When Brian Temple was growing up, his youth was marked by a certain curiosity when it came to buildings – both in the Penrose neighborhood he called home and beyond.
He would see construction underway and find himself wondering what the finished space would look like. The buildings that were already erected would compel him to imagine how they came to be.
That curiosity inspired him to become an architect. The same wonder of the rich aesthetics beyond the skyline that he regularly found in the neighborhoods throughout his hometown fueled his passion project, the newly released book of photographs entitled “Product of STL.”
“The goal of the book is to help people understand that there are cool things in St. Louis all around us,” Temple said. “And it goes beyond the typical things that are always pointed out like the Arch, Old Courthouse, Busch Stadium and places like that.”
He’ll be on hand to discuss the landmarks and everyday places featured in “Product of STL” for the books release party and signing event from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, January 25 at Afro Logic Art Gallery in Ferguson.
One of the things he hopes that “Product of STL” accomplishes is showcasing the variety of architecture found within the city limits.
“There are elements of modern architecture, but there is plenty of older architecture that we see – from when the city was founded there is a heavy French architectural culture,” Temple said. “I think each neighborhood has a distinct style. With that every place in St. Louis is worth seeing – from Soulard, Dutchtown, Lafayette Square to the Central West End and North City – there’s a lot to offer.”
Each of the photos has a blurb about the historical significance that details why Temple found the particular sites worth featuring in his book.
“I have a section in the book called the ‘Water Tower Section,’” Temple said. “There are three old water towers in St. Louis – two in North City and one on South Grand. These old water towers used to regulate pressure in the sewer system. There used to be more than 400 of them throughout the United States. I believe right now there are only seven or eight remaining and St. Louis is home to three of them. I think that’s pretty cool.”
Aside from the pictures that he’s in, Temple took all of the photographs in the book – no small feat for someone who just had just picked up a camera the same year he ambitiously decided to make his city the subject of a photography book.
“I don’t consider myself a photographer. Well maybe I do now,” Temple said. “I kinda just went with it.”
He toyed with the idea for two years and moved forward with putting his vision into action last spring. Seven months later, he was a published author.
“Another motivating factor for the book was inspiring someone else to do the same thing,” Temple said. “As a young black male, it means a lot to see someone who looks like you to write a book, direct a movie or whatever it is. So, my hope is that it inspires someone else. I have two younger brothers. Hopefully they can look back on this and say, ‘my older brother was 27 and he published a book.’ And because of they will feel like ‘I can do this,’ or ‘I can do that’ because they saw me finish the book.”
He worked on it in bits and pieces on weekends and after clocking out of his day job at HOK, a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm.
“It was definitely a process,” said Temple who received his Master of Architecture degree from Kansas State University. “So, to get to the finish line and see a tangible book – and see all of the support coming from it – was really the most rewarding part.”
He also found the work fulfilling in that it dispels myths and stereotypes.
“Not only are these subjects – the art, architecture and signage – a product of STL, but I’m also a product of STL,” Temple said. “I feel like I’m a good product of St. Louis. I come from what some might not feel are the best neighborhoods, but I love the city where I’m from.
I think that there are gems everywhere around us, but we have to get out there and find them by exploring our city.”
The release party/signing event for “Product of STL” will take place on Saturday, January 25 from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. at Afro Logic Art Gallery, 18 Church Street in Ferguson, Mo. For more information on the book, visit