One street cuts St. Louis, Missouri into two separate worlds: to the south of Delmar Boulevard, 70 percent of residents are white, home values average $310,000, and 67 percent of adults hold bachelor’s degrees; to the north, 99 percent of residents are black, homes average $78,000, and one adult resident out of every 20 has finished college.
The city’s stark social fragmentation seemed to come to a head in August 2014, when an unarmed black teenager was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The tragedy was perhaps unsurprising in light of the racial discrimination built into the city’s geography: Michael Brown lived north of Delmar in Ferguson, while Darren Wilson came from Crestwood, a city to the south of Delmar in St. Louis County.
Although the injustice of Brown’s death received national attention, many residents have long ago habituated to the infamous Delmar Divide. To some, the street remains an indelible feature of the city’s landscape. Even as Ferguson shakes with grief, the reality of racial segregation and urban decay is slow to change for its residents.
With this project, I wanted to explore what the Delmar Divide looks like to residents of St. Louis north and south of the line. What I have found is a division that is not just black and white — it is both ideological and opportunistic, and it is profoundly embedded into the city’s built environment.
Here you will find four pairs of images (each comprised of a photo taken north of Delmar and a photo taken south of Delmar) for comparison. For every image, I have mapped its individual proximity to Delmar Boulevard. By using the same formal composition in each pair of photographs, the differences between north and south of the divide become that much more apparent and unexpected.
Victoria Sgarro is a 22-year-old writer and artist from Rhode Island. She recently graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, where she studied Comparative Literature. Currently she is studying as a postgrad student at Studio Arts Centers International in Florence, Italy. Victoria is interested in all forms of artistic storytelling – be it writing, design, photography or illustration. Delmar Divide was first published on her home site.