By Riley O’Boyle
Living in Portland for two decades, photographer Geoffrey Hiller rarely rode the bus until last year.
When he lived in New York back in the 1980s, he had worked on a photo essay featuring the A-Train. But it wasn’t until returning home to Portland from a 2015 trip to Myanmar that he really noticed Bus 75.
“I wanted the energy from the trip to keep going, so I began The Hidden Portland project, which captures life along the 75 route, and it developed organically,” he said.
In May 2015, Geoffrey boarded the 75 – the bus closest to his home – getting on and off at different stops to strike up conversations at various businesses, as well as focusing his camera on the cityscape.
With a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council, he produced a blog and exhibit, featuring locations within a city block of the bus route, a 20-mile stretch between downtown Milwaukie and St. Johns. That includes the length of Concordia neighborhood on 42nd Avenue.
Hiller brought on board writer Tom Vandel to contribute text to the work, and the pair published an illustrated post every Monday on Bus75.org.
“While I certainly acknowledge there’s an aspect of the project that focuses on the disappearing Portland, I didn’t intend to make overt commentary on it,” Geoffrey explained. “A lot of people are trying to pick up on the gentrification aspect of the project, and we can’t deny that. We know it exists. We allude to it.
“But at the end of the day, we are trying to get at something beyond that,” he added. “I’m looking for a different angle, something that will fill in the blanks between the story of gentrification and the celebration of the old Portland.
“There are ideas and themes that a photograph can hint at, even when words fail to describe them. That’s what I seek out.”
The project blog will continue until the end of December. The Hidden Portland exhibit is on display in the George R. White Library Learning Center at Concordia University through Dec. 18. It includes several photos that never made it into the blog.
Riley, certified engineer in training, graduated from Oregon Institute of Technology with a degree in civil engineering, with an extracurricular focus and interest in community engagement through written and visual media. New to Portland, he pursues a career in stormwater management, while he continues the practice of written and visual media production. Contact him RSOBboyle13@gmail.com.