North Central Portraits

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). 

Disinvestment: The curb is over grown in away I've not seen in other neighbourhoods

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.

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North Central Portraits

2 thoughts on “North Central Portraits

  1. Yolanda says:

    A very thoughtful post! I was also at Dr Charrier’s talk and have always found his photos, and his reasons for pursuing this project, to be very thought-provoking and sensitive.

    It’s very easy to use anonymous statistics, crime reporting in the media and stereotypes of North Central as the only image or characterization of that community. Yes, there are problems in the neighbourhood, but that’s not all there is to North Central, nor is it the only place in our city that struggles with issues like poverty, crime and homelessness. If people take the time to look at the neighbourhood – at the strength and resiliency of its residents, at its long-standing history as a place where diverse peoples are able to live as a community, at the innovative community development initiatives going on today – they’ll discover so much more.

    Thanks for reminding us that we’ve got more in common than not.

    1. Martin Gourlie says:

      Thank you Yolanda for your comments.

      If you’d asked me 2 or 3 years ago about North Central, I would have said similar things but probably focused more on the problems. I would have said I hadn’t really spent any time or had many experiences in that neighbourhood.

      When I think of it now, I would have been wrong. Growing up I spent a fair amount of time in North Central, at least as the city’s boundaries go, going to Rider games, visiting the hospital, the warehouse district, stores and restaurants on Albert St.

      In the last two years I’ve explored more of the neighbourhood, meeting people who live, work and spend time there.

      Your absolutely right, taking time to travel the streets and hear the stories of people living there you do discover much more.

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