wonderful. Wendell Pierce, who played Bunk Moreland, is one of my favorite actors, and as a queer person, I thought Michael K. Williams’ Omar was really handsome – how sweet he was to his partner in contrast to how fierce he was. in the world. This stuff was stellar.

But there was very little about inner Baltimore life and little celebration of any aspect of the city. It just showed this flattened idea of ​​Baltimore: drugs, poverty, crime, corruption, violence. When you watch television, as a black person, you want to see darkness rendered humanely, rendered as you know it in the world. I don’t think the show managed to show that.

But I was curious to know how the community felt. Who liked it and why? How did it go for you 20 years after filming the series in your neighborhood? What did “The Wire” do – or not do – for Baltimore?

I know what I think, but I wanted to know what other people thought.

Michael Turner Jr., an adult day educator who grew up in West Baltimore: I really feel like that was honest about Baltimore. We got a ratchet and raw city, and they gave ratchet and raw in “The Wire.”

Terry Elliot Lamont, a hairstylist who grew up and lives in Baltimore: It’s the same hood, the same place, still giving the same thing from “The Wire”, 20 years later.

Carnell Burrow, owner of Everything Auto Repair in West Baltimore: “The Wire”, he brought back memories of the early 80s. The East Side and the West Side, the reality of people being killed and put into vacant buildings. The truth is the truth – “The Wire” did not. I think a lot of other cities are looking to Baltimore.

Gilda Bain-Pew, a resident of the Reservoir Hill neighborhood in West Baltimore: I really see people in Pennsylvania selling drugs. The cops are sitting in the corner of a car, as if everything is fine. I do not understand that. You know the impact of what drugs do on the community, and you sit there and let it happen? I don’t understand. I don’t understand.

I think if you grow up and watch “The Wire”, you say to yourself, “My city is on the rise. They made a whole show about us. So you think, OK, these people showed you people who were famous within their communities because of the drug dealers that they were. So if you can’t get famous doing something else, and that’s how important you are in your community, that’s what you do.

Peggye Butler, a retired elementary school teacher who taught Baltimore City Public Schools for 18 years: The positive side of the series, for me, is that there was life after all the drug addiction, after all the deaths. And if people could have a hold of it–there was life after it. But no one could take it.

Selena Noble, who lives near the locations used as “Hamsterdam” in the series: I thought it was great that they did something. I mean, I didn’t like the way people were going to portray Baltimore. But it was good that people decided to do it here and, you know, do something for our city.

Wendell Blaylock, who is from northeast Baltimore: It’s positive in the sense that this city has brought to the fore one of the greatest scripted television shows of all time, in my opinion. The downside is that a lot of people see this as a representation of not just Baltimore, but urban America as a whole. Like that’s all we do. And it is not.

Leslie Davis, who hasn’t watched “The Wire” until recently: I didn’t want to watch “The Wire” because I’m from here. Everything they show on TV, I see literally every day. So, I just didn’t want to see it presented to the masses like they did.

Jacob Marley, who was in elementary school when the series came out: He created a template for future media.

I feel like there’s almost a popularity contest with, like, the most violent and dangerous cities in America. We definitely have a little edge over us that overshadows everything else because of shows like this and because of the things the show is based on.

Cheyanne Zadia on the character of Snoop, played by Felicia Pearson: I can’t name too many shows that, from Baltimore’s perspective, showed a lesbian in this way on TV during this time.

James Scott Sr., a West Baltimore resident who watched “The Wire” when it aired: It was the best thing that ever happened to this city. Because people could identify with the different characters: the tough ones, the weak ones, the low ones, all that. I just had to see it every week, and I wasn’t really a television man. But when it happened, I loved it.

Benjamin Warner, a writer and lecturer at Towson University who has volunteered at Baltimore schools: It remains a kind of voyeuristic place of danger for people outside the city. Especially for educated, middle-class white people, it’s a strange point of pride — sort of in a negative way. It’s a way of saying that you come from a place that is somehow “difficult” or “dangerous” without having to engage with that community.

Having worked in a few schools in the city now, one of the things “The Wire” has done has been to humanize students or young people who attend public schools in West Baltimore.

Some of these characters have stayed with me for 20 years, especially the kids.

Maurice Braxton, who lives in West Baltimore: A lot of people hang out in Chicago and know that Chicago isn’t what you see in, say, “Chicago PD” “The Wire” was different for us. Because no matter where I’ve been, when I tell people I’m from Baltimore, they immediately think of “The Wire.”

The fact that there is a legacy — that’s the most unfortunate thing. It should have been just a TV show, and people say it was a great show and moved on. But they confused “The Wire” with reality. This is not the reality of Baltimore.

Tamira Hall, who lives in West Baltimore: The game has not changed; the players have changed.

Rob Ferrell, who moved to Baltimore for art school around the time “The Wire” debuted: It feels almost predatory. Yeah. Because crime exists all over the country. The sale of drugs exists throughout the country. Corruption exists throughout the country. Corrupt police exist throughout the country. Why is this the dominant narrative of this city and of black life in this city? That doesn’t happen in Seattle, does it? Or to more predominantly white cities. It is the majority black city. It just doesn’t fit my mind.

It was great TV. But that can’t be separated from the fact that it’s about painting a picture of a city and real life for real people. That’s the rub for me, the tension that I struggle with. The impact is regrettable.

Tiffany Fuller, mental health counselor at Columbia, Maryland, near Baltimore: It was exciting. Because initially, when it started, it was telling the story of downtown. And of course there were horrible acts that happened within it. But he was telling the story. It was a hard truth, but it had to be told.

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Newsrust - US Top News: "The Wire" at 20: a Baltimore photographer reflects on its impact
"The Wire" at 20: a Baltimore photographer reflects on its impact
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