I've had occasion to dig through my enormous volumes of St. Louis photographs from the last decade or so this evening, searching for a few particular negatives. In doing so, I can trace certain paths of awareness back through the years.
I visited the Page Boulevard Police Station and Homer Phillips Hospital a few times in '96-'97 (the last year I lived in St. Louis), but I never really plunged deep into the city's northern half until 1999, when I made a New Years' trip there for that purpose. Even then it was a cursory survey; not till 2001 or so did I really begin exploring the region in depth, tracking buildings across time, coming to feel a personal brand of concern over particular blocks and houses. Not till about that time did I systematically catalogue portions of downtown. Not till several years later did I begin to notice all the fantastic churches in town.
My connection to the city has changed as well. Virtually all my college friends have moved away, yet I now know enough people in the city that I never get to see them all when I'm in town. Through St. Louis I've become acutely aware of the plight facing so much Mid-Century Modernism in America. I've visited more churches in St. Louis -- probably 40 or 50 by this point -- than in all the other cities I've lived in put together.
It's an ever-growing circle of information, concern and awareness. Once you find yourself in it, it's impossible to let any of it go.