One photographer alone captured each of Dayton’s 66 neighborhoods in a beautiful way.
Bill Franz, retired engineer and business executive-turned-professional photographer, has published a collection of photos titled “In the Neighborhood” currently on exhibition inside the Dayton Metro Library at 215 E. 3rd St. It will be on public display through Sept. 25.
The collection is one of three art exhibitions being shown in conjunction with the larger “Undesign the Red Line” exhibit, which explores the roots of structural racism nationally and locally. Almost all the photos were taken in 2019, with a few of Franz’s favorites from earlier shoots added to the mix.
“It’s funny, because as I started doing this project, all kinds of people were happy to help me and pose for pictures,” Franz said. “And they were all surprised there were 66 neighborhoods.”
A carefree couple dancing among gravestones in the University Park neighborhood, Northridge Estates neighborhood community gardeners, back to school festivities in Riverdale and a candlelit vigil in the Oregon District — Franz’s photos capture the humans that make Dayton’s entire community complete.
It was back in January 2019 when Franz was spending some time in the Twin Towers neighborhood that he realized he hadn’t photographed it before. He found it interesting the way the towers peeked behind the houses.
He began to wonder how many neighborhoods Dayton actually has and the idea began to blossom. Then, that spring, Dayton was hit by 15 tornadoes, and soon after, experienced a mass shooting in the Oregon District that killed nine innocent people.
“I wanted to capture this feeling of community with my camera, but I decided I couldn’t just take photos of volunteers working to clean up after the tornados or of people gathered in the Oregon District for a vigil,” Franz said. “Many people were showing their community spirit in other ways. Artists donated their work to be auctioned off to help tornado survivors. Each store in town seemed to be raising money. Everyone seemed to be involved in some way.”
Since Franz said he couldn’t photograph everyone, he said he decided to photograph everywhere.
For about seven years, Franz has been taking pictures across the Miami Valley of people in their everyday lives and at work. He started a now-popular Facebook page in 2013 called “Dayton at Work and Play.”
Over the years, he has used the page’s following to support fundraisers, promote local artists and encourage Daytonians to get out and get to know their community a bit better.
“I really had a sense of how interesting the place could be if you just dug a little bit,” Franz said. " There’s always something else you’ve never heard of or never thought of, especially if you go a little bit outside the city.”
Franz has taken photos of hundreds of residents over the years. However, it was the timing of the tragedies in 2019 that he believes allowed for the Neighborhood project to be embraced by most people he encountered.
“I don’t know if I could have done this (at) just any time, (especially) after those two tragedies hit. (However), it was just easy, like, to go inside Esther Price Candies and take pictures, or to go inside a couple different schools and take pictures — things that people may not always let you do.”
Working on this collection made Franz happy he picked up the camera in retirement.
“I couldn’t have enjoyed this project more,” he said.
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