Nonprofit brings neighborhoods into focus

Photographers will document the evolution of Minneapolis locales.

McKenna Ewen

A local nonprofit group is working to sharpen the image of the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood by supplying professional photographers to help document the changing population of the area.

“What’s New?” is a three-year program to support artists who focus on social issues, although some neighborhood groups are also using it as a marketing opportunity.

The program includes 10 neighborhoods, selected based on interest in the project, throughout the Twin Cities.

Susan Boecher, executive director of OverExposure, which sponsors “What’s New?” said this program is unlike any other because it’s an art project designed to build community. The first phase kicked off July 1 and will last four months.

OverExposure selected one photographer for each of the 10 participating neighborhoods. The group expects the number of participating neighborhoods to quadruple next year as project awareness builds, Boecher said.

University graduate Missy Toft photographs the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood. Toft majored in political science, global studies, social change and photography, which falls directly in line with her role with the program.

Toft was drawn to the program because of her interest in using photography as a way to start a conversation, she said.

“Photography captures a quick, silent moment in time and allows people to slow down in their thought processes and take a look at what’s happening,” she said.

Everybody sees the same photo, but people can add their own reflections and that is what starts the discussion, Toft said.

“In the end, I think a lot of fascinating things about Minneapolis and St. Paul will come out,” she said.

Toft said she is not going into the project with a specific plan on the type of images she wants to capture. She said she is most excited to find one photo or event that sends a truly powerful message.

Boecher said there has been a tendency to romanticize what’s really going on in the city.

“This project will allow photographers to go out and objectively photograph what they see,” Boecher said.

She said the work would be fairly representational and not every photo would paint the neighborhood in a positive light.

“It’s important that the organizations use the images to market the contemporary state of neighborhoods, rather than a glossy picture of what’s going on,” Boecher said.

At the end of each shoot, neighborhood associations of participating neighborhoods will receive a portfolio of the prints. They can use the prints as they choose for up to one year.

Melissa Bean, Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association executive director, said she was excited about the opportunity to have a professional photographer working with the neighborhood.

Bean said she understands the project is designed to capture the social issues of the area, but would like to see the photos used as marketing materials as well. The images could help entice University students, faculty and staff to move to the area, she said.

Bean also said she is looking forward to the public exhibition that will display photos taken from various neighborhoods throughout the city.

Augsburg College will host the exhibition later this year.

“You never know what an artist will see,” Bean said.