Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Washington Park Pool from 2008 with Music Hall in the background.

The pool has been closed. ©Melvin Grier

Consider yourself fortunate if there are places from your childhood that you can visit. I'm talking about possibly a grade school building, a house where you grew up, a park or theatre. Many of us have lost that part of our past. To serve progress every building, including the one I grew up in, in the West End was torn down. This includes three schools, three churches and seven theaters . Progress comes and poor people move on. Parts of Over the Rhine are looking very up-scale these days. It wasn't too long ago that 12th and Vine was a gathering spot for loiterers, now it's shops and restaurants that serve the more affluent that are moving into OTR. The poor people move on.

A few years ago I covered a walking tour of the 12th and Vine area when some of the above mentioned changes were in their early stage. There was talk future residents would include those of mixed incomes. I was and remain skeptical.

A block or so from 12th and Vine is situated Washington Park, greenspace in the middle of bricks and concrete, a place to relax on a park bench and watch life go by. Of late that life has been on the raw side. You are more likely to see someone urinate on a tree than toss a frisbee. I had many assignments there to document the park's problems, perceived or real. Washington Park is a convenient target to point out the least desirable aspects such as loitering and litter. This past week a woman was run over and killed by a Cincinnati police officer as he drove off the park's paved roadway. The question: who should the park serve? This valuable oasis of green that is neighbor to Music Hall, Memorial Hall, and the just completed School for the Creative and Performing Arts is slated to undergo a major change. After the change is effected we can expect to see fewer homeless people in the park. Families may picnic, dogs may romp, frisbees may fly. The poor will move on.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Thom Shaw - Artist

Thom Shaw is gone.The song says "everything must change nothing stays the same", we accept this because we must. Thom was about something more than applying ink or pencil to paper or canvas. His was a message, boldly and un-apologetically stated. I had known Thom since the 70s but didn't know him at all. The art side of Thom spoke loud and clear. He revealed almost no details of his private life to me. I never thought to ask him. Our discussions were always about our latest projects, his always seemed way more ambitious than my own. A lot of our discussions took place by phone. Thom was an idea machine pouring out his thoughts like a John Coltrane or Eddie Bayard solo. "The young become the old, mysteries do unfold", we grew older in our parallel universes. I'm proud that we sometimes shared a gallery wall with our respective art work. There will be a memorial service for Thom soon. I'm sure there will be much more eloquent words spoken about him than I can offer. I hope my actions will resonate louder than words as I continue to attempt be about something with my work. Thom would be pleased with that. Photograph © Melvin Grier

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010


Haitian Detainees, Lexington KY

Think of Haiti, pray for Haiti
Haiti’s right here, Haiti’s not quite here.

- Caetano Veloso

I have had the opportunity to be in contact with the people of Haiti on two occasions. Once, I was sent to a detention center in Lexington, KY, where a large group of Haitians was being held prior to possible deportation. In 1995, I went to Haiti with a Cincinnati Post reporter to do a story on a church group that was doing construction work on a school.

In Lexington as we approached the holding facility a voice cried out, “What news do you have for the Haitian people?” We had none. Only questions and the sound of the camera’s shutter greeted these people who had made it safely to the shores of the U.S. only to be rejected, detained, and sent back.

In Port-au-Prince as we drove near the ocean, the driver remarked that because most Haitians don’t swim it was testament to their desperation that they would undertake such a perilous trip in order to reach the United States.

I don’t know whether or not most Haitians swim, but I have seen the conditions under which they live. The recent earthquake is just piling misery and death upon misery. We can send our prayers and our condolences but we need to send our money and goods to those legitimate organizations that are set up to get help to these most unfortunate people.

Melvin Grier

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


At Ft. Thomas, KY Jordan Smith leaps into the arms of
his father Jerry, upon the latter's return from the Middle
East in 2003. Photograph by Melvin Grier

I served in the USAF from 1961-65. I guess that makes me a veteran. In no shape form or fashion would I compare my time in the military with that of the men and women who put themselves in harm's way for this country. My worst experiences were the racial intolerance and bigotry that was a part of daily life at a base where I served for awhile in Alabama.

It was my good fortune to spend two years at RAF Mildenhall in England. I was a Medic, and I worked in an obstetrical hospital assisting in births, and also caring for newborns in the nursery. In my off duty time I began a pursuit of photography. Thanks to a British gentleman named Victor Cresswell, who ran the photo hobby shop, I was able to begin a hobby that for me would become a career after I left the military.

I have had assignments where I have covered the deployment of our military people. I have also been on the scene when they have returned from various theaters of duty. The sadness of departure is replaced by the joy of homecoming. I could also take advantage of my access to thank the returnees for their service. Occasionally I had to photograph the solemn ceremonies accorded those who gave their lives.November 11 we honor those who served our country.

Thank you to all veterans.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield

The leaves are turning their seasonal colors of yellow, brown, rust, and all the shades in between. Autumn is upon us. My wife loves it. I don't. I have begun my fall routine of moving perennials and gathering the last of a disappointing season of tomatoes but a bounty of hot peppers. Soon I'll be raking leaves and putting them through the chipper/shredder for the compost pile. With the exception of gardening, I'm not much for the great outdoors. Fall reminds me that the cold months will soon be here. There are no snow days when you work for a newspaper.

Many people love fall because – with the right light – it makes for pretty photographs. I don't think I was ever much of a nature photographer. I shot my share of so-called fall feature photos, but it was not something I relished. I'm not one for getting next to nature by camping. I've slept on the ground with Marines at Camp Pendleton, in a sleeping bag on a rooftop in Port Sudan, and on a dusty sneeze-inducing couch in Haiti. All of that and more for the assignment. I prefer a room with cable TV.

October also means that my team, the Cleveland Browns, are well into another season of futility. Right now, they’re 0-4. Once upon a time they had style, if not championships. Prior to a game between the Bengals and the Browns at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield made a pre-game trek across the frozen field in their fur coats and uniform pants. Style yes, but as I recall, they lost the game 21-0.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Over The Rhine Poster

During past two years I have shot, intermittently, a series of photographs used on a poster depicting various locales in  the Over The Rhine section of Cincinnati. The poster was sponsored by the Over The Rhine Foundation. This past July 10 we introduced the poster to the public at Enzo's Over The Rhine, 1106 Race Street. The poster is available there for $15 unsigned, and $30 signed.  It is also available at the Findlay Market Biergarten.