Baltimore photographer Kyle Pompey wants his new self-published book, “Perspective: Baltimore,” to be an interactive experience. The 118-page paperback is filed with street scenes and other photos the 37-year-old West Baltimore native has snapped around Baltimore (one shot captures the top of a decaying rowhome and a police helicopter; in another, a bundled up little boy casts a shadow from his perch on a bench; a third is mostly dark save a panhandler’s sign that reads “Homeless, please help, be blessed”). On the page opposite each photo is a lined sheet that readers can fill in with whatever thoughts the image inspires in them.
Pompey was inspired to take this approach by Kerry Graham, a Patterson High School teacher who used his photos to teach her students (she has an editor credit in the book). She invited him to come sit in on a class, and Pompey says he was surprised by what he saw.
“[The students] all had different perspectives on the pictures, way different from why I took them, and I was like, how can I package this and, not make it a curriculum, but just make it to where I can give it to somebody and they can make their own perspective?”
“Perspective: Baltimore” also features writing from D. Watkins, Kondwani Fidel, and Tariq Touré. Pompey says he hopes to create other editions with photos of other cities like Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Chicago with contributions from creators there.
Pompey says he began taking pictures in 2007 when he was 27 and working as a truck driver. He remembers seeing an eagle nesting in a tree whenever he had to travel to the Eastern Shore, and got frustrated that he couldn’t get the right shot of the bird on his phone’s camera. He bought a real camera off a friend who was also a photographer, and soon starting shooting more frequently.
“My friend, she asked me to shoot a party, I shot that party, and like three different people asked me if I could do three different things that night and I was like, yeah, I can do it,” he says. “And I just went home and Googled wedding photography, photo shoot, album covers. I got my friends, took them out, and practiced with them and I got it done.”
Pompey now works full time as a photographer. Some of his gigs are more utilitarian—for instance, school picture shoots and event photography—but he says his more artistic shots are intended to shake people out of complacency.
“These are things that everybody sees on a regular basis, especially if you’re from Baltimore,” he says, describing the shots in the book. “And we’re so numb to a lot of things, so we don’t pay attention to it. So the reason why I started taking street photos was so we can stop time to see what is going on and take it in.”