An invisible wall between communities, Dr. Phillip Charrier used this image to describe the distance between North Central Neighbourhood and Regina in his noon hour presentation at Neutral Ground Tuesday. Dr. Charrier spoke of his portrait project, a collection of photos he’d taken over two years walking the streets, paths and alleys of North Central, as part of the Profs in the City lecture series.
The pictures started as a landscape project but became about the people of North Central (see a good summary at Neutral Ground ) and ‘the line’ (boundaries/borders) that separates North Central residents from Regina. In his project, Dr. Charrier tried to cross that line; to become accepted by residents through his photographic endeavours and consistent visits.
The importance of receiving acceptance from the community was, in part, due to an inherent power imbalance: Dr. Charrier had the ability to take photos as he pleased, the time and resources to undertake the project. He stood out. People wondered why he’d want to take photos of their neighbourhood, they didn’t see the visual value of where they lived. People of authority or power; the police, gang members and land lords wanted to know his intentions and relay their own expectations.
To create a fair exchange, two portraits were developed for everyone who agreed to have their photo taken. One would stay with Dr. Charrier, the other would, if the residents agreed to provide an address, be delivered to the subject(s) later. Sharing the photos was a way to foster respect between photographer and subject.
In another effort to connect with area residents, photos were also installed at the North Central Community Association, to share these images, foremost, with the neighbourhood (Scroll down on North Central Community Association website to see Dr. Charrier, his nifty camera and a few of his photos).
Unsurprisingly, once the neighbourhood residents opened up to Dr. Charrier, he found all types of people for subjects. Some lived in terrible conditions others had beautiful homes. There were landscapes of disinvestment along with many organizations effectively supporting the community.
It always shocks me when people speak of North Central as some homogeneous place of squalor. According to the City of Regina’s Neighbourhood Profile data on North Central, 9 290 people called North Central home in 2006. That’s a population size similar to Weyburn, 9 430 people in 2006 (Statistics Canada ), the ninth largest community in Saskatchewan. Out on its own, North Central would be the tenth largest community in Saskatchewan.
Dr. Charrier’s portraits help to break down the walls and lines, labels and statistics by presenting people. The same people we live and work beside everyday: citizens of Regina.