April 8, 2016

Making His Map: Photographer Jarrett Hendrix Documents His Personal History

By Will Warren

Like so many people, I spend idle hours on Instagram, scrolling through an endless feed of over-saturated pictures of avocado toast and people who seem to be having more fun than I ever do. Recently, during my aimless scanning, I came across a picture of a nondescript row house. The caption—really, it was more of an essay—started: “I grew up East of the Anacostia River. Back then a trip to the National Mall, The White House, the Smithsonian, and many other places was rare.”

[East of the river] #HousePortrait #MakeYourMap I grew up East of the Anacostia River. Back then a trip to the National Mall, The White House, the Smithsonian, and many other places was rare. I never fully embraced the western part of D.C. until I became much older, and the only thing I remember about Woodley Park was the zoo. It may or may not amaze you, but my experience in the art museums in the D.C. area is quite recent. This #MakeYourMap project has really opened my eyes to how such a small city can have so many different avenues of history. It also made me realize how one river could separate the entire cultural history of a city. These houses, and houses similar to these were built in the 1940’s and are the row houses I remembered as a child. These are and were mostly owned by African Americans and had their loans secured by the Perpetual Building and Loan Association, which was one of the first financial institutions to provide mortgages to African American borrowers. Even today the divide of the Anacostia River creates two completely different experiences of Washington, D.C. that I’m sure my fellow Washingtonians can agree with me on. I have grown to love and embrace all parts of this beautiful city, and I would encourage you to do the same. For this #BlackHistoryMonth @instagram encourages you to share your photos that make up your cultural history by using the #MakeYourMap tag.

A photo posted by Jarrett Hendrix (@jarrett.hendrix) on

What followed was a personal story about growing up in D.C., peppered with anecdotes about the city’s history. Instagram can skew artificial, but here was something that seemed honest. I was hooked; I wanted to know more about this guy who was writing the story of his life and his city in Instagram captions.

The Shrimp Boat Seafood Restaurant sits at the corner of Benning Road and East Capitol streets. This unofficial landmark of ward 7 has been in business since 1953. Although this is not a black owned business, it was one of the first integrated restaurants in Washington, D.C. I have quite a few memories of this place, and they still have a pretty good shrimp platter. I remember my mother renting movies from here at one point in time, and I also remember buying a fake Coogi sweater from here once. Even today, you can still get you some good oils, a nice shirt, hats, scarves in the winter, and still hop on the Benning Road Metro Station smelling like straight seafood. The revitalization of D.C. has good points and bad, and I have heard rumors of So Other Might Eat acquiring the property and tearing it down in the future. Now this is only a rumor, so do not quote me on that. #MakeYourMap

A photo posted by Jarrett Hendrix (@jarrett.hendrix) on

Jarrett Hendrix is a local photographer. He recently worked with Instagram, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation on the #MakeYourMap project, which highlighted important sites in D.C.’s black history by encouraging Instagrammers to add photos from their own lives using the hashtag. Jarrett ran with it and has been telling his own story ever since.

Jarrett and I met for lunch and talked about his life, DC’s history, and fried fish sandwiches:

You can see more of Jarrett’s work online or on Instagram.

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