28 zip codes, 1 city.
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community stories.


Dear Milwaukee,

ZIP MKE has said from the beginning that if all we had done was take our own photos and put them on a website for people to see, that would have been “neat.”  If we had asked others to submit their photos, like we have, then “cool.”  If we had put on a one-time exhibition, then “sweet.”  If it traveled to different places, “even sweeter.”  But if people weren’t encouraged to engage with the photos or to engage with each other, if they weren’t urged to use the photos as the backdrop for not only their own personal transformation but the transformation of the social fabric of the city, then so what?  

All we’d have is a bunch of photos.  

But, as we all know, photography can have a powerful impact on how we see and interact with the world.  Whenever we take our own photographs, we’re framing and interpreting the world. We’re saying “This matters to me.  This is what I want to remember.  This is what I want to share.” Whenever we observe others’ photographs, we’re seeing their versions of their worlds.  And if we change what we see and how we see, we gain more knowledge.  And if knowledge is power, then power is, potentially, action.

It’s important, then, if ZIP MKE is to be a catalyst for change, is going to live up to its mission of zipping the city together one photo at a time, that we make sure all corners of the city are represented visually.  That we work toward not just ZIP Code representation but face and place representation.  That we work toward getting more residents to represent themselves through their lenses instead of simply being depicted by others.

To help us not only depict the best social fabric we can but also help mend what needs mending, we’re going to get some conversations going.  

For our first round of conversations, we have combed through the almost 1,100 photos submitted since October and compiled all the photos that capture things Milwaukee does.  Humans in action.  222 of them to be exact.  We’ve filtered out the nature and architecture photography for now and only want you to consider those that show Milwaukeeans interacting with their environment or with each other.  

We invite you to:  

  1. Peruse the gallery below.

  2. Observe.  Look for patterns (or differences).  Take notes (mental or written or sketched). Listen to the photos (seeing, really, is listening through the eyes--it comes before words).  Pretend you’re visiting the city for the first time and this is what you see.  Or approach the photos from the perspective of an insider, a resident with a unique perspective and experience.  Either way, observe.

  3. Finally, we invite you to respond to this question:

What story do these photographs tell you about Milwaukee, about who we are and what we do?

Once others have joined the conversation, feel free to respond directly.  The only rules:  Be honest.  Be authentic.  Be polite.  Be constructive.  We’re not solving any problems or filling in any gaps just yet.  For this first conversation, let’s be about observing and interpreting.  

What next?  We wanted to start by examining the story/stories that are being told already.  But don’t worry: later, we will ask further questions, like What story or stories don’t these photos tell? Who or what is not represented yet?  How does that make you feel?  And the all-important So what? and Now what?

Thank you in advance for getting the conversation rolling!



Dominic InouyeComment