TK Roll 2015-17: In the Neighborhood (Minolta X-700, 45/f2 MD lens, 400 ISO Rossmann drugstore film, made by Fuji)

The place where you live is seldom the place where you take most of your photos. Why is that? We go elsewhere to see something new – and of course, that’s when you bring a camera, that’s when you experience the world. But the world is right here. Always around us. I started off this project with just that thought: take pictures where you are. I did this to make it easy for myself, to not fail at the beginning of a year-long challenge. To ease in.

But then it stuck. Not because it was the easiest thing – it was, but easy things that are boring are among my least favorite things to do – but because I felt it was interesting. And it wasn’t done enough. Who out there was taking pictures of here, of my neighborhood? Certainly no one on this website, and no one at all with my perspective. In Cologne, people tend to stick to their “Veedel”, local dialect for “Viertel” – their quarter, or neighborhood. It’s almost as if the city is dozens of little villages that happen to sit very close next to each other. This is, here, a lifestyle. As an outsider, I haven’t quite grasped it yet, but it is a nice thought; to belong somewhere that is small and has its own identity.

Before the advent of digital photography, comedian George Carlin had a bit about things he didn’t care for called “Free Floating Hostility”. One of the items on his list was the existence of one hour photo finishing: “How can you be nostalgic about a concept like ‘a little while ago’?” he asked incredulously. Behind the joke is an understanding of how most of us see picture-taking: photos are always only of other times, other places. And you need distance, spatial or temporal, to “correctly” enjoy them. While this has changed with the snap-happy, instagramy culture of now, some aspects about it remain. Photos document things that cannot be experienced again. But where you live is experienced every day.

Some street photographers (Think Gary Winogrand or Robert Doisneau) took pictures mainly of “their” city or their neighborhood, but the photos documented things that were not repeatable: those three people walking down that street at that time of day would never come together again in quite the same way. In a “you can’t step in the same river twice” kind of fashion, at least. And yes, on a fundamental level everything always changes and Wednesday is already past on Thursday. But there seems to be a dearth of documentation of the repeatable everyday while it is being repeated. It is not special enough. It is not “worthy” of a photograph. Sure, one day that street sign will be replaced by a new, shinier version. That road might be repaved, that shop might close, that house torn down. But now, they are here today, tomorrow, and next Thursday even. And no one cares.

There is much of the supposedly boring now out there that no one deigns to document. Maybe we should. Maybe I’ll just keep doing it. Right now.


10 thoughts on “TK Roll 2015-17: In the Neighborhood (Minolta X-700, 45/f2 MD lens, 400 ISO Rossmann drugstore film, made by Fuji)

  1. I like the write up … I hate going someplace “interesting” to take photographs … it should “happen” on its own … and that Carlin humor is well-placed!!

    I especially liked Some Things … thanks for sharing!!


  2. I like the writing too – perhaps it helps if you have around you varied and complex backdrop – it might be a more difficult job to concentrate on and make interesting images within a North American commuter suburb. Some Things really jumped out at me too, as did The Tourist Spot which does not seem how the typical tourist would shoot it.


    • Thanks! I agree, an interesting background helps – though what one considers interesting might vary quite a lot. Never having lived in a commuter suburb, I might find someone’s perspective on it fascinating. Does everyone have the opportunity to take tons of interesting pictures where they live? Maybe not. But do most people have a chance to take a few? I’d say so 🙂


      • Even if they don’t have people walking around in them if its a car-culture area, they have other stuff to see if one looks for it.

        Nearly all the photos on my blog are within 5km of my house, and of those probably 90% are within 2km. The area that I call my neighbourhood is very small, less than 300m radius from my house, but accounts for perhaps half of my posted images. This reflects in part that I am a fairly sessile organism, but also that I have am lucky enough to live in a beautiful spot with a great deal to photograph within a few hundred meters of my front door.

        If I lived in a “burb” of manicured lawns, uniform houses and few pedestrians I think my photography would be very different. And I might range further afield when holding a camera.


  3. Pingback: TK Roll 2015–36: Home (Minolta XE-1, 50mm/f1.7 MD, Kodak BW 400 CN) | 52 rolls

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