‘downtown from behind’ is a cool project out of New York that uses photography to draw attention to three things:
1) People – Showcasing people who have had an impact on Downtown NYC – dancers, writers, small business owners, musicians, chefs, academics…
2) Location – Photographing every road way (including small side lanes) below 14th street – they note it that this will be over 200 streets!
3) Message – Promoting sustainability (i.e. it’s not a random choice that every individual is on a bike). The creators of ‘downtown from behind’ want to support design and designers who work towards a sustainable future.
This project really caught my eye because the portraits were so joyful and unconventional. While traditional portraiture focuses solely on the subject (usually against a neutral background), these works make the space just as important as the subject. In fact, the style and feel of the photos really is a celebration of this interaction between person and place. The nod to cycling is also a nice choice to show both the subject in motion in their communities (they are active community members) as well as a simple action we all can do to lessen our footprint in the city. I love the little notes that they include about each person too – what they do, what was happening on the street during the photo (i.e. the World Cup), or even their relationship with the bike they’re riding (for one person it was the first ride on their new bike) – these details remind us that these individuals are not so different from ourselves.
Projects like this are just another way to show that design can influence action and interaction. ‘downtownfrombehind’ playfully encourages others to think about their relationship to the spaces around them and hopefully inspires them to contribute (even in small ways) to the places they live, work, and play.
Regina photographer Neil McDonald also did a series of portraits a few years ago called Bicycles & Their Lovers – lovely portraits that highlight the personality of the individual and their ride. You can see a few photos from the project here. As the city works to promote walkability and the inclusion of more bike lanes in our downtown, I’d love to see more fun and engaging works like these locally..
Have a great weekend!
**All photos via downtownfrombehind