The friendly faces of Rainier Avenue

What makes a place a “bad neighborhood?” Is it the people who live and work there?

In Seattle, Rainier Valley and Rainier Beach have bad reputations. Outsiders say they’re afraid to live there, or even visit. It’s true that crime rates are higher, and sometimes tragedy strikes. But are these neighborhoods really as dangerous or scary as people say?

I was curious to know the truth, so I set out down Rainier Avenue with my camera to see if I could capture that negativity myself. Despite the not-so-positive images of these neighborhoods that we’re used to seeing, most of the people I encountered were just nice, ordinary folks trying to live their lives. Some of them even smiled at me!

Here’s a photo collection of the many friendly faces you can find along Rainier Avenue:

​Nubia Simpson, 17 (left) and Omera Abdirahman, 16 (right)
​Nubia Simpson, 17 (left) and Omera Abdirahman, 16 (right)
​Tommy, 56, and his dog Wally
​Tommy, 56, and his dog Wally
​Darrius Cox, 18 (left) and  Robert Lexing, 18 (right)
​Darrius Cox, 18 (left) and Robert Lexing, 18 (right)
Hope Desamearado, 18
Hope Desamearado, 18
​Kyle Matthews, 21
​Kyle Matthews, 21
​Kyu Olebar, 17 (left), Helena Young 37 (right)
​Kyu Olebar, 17 (left), Helena Young 37 (right)
​Miguel Cortes, 11 (right) George Ro, 14 (left)
​Miguel Cortes, 11 (right) George Ro, 14 (left)
​Karina Saunders, 28
​Karina Saunders, 28
Willieetta Smith, 68
Willieetta Smith, 68
​Raequan Jones, 15
​Raequan Jones, 15
​Isaiah Johnson, 16 (right) Jasiah Gions, 16 (left)
​Isaiah Johnson, 16 (right) Jasiah Gions, 16 (left)

This post has been updated since it was first published.

5 Comments

  1. I hope you’ll continue this feature; it’s wonderful! What an important time to be doing work like this, showing the human beings behind the stereotypes and the neighborhoods that are simultaneously being judged and gentrified.. Thank you so much!!! Cheers,
    Rachael

  2. I really love this project! It’s far too easy to focus on the negative. We all know there’s crime in the Valley as well as other neighborhoods throughout the city; contrary to what many people may choose to believe or what media focuses on, it is not limited to Rainier Beach and the Central District.

    I would love to see more positive spotlighting of neighborhoods hardhit by negative media attention. I’m by no means saying that we should ignore the crime and pretend it will go away, but how about tilting the attention towards the good deeds, works, programs and projects and away from the bad. Or at a minimum, balancing it out… We all need balance.

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