by Wing Young Huie
(Ruminator Books) $16
One of the many consequences of 9/11 has been the total eclipse of the everyday city. All we see and think about is the city at the end of the world, the apocalyptic city, whose fate is that of Sodom (which was destroyed by stones and fire), and whose citizens are like the woman (Rachel) who witnessed the destruction and turned into a salt lick. But what about the city of everyday? The normal city that stores energy and connects a variety of people, homes, and consumer products. Where has that city gone?
The everyday city is everywhere except New York City, and more recently Lagos, Nigeria. Most cities still look like the one captured in Wing Young Huie's book Lake Street USA. A professional photographer, Huie shot over 500 rolls of film (18,000 exposures) of the people who live or make a living on the Minneapolis strip called Lake Street. The strip (which connects several neighborhoods) is comparable to Aurora in terms of length, and Rainier Avenue in terms of diversity.
"[The] land of the Vikings," writes Huie, who is Chinese American, "was also becoming home to Hmong, Laotians, Ecuadorians, Ethiopians, Bosnians, Mexicans, Chileans, Nigerians, Liberians, Vietnamese, Cameroonians, Sudanese, Somalis, Cambodians, Koreans, and Tibetans, to name a few. Walking into a crowed room and not standing out [as Chinese American] was becoming a common experience for me, especially on Lake Street."
Huie's photographs capture the multitudes doing everyday things. This is why the images are so soothing. The people who fill the pages of the book are not traumatized by the shocks and clashes of so many disparate cultures and realities. They are, instead, comfortable. We see them reposed royally on exhausted sofas, or tranquilly getting their hair done, or calmly minding overstocked stores.
What happened in New York City was certainly horrible; but what happens here on the mid-sized city strip of Lake Street is what happens every day. CHARLES MUDEDE