As I continue to work on Hammer Home, its fascinating to see how the character, not just the story, of the city of Hamilton begins to be revealed through street photography and its sub-genres. As expected, the pictures of lower Hamilton, Hamilton mountain and rural Hamilton, show how life is similar and dissenting in these diverse areas of the overall municipality. Once more, the inevitable likenesses and differences between districts becomes increasingly apparent as more images are categorized by official neighbourhood, community or geography and added to the collection.
You can tell just from a series of pictures belonging to a select category which area has mainly low income from mainly middle income or affluence. You can see which neighbourhoods appear to have higher crime or police presence over others; where the homeless and otherwise disadvantaged people are most visible. How suburbia may be perceived as cleaner, safer and more modern than urban living but can also be regarded as dull by comparison to inner city life. How country living can be feast or famine; how conservatism is balanced with or challenged by liberalism. You can spot where there is prosperity, and where there is stagnation; where there is environmental sustainability, and where there is ruin. Where there is joy and where there is sorrow.
This is one of the most fascinating projects that I’ve ever undertaken.
The pictures of Hammer Home; however, are as yet organized in another way. That is by theme.
Sure, individual blog posts are expected to have different titles. Throughout the phases of this project, however, there are a number of recurring titles. That’s because each relates to a specific theme, and there are several project themes.
Yes, I’ve written about flâneurist thematic street photography before.
As the overall subject of Hammer Home is obviously about modern life in the city of Hamilton, the underlying themes are:
• Not Easily Forgotten – this is the taking notice of the traditions, rituals, circumstances and other things of a distant past that tend to have an evidently lasting impact on the community today. Things that may conceivably also affect the future. The realization was triggered by the last sentence of a statement on suddenly important rediscoveries from writer Maya Angelou which says, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
• Unborrowed Symbol – inspired by a quote from the philologist and Indiologist Heinrich Zimmer, “Symbols hold the mind to truth but are not themselves the truth, hence it is delusory to borrow them. Each civilization, every age, must bring forth its own.” This is the paying of attention to the objects and places that appear to represent, stand for, or suggest an idea, belief, action, or material aspect that is typical of the city at large or community within.
• The Illustrated City – inspired by the Modes of Flight urban photography project of similar name; this theme is about the real and imagined notions of a community or the larger world it is in as expressed through the output and conduct of street artists and graffiti writers. It is also an exploration of the places where the exhibitors leave their mark, and an investigation of why they choose the specific locations that they do.
• Local Views – a study of familiar places that are typically only casually observed or ignored outright.
• Remnants of Steeltown – a study of the declined but surviving heavy industry of the city.
• A Misty Moment – day or night; recording virtually any circumstance occurring during any type of naturally foggy conditions.
• Age Before Beauty – dedicated to my mother who at 79 years of age advised that, “Getting old is not for cowards,” encouraged me to make more street portraits of senior citizens, and pushed me to promote the elderly who remain active and confident regardless of the struggles they face to keep going each day.
• True Colours – reflecting the ambiguously and unambiguously good and bad propensities, habits and predilections of people in public places and spaces.
• Byronic Heroes & Co. – revealing the unsung heroes, antiheoes and villains of the community.
• Bloody Murder – evidence of homicide, attempted homicide or manslaughter.
• Just a Passing Observation – a look at circumstances that are bound to garner attention; however short, by average onlookers.
• All Great Things . . . – inspired by the Pericles quote, “In time all great things flow towards the city, and the greatest of those things is the people who come,” this is a frank acknowledgment of the social and economic failures of urban living and leadership; not simply for useless regurgitated criticism of what most people already know about but to inspire serious contemplation and action for change.
• Last Days – a study of what citizens discard, and how things are discarded.
• The Lighter Side – the unexpectedly amusing circumstances that occur.
• It’s Still a Busy, Busy World (The Way it Is) – inspired by the popular 1970 Richard Scarry children’s book “It’s a Busy, Busy World” and related stories, associated pictures are depictions of people of all walks of life in their daily efforts to survive or thrive in the city.
• Bus Rider – inspired by the rock song of the same name by The Guess Who, this theme is a more focused extension of “It’s Still a Busy, Busy World”. It is specifically about examining glimpses of life surrounding the Hamilton Street Railway; the long-established public transit division of the Public Works Department and indispensable aspect of daily Hamilton life, the moments in the lives of both employees and passengers.
• All Day Long – contemplations of how citizens spend their downtime.
Through my wanderings about the city, I’ve found that the people, places, events and other state of affairs naturally lend themselves to these themes. So the organizing of photography under them isn’t quite artistically planned. It’s a fairly spontaneous and quite fascinating phenomenon; a lot like a cycle, rhythm or pulse. It complements the phases and other categories by neighbourhood and community.
I wonder how the themes of Yackandandah, Buffalo, Rio de Janeiro, Nairobi, Prague and other communities around the world compare to those of “The Hammer”. How are they different or the same? Just what are their themes?
If curious, type the name of an aforementioned theme into the search engine of the Hammer Home blog, click a tag bearing a theme or one of the theme categories in the blogroll and see which images are associated. Discover the themes of the city, and what can be learned from them.