Gio Toninelo

The other 16th (part 1)
The other 16th (part 2)
The other 16th (part 3)
The other 16th (part 4)
C Prints from Single Lens Reflex

The Urban Camping Ban and the Struggle in Denver

By Chad Kautzer, Chief Curator

The dreamy, advertisement-like quality of Gio Toninelo’s photographs gesture toward the consumerist aesthetic of homogeneity and predictability so common in America’s downtown shopping districts today. It’s an aesthetic always in danger of disruption by the poor and marginalized, however, and thus must rely upon law and force to support it. To this end, the City Council in Denver, Colorado passed the now infamous “Urban Camping Ban” or Unauthorized Camping Ordinance on May 23, 2012, which makes it a crime to attempt to protect oneself from the elements using a blanket, cardboard, etc. while trying to sleep or even sit for extended periods of time on private or public property. Given that the shelters in Denver were and continue to be overflowing, the ordinance was controversial when it passed after a marathon 8-hour session attended by over 500 people. It also provoked weekly protests that continue to this day, targeting the downtown businesses that wrote and lobbied for the ban. Are these the individuals in Toninelo’s photographs with their backs turned?

For more information on the Urban Camping Ban, see this report by Denver Homeless Out Loud: