This is intriguing. What's a neighbourhood photo walk, Mark?

  • April 18, 2013

(Please note: Photos can be seen at )

“This is intriguing.  What’s a neighbourhood photo walk, Mark?”

A) Anything you need it to be.
B) A pictorial record of your neighbourhood
C) A good excuse to meet your neighbours.

I need my Albert Park Radisson Heights Photo Walk to fill several of my neighbourhood needs.  The first two answers are listed above, but there are several others.

One of the primary needs a photo walk fills is to gather a pictorial record of the neighbourhood.  To quite literally amass a database of photos that records what is normal in the neighbourhood and what differentiates the unusual that does not belong.  This is very much a long term effort that will require a collective effort over a period of time.

The magic of having a collective effort is that it opens up the ability for everyone - EVERYONE - in the neighbourhood to be able to contribute their perception.  This derived from when my kids were very young and were interested in getting their hands on my camera and taking their own photos.  Sometimes the photos I got were not very good, sometimes the photos were amazing representations of their view on the world.  It is another way for everyone to be able to start a conversation about what they see around them.

Having a pictorial record will also create a pool of photos that can be used to represent your neighbourhood and show it’s story.  In my case, part of the germination of the idea was when Heather, our newsletter publisher, asked if she could use some of the amazing sunset photos I’ve taken of downtown.  Our neighbourhood has one of the best views in the city of the downtown sunsets - we should share them more often.

Having a record of “normal” vs. “unusual” is important from the aspect of community safety.  I want to collect images of the good, the bad and the ugly of the neighbourhood.  Sure, I’m most interested in showing off the beautiful things around me, but I want a record of how things are.  Sure, I have a photograph of the unappealing alley behind my house that I did not publish - part of what I need is simply establishing what you would normally see.  Should there be an accident or vandalism, hopefully I could provide photographic evidence of how things ought to be so we have a target for our restoration efforts.

Showing patterns - or deviation from patterns - makes a photo interesting.  One of the shots I tried to get was a row of blue and black bins in a perfectly straight line – except for one that was pushed slightly ahead of the others.  I imagined the ‘volunteer stepping forward’.  It expresses something about the people here, through the visualization of the place.

A guideline that I gave to my neighbours was that we don’t necessarily want to give away where every photo was taken.  (Other than Albert Park / Radisson Heights, of course!)  There are beautiful house numbers on a fence I plan to eventually shoot.  Sure, it may identify the house, but you’re going to have to go find the street or avenue on your own.  It creates a reason to explore - can you find the place I shot the photo on your own?  Do you recognize this spot in the neighbourhood?  What made it special enough to capture?

My theme this time around was “Spring” and “Emerging Beauty.“  I love shooting to themes, it becomes more challenging and a reason to hunt for the ‘right’ photos to take.  It’s pretty broad, but gives the feel of a special purpose to the group.

And, of course, there’s the group.  Getting others to participate is important and special.  Meeting your neighbours matters.  Building connections through the neighbourhood helps make a neighbourhood strong.  People here have beautiful mail boxes and lawn ornaments - I want to tell them in a photo, “Hey, I really love what you’ve done here.  You’ve helped make our neighbourhood special.“  Having friends with you gives a chance to laugh and chat, but gives them an opportunity to share their perceptions of the neighbourhood and collectively you want work to move towards shared visions.

So let me finish with some basic rules:

1.  A neighbourhood photo walk is about place, not people.  Photos should primarily be capturing the area.  However people are part of the place - when it enhances the view of how people are using the space it’s fair game.
2.  A neighbourhood photo walk is about your perceptions of the place around you.  Shoot what grabs your attention.  There are no bad photos.
3.  Because it’s about your neighbourhood, respect it while you shoot.  Don’t trample someone’s flowers just to get a shot.  You should be able to take photos from the sidewalk and demonstrate the curb appeal.