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Feature

Baltimore by Night photo

As Johns Hopkins’ unofficial tour guide to Baltimore, English and humanities professor emeritus Neil Hertz has introduced generations of students to the city. Over the past 22 years, his courses about Baltimore and cities in general have opened the eyes and minds of Hopkins students to urban life, architecture, and history. The Amherst- and Harvard-educated scholar is an accomplished literary critic (his books The End of the Line: Essays on Psychoanalysis and the Sublime and George Eliot’s Pulse are both regarded as classics in their fields), but his insights aren’t limited to the written word. In the last decade, Hertz has been exploring photography, much of it centered on his passion for urban life and his adopted hometown (he was born and raised in New York but has lived in Baltimore since 1983). As he eases into retirement—he’ll still teach a class or two part-time—Hertz is building a collection of black-and-white images of Baltimore, more urban still-life than documentation, that he hopes eventually to compile in a book.

Some of his recent images are reproduced here, shot at night using only available light. As his courses show students another side of Baltimore, his photos offer a quiet, somewhat intimate look at city life: the private side of rowhouses, a pair of Adirondack chairs that sit year-round under a spotlight in a Charles Village backyard, a darkened alley as seen from an upstairs window in Hertz’s Bolton Hill home. Accompanying the images are the words of some of Hertz’s appreciative students, who took his spring 2004 course, Cities: For Example, Baltimore—one of the Krieger School’s Gilman Courses in the Humanities.

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“I go to school in Baltimore and spend so much time here, but I didn’t know anything about it until I took his class.”

–Laura DeMare ’07

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“His photographs…make you want to know more about what’s on the periphery of the picture. That’s kind of what his class was like. He’d show us a picture of Hampden, and you’d want to go there and see everything that was around where that picture was taken.”

–Ariel Lyons-Warren ’05

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“Professor Hertz knows all the ins and outs of all the smaller parts of Baltimore. We went to Sandtown, and we went downtown and got out on the pier, and he walked us down to where all the factories used to be…. Everywhere you go he points out these beautiful buildings that you probably wouldn’t notice otherwise. You can visualize what it would’ve looked like when it was first built.”

“I wouldn’t say the class changed my opinion of Baltimore so much as gave me an opinion.”

–Ariel Lyons-Warren ’05

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“I grew up in a middle class suburb of Detroit, and my parents have always been scared for me to go into Detroit because they think it’s a dangerous city. People have the same perceptions of Baltimore, but now that I’ve taken this course I think those perceptions are unfounded.”

“In his pictures, you don’t see the famous Baltimore skyline, you see the little parts of Baltimore. That’s similar to his class: a lot of the things we learned in his class I had never seen before about Baltimore.”

–Laura DeMare ’07

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“He places a premium on actually becoming involved with the people who reside in Baltimore. In the classroom, it’s not your typical do-homework-and-talk-about-it-in-class. He’s very into teaching for the sake of teaching. What you learn isn’t for taking a test or writing a paper. You can take what he’s taught in class and leave with a better grasp of Baltimore.”

–Dan Raposa ’05

 

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FALL/WINTER 2005
Features
College-Level Coping
The Universe Illuminated
Baltimore by Night

 

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