Photographs Can Hold a Mirror Up to Portland, a Slandered City

“I have friends who live in Alabama and Texas and Tennessee. And they text me all the time and say, ‘How are you raising your kids there?’ Because it’s all they see in the news.”

On this week’s podcast, we’re celebrating spring arts, which is so lovely considering our collective week dealing with way more snow than this city was built to deal with. Brrrrr. It’s nice to have things to look forward to, and we’re only one or two mud seasons away from daffodils, sun showers, and a new wave of Portland art and performance.

This week’s issue of Willamette Week is the annual Spring Arts Guide, and highlights include Portland Opera’s production of Thumbprint; Kamala Sankaram’s take on the life of Pakistani human rights activist Mukhtar Mai; and Bodies, a Boom Arts-produced installation by Ray Young, that will require the audience to plunge into a swimming pool.

Then there’s the work of my guests: David McCarthy, whose book The Portlanders captures a stark, brutal, and beautiful contemporary Portland, and Steve Tremaine Nelson, David’s publisher and editor of the newly rekindled Northwest Review.

Nelson says he sought to publish McCarthy’s photographs as a corrective to misleading national narratives about Portland.

“I have friends who live in Alabama and Texas and Tennessee. And they text me all the time and say, ‘How are you raising your kids there?’” Nelson says. “Because it’s all they see in the news.”

I’ll talk with David and Steve about why Portland’s art scene is more important than ever.

Listen on Apple Podcasts.

Listen on Google Podcasts.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.