Gaynor’s Lens Captures Borderstan’s Quirks and Changes

by April 26, 2012 at 8:00 am 2,192 0

"Borderstan""Charlie Gaynor""Photographer"

Captured,  Charlie Gaynor at his studio. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Alden Leonard. Contact him at alden[AT] and follow him @aldenleonard on Twitter.

Charlie Gaynor is something of a “superlocal.” Not only has he been a Borderstan resident longer than most, but through his work and his art, Gaynor has become a superlative purveyor of our turf. In addition to his 9-to-5 as a realtor with City Houses, LLC, Gaynor spends his time documenting Borderstan through his unusual, iconic photography.

Gaynor discovered his interest in photography in school in his home state of Kansas, and after a brief stint as an Army photographer in Vietnam, he found himself snapping the streets of DC. He ultimately entered real estate, but his passion for photography persisted. Today he shows his work at multiple area galleries, as well as in Florida.

More than anything, Gaynor’s photography reflects the locale he knows and loves. “How can you not be inspired by the rich diversity of Borderstan’s architecture and people?” he asks.

Gaynor has focused on Borderstan since long before it was trendy. He bought his Swann Street home in 1977, just nine years after the infamous riots that scarred the area. “I saw great potential in this beautiful tree-lined street with its brick sidewalks, iron street lamps and Victorian facades. I knew it would come back someday, and obviously I was right!”

Through his photography, Gaynor continues to see the neighborhood in a way others often miss. He focuses on “found objects” — things that go unnoticed by many, but under the scrutiny of an artist’s eye can become iconic — and how they interact with their surroundings. Gaynor then manipulates the camera to juxtapose and layer these dissimilar subjects.

“I see things that make a design in a rectangular or square format and then capture that,” he explains. At just the right angle, close-up shots of peeling paint or a wrought-iron shadow sit side-by side against Borderstan’s ubiquitous row houses and brick alleyways.

The effect is so striking, Gaynor says, that he is frequently asked if he digitally doctors his images (he does not). “Once I was asked if I use clip art!” he remarks. “I was not offended in the least. If a viewer thinks I have somehow manipulated the image… fantastic!” In an effort to give his images as much visual presence as possible, Gaynor mounts his work on unusual surfaces like brushed aluminum, white metal and plexiglass.

Beyond photography, Gaynor fancies himself a gardener, wine taster, and foodie, but more than anything he is a tried-and-true advocate of Borderstan. Gaynor loves the open air movies on V St and the Saturday market at 14th and U.  He praises his local haunts Bistro LeBonne and DC Noodles, and bemoans the loss of his old favorites, Noi Chudnoff and her store, go mama go! (now the site of Current Boutique).

But change is what Borderstan is about, and Gaynor knows this. Take one of his favorite subjects, the alley behind Marvin at 14th and U Streets NW, which is prominent for its vibrant street art. When the city recently painted the alley beige, covering up years of living history, Gaynor was unfazed.

“No problem,” he said. “The alley is just getting a new look. The graffiti will find its way back. These areas are constantly changing, and I’m here to record it.”

Check out Gaynor’s photography at, where you can get in touch with him and arrange to see his work in person at his Borderstan studio. Gaynor is also a member of the Mid City Artists, which has Open Studios coming up on May 19 and 20.

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