by Payton Bruni
The South Side Photo Walk, an annual workshop going on its ninth year held by Syracuse community newspaper The Stand, uses photography to bring people together and highlight a typical day in the South Side neighborhood of Syracuse, New York. Photographers of all skill levels are encouraged to sign up, and for one Saturday out of the summer, participants use photography to capture an aspect of the South Side community that is less frequently covered in the media. Local television news stations and daily papers often fixate on the crime and violence taking place in the South Side rather than other aspects of the neighborhood. Select images taken during the Photo Walk are published online and in a special newspaper issue by The Stand.
Project Goals: Newhouse Faculty Director Greg Munno said the goal of the South Side Photo Walk is to bring attention to the stories of the South Side that are not typically reported and to build bridges with the local community. “Also, the great benefit at the end is that we end up with much needed content for The Stand,” Munno said.
Tools and Technology: In collaboration with the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and local photography clubs, The South Side Photo Walk has point-and-shoot cameras available for use by workshop attendees. An event center is rented for the workshop, and some food and water is provided throughout the day.
Impact: Ashley Kang, the director of The South Side Newspaper Project, oversees the South Side Photo Walk. She emphasized how the Photo Walk combats the stereotypes that surround the South Side. Kang explained that the South Side neighborhood is classified as one of the poorest neighborhoods in the U.S., and is often associated with gang violence and crime. Munno said the Photo Walk gives the South Side community the positive news coverage it needs and deserves. “You can just tell that they are not used to getting any attention from the media at all, and I don’t think any of them would have imagined that they would have gotten positive attention,” Kang said. A normal turnout for the walk consists of 15 to 29 people, and the people who do attend come from a variety of backgrounds. “I’ve seen that it’s just a really great way to get people that would never meet – together,” Kang said. She gave an example of one couple from Canada who joined the walk as a way to see a different side of the city and meet local residents while they were in town visiting family. “I think everyone learns something and it’s just kind of a neat way to see people interact,” Kang said.
Organization Background: Kang wrote that “The Stand is a community newspaper serving as the voice for the South Side – a predominantly African-American neighborhood classified as the highest concentration of poverty in the nation.” The Stand also serves as a training paper for residents and Newhouse journalism students. For the July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 fiscal year, The Stand reported a total revenue of $83,266 with $69,806 of said total revenue stemming from contributions.
Project Resources: The South Side Photo Walk recently received a €10,000 grant from the Finding Common Ground project to expand the Photo Walk with a gallery exhibit and travel. Previous workshops have had minimal burden on staffing and funding. Kang primarily organizes the Photo Walk, and said most of the cameras on hand were either donated or loaned to the workshop. “It’s been pretty low cost in the past because I work with all volunteers and I got the event rental space for free,” said Kang.
Here’s what worked
1. Keeping it simple
Kang explained that the nature of the Photo Walk itself is easy to pull-off. “I think everyone knows how to take photos, and people come into it being comfortable with what they’re going to do,” she said. Keeping the workshop as straightforward as possible makes it accessible to a wide range of photographer skill levels. “I think that works well for us,” Kang said. “To have someone come in and snap a photo is not that big of a deal.”
2. Using the potential of visuals
By incorporating the photos taken during the workshop into an online and physical news edition, The Stand not only promotes future Photo Walks, but builds trust in the newspaper as well. Munno said, “When you have an issue that features your friends and neighbors and it’s not written text it’s visual images it makes The Stand itself just seems all that more accessible to the community.” He added, “If people are looking for a way to create content that’s collaborative with their audience, and if they’re looking to expose people to parts of their community that they wouldn’t normally be exposed to before, I think photographic images are probably as powerful and as simple a way you could go about doing that.”
3. Group up
By leading attendees in groups throughout the walk, participants are able to better socialize and enjoy the event. “You have this comradery and people you can rely on,” said Kang. “Then you also have the professionals there so we have a good mix people, and I think that makes it comfortable as well.” Whether they are experienced photographers using DLSR cameras or newcomers using their smartphones, people are able to feel assured through their group interactions.
Here’s what could have worked better
1. More equipment on hand
Kang explained that an increased inventory of computers and cameras would be highly beneficial for the Photo Walk. There have been some Photo Walks where there weren’t enough cameras to go around. Kang also said it was difficult to collect all of the event photos when she was the only one with a computer capable of downloading and viewing the raw image files.
2. Adding a photo gallery
For the future, Kang said she plans to hold a gallery exhibit using some of their Finding Common Ground grant funding. She said she would like to rent event space and purchase photo frames so the Photo Walk images can be made more accessible to local residents.
3. Smaller groups
With a high turnout Kang said the larger Photo Walk groups could be difficult to oversee. “Last year we had kind of a large group so our photo leaders went two different directions,” said Kang. “We might split people up again so that it’s not such a huge group, and it’s more manageable and they can kind of explore.”
Here’s what else you should know
- Photo Walk inspiration: The South Side Photo Walk was inspired by Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photowalk. After three years of coordinating with the Worldwide Photowalk, Kang said The Stand split off to create its own walk for the South Side once the date of the Worldwide Walk was moved into the fall.
- Little to no pushback: The residents of the South Side neighborhood have been friendly and welcoming of the Photo Walk. Kang said other than a few individuals who didn’t want their picture taken, people have been more than willing to work with the Photo Walk attendees.
- Well received and easy to replicate: Munno said that one of th things he liked most about the Photo Walk is that it’s easy to pull off and is popular with the community. “People like it, it serves our mission, and it’s relatively easy to pull off,” said Munno. “It’s something that I don’t know why every publication doesn’t do something like this.”
To learn more about the South Side Photo Walk, email Ashley Kang at email@example.com. To view photos from previous walks, check out this overview PowerPoint presentation and Flickr collection page. Make sure to follow The Stand on Facebook and Twitter.