It all started over 6 years ago before we even moved to Baltimore. I was a senior at Clemson with graduation approaching very fast, Em and I weren’t even engaged (though the ring was hiding under her bed in a safe spot), and I was at a very interesting fork in the road. Basically where do I go with my new college degree, what do I want to do, what am I supposed to do, where do Em and I want to start a life together post-college?
I went to school for Computer Science, but long before I had fallen in love with baseball, which led me in to photography. I would be so stoked to get Sports Illustrated and ESPN the Magazine every week and would just study the photos. I always dreamed about being a staff photographer for SI or have my name as a contributor at ESPN. When I got to Clemson I was able to work at The Tiger where I was fortunate to meet an amazing group of professional photographers who took me under their wings, showed me the ropes and became a sounding board (Bart, Ken, Nathan, Phil, Sefton, Rex, Vern). I was able to grow from just working with The Tiger, Tina LeMay’s Office of Publications, working with the local papers and then eventually a wire service covering Clemson athletics.
With graduation coming up fast, I knew Em wouldn’t want to stay in South Carolina. I also didn’t want to stay anymore, I wanted to go out and experience something different. While I was able to make it rain at Tiger Town Tavern every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights; the stringing work I was doing wasn’t as sustainable as I would’ve liked. Having worked for the DoD as an intern in school, I had a very marketable technical skill set and had job offers all over the east coast. Neither of us had lived in a city and we wanted to have that experience. There was something about Baltimore that had a draw to it. So we decided that’s where we were going to live. We didn’t know what “it” was at the time.
I remember the first time I told them we’re moving to Baltimore – the reaction was less than positive – at our routine Sunday Schneider Family Dinner (Since we lived 20min from campus). My mom said, “Have you heard about ‘The Wire’?” – this from a family that has NEVER subscribed to HBO. “Why do you want to live in a city?”, “You know there’s lots of crime”. “What if you get mugged?” … and on for the whole dinner. Sadly these questions have plagued the last six years as I travel for work, see family, etc.
With my shiny new degree, a computer programming job and an engagement ring removed from hiding, I moved onto the 500 block of South Montford in Baltimore City during Snowpacalypse 2010. I even got to shovel out my street so the moving truck could bring the stuff to the house. I knew as I walked into my “real job” on the first day, I had made a mistake. I wasn’t going to sit behind a desk. I restarted my business and while I did a lot of editorial sports coverage, I wanted something more. I wanted to work on projects that have lasting impact, that make the viewer stop. I’ve found over the last year or so, I get super excited about projects that have a human element. The overarching questions for these projects are: “Why would someone do this?”, “What makes them tick?”, “Who are they?”.
I know we didn’t make a mistake moving to Baltimore. There’s an energy/buzz/passion that flows through the City every day. It was here as soon as we moved here on those snowy days in February. There are people – my friends, neighbors, acquaintances, creatives, entrepreneurs – who wake up, do their work and are a positive influence on the City. I was fortunate to get a grant for HackTheTrash and led a team of community activists, artists, and non-profits to not only help destroy litter, but to bring public, community art to the park. Baltimore allows you to be a maker, you just go out and do it. Em and I live across the street from Patterson Park – a beautiful urban oasis that Annie runs freely catching her tennis balls every day. We found a home, fixed it up, host parties, clean up the ally, watch out for neighbors, run the business and work in the City. This is the life we’ve built and we were only able to do it in Baltimore.
Fast forward to April 2015, we were at the Orioles game with out-of-town family the night before the riots. We attended a friend’s wedding at the Peabody Library the first night of the unrest; we went home and watched it after celebrating our friend’s new marriage. The next few days everything in the city got turned upside down. We watched protests turn violent, watch buildings burned, stores looted. We irrationally had Annie’s leash in the room and a golf club for protection the first night; because Annie’s aggresive bark and my Callaway steelhead was going to save us if someone looted the house. The second night we sat out with neighbors on our block having beers and talking, ignoring the City’s mandatory curfew. It was surreal and even though it was about 3 miles from the house, it felt like a whole world away.
We all agreed on one thing – This isn’t the Baltimore we knew. The Baltimore we knew got up the next day, helped the businesses clean up the destruction, created a peaceful wall between protesters and police, and community groups came together to help stop the destruction.
The newest questions to add when I travel: “How were the riots, did you get hurt, was there damage?” “Is the city safe again?” “Are you going to move?” “Did I loose business do to the riots?” “What about that Mayor?” “Why didn’t they stop it?” and on and on.
There are real issues that Baltimore is dealing with on a daily basis: crime, poverty, post-industrial decay, blight, failing infrastructure, schools, budgets, local government mismanagement. These issues suck. There are people who trying to fix these issues. The worst part about calling Baltimore home – these constant questions are maddening/frustrating/sad. The outside doesn’t see the Baltimore we see every day.
We want to change the narrative and show the side of Baltimore we see everyday. As a creative, lets try to do it through art. Myself and Lee Morton of Mozell Films co-directed this collaborative stills + motion project. It’s a story of heart and hustle of a Baltimore teen, motivated by basketball, inspired by family to persevere through the environment. On Monday we’ll share the Making of Invictus 344.
The spot is above and a few of my favorite stills from the project below. You can find the whole project here: http://www.ebrianschneider.com/invictus-344/ or to get involved http://www.invictus344.com. I truly hope you enjoy it and inspires you to share this side of Baltimore.