Since 2016, Chelsea photographer Darlene ‘Dar’ DeVita has been traveling around the City Hall area and Broadway with her camera and portable backdrop – meeting the people of Chelsea and chronicling their images and their thoughts.
Such a seminal work is hard to narrow down for just one show, but DeVita will do just that on July 9, from 5-7 p.m. in the City Hall Gallery when she presents her ‘People of Chelsea’ work.
“I started in 2016 and got a grant from the Cultural Council in 2018, and now I’m going to be showing this work at City Hall,” she said. “I interviewed and photographed so many people, black, white, old, young, Hispanic and non-Hispanic.”
The exhibit is not only DeVita’s photographs of people, but also text that describes some of their opinions and feelings about Chelsea.
Being a majority Spanish-speaking community, DeVita – who doesn’t speak Spanish – had to find a helper. She found that in Sarah Putnam, who spoke fluent Spanish and helped DeVita tap into the entirety of the community.
“I tried to find a few people and I needed someone who could speak fluent Spanish,” she said. “I ended up working with Sarah Putnam who speaks fluently. We had a blast. We went out and set up our backdrop and it wasn’t that hard. We would smile and people would smile back at us. We would speak to them in Spanish and most people were cooperative.”
DeVita said there was one man outside City Hall that they were trying to speak with who understood Spanish, but was mute. After finding that out, they were able to communicate with him. The man, who is well known for riding a bike in the neighborhood, allowed her to photograph him.
“Everyone knows him from the bike he has,” she said. “I ran into him a few weeks later and we saw each other and it was a beautiful moment.”
DeVita said she is still finalizing the text, but found that everyone – aside from one women – really enjoyed living in Chelsea.
Others included were City Councillor Leo Robinson, former Treasurer Bob Boulrice, and folks from the waterfront as well.
Even though the show is coming up and the City Hall area is played out, DeVita said the work isn’t finished.
“I really want to continue with it and I think I will,” she said. “The challenge is I can’t just go on the street with a backdrop. I have to get a permit from the City. They have been wonderful about it. I’m dying to go to Admiral’s Hill because I’d like to hear what they have to say about Chelsea. That’s definitely the place I want to go shoot next.”