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Lind: New York Times Photo Essay Misses the Bigger Picture

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Diana Lind, the executive director of the urban think tank/website/nonprofit/urban renovation machine Next American City, has a bone to pick with the New York Times—specifically with its recent photo essay on riding Amtrak called "Empire of the In-Between."

In the Times magazine, author Adam Davidson writes:

Traveling south is like moving through a curated exhibit of urban and industrial decay. There's Newark and Trenton and the heroic wreckage in parts of Philadelphia, block after block of hulking edifices covered in graffiti, the boarded-up ghost neighborhoods of Baltimore made familiar by "The Wire" — all on the line that connects America's financial center and its booming capital city. He introduces a series of photos by Pieter Hugo—photos which are inarguably beautiful, but which highlight a tragic degree of decay and poverty—quite a bit of it in Philadelphia, Chester, Marcus Hook and Wilmington.

Lind sees the presentation as a classic case of New York provincialism: "I reject the underlying thesis of the photo essay, which is that — according to the view from Amtrak — cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore have wretched economies, are poor and are radically different from New York or D.C." She also makes two extremely important points:

First of all: The neighborhoods along the Amtrak corridor are some of the worst in Philadelphia and Baltimore precisely because they're along the Amtrak corridor. And:

Philadelphia and Baltimore's housing stock look so bad because they're old. She elaborates on both intelligently. Lind may not be from Philadelphia originally, but she's perfectly adopted the city's attitude: If you're going to critique the city—or publish photos of our "decay"—be prepared for us to defend ourselves, if not with fists (this isn't the NHL, after all), then with facts.

· Empire of the In-Between [NYT Magazine]
· What You Can't See From a Train Window [Next American City]