Calgary: Everyday Street Photography Fun

Street photography is the art of capturing candid unmediated chance encounters and random incidents in public places, while still respecting the individuals’ privacy.

With street photography, the difference between success and failure is all about how you interact with people, place and light.  It is all about understanding the rhythms of the street, anticipating what is going to happen next and understand what is going on with the light.  It is about creating a narrative.  It is a style of photography that appreciates the gritty, unexpected and accidental.

For me, there is a wonderful synergy between street photography and flaneuring.

In this blog, I have selected some of my favourite street photos from my hometown Calgary.  I hope for Calgarians the photos will give you some new insights into our city. For non-Calgarians, I hope the images have a universality that makes them appealing to anyone who is interested in city life.  

I have decided not to add captions to the photos so you can develop your own narrative with each photo. I have divided the photos into three sections: black & white, colour and fun with bubbles.

Enjoy! Make sure you scroll to the end for the fun street bubble photos???? 

Colour Street Photography 

Bubble Fun...

I had heard that someone who lived above the sidewalk on the 100 West Block of 7th Ave SW had a soap bubble machine but wondered if it was just folklore.  Then last winter I was walking along the street and lo and behold there were soap bubbles everywhere.  It created a very fun and surreal experience for me, although most people walking by didn't even notice them. What does that say? 

Banners are better than flowers!

Every city in the world is looking for ways to make its downtown streets friendlier. Two of the most common methods are to add colourful banners and hanging baskets of flowers to brighten up what can often be a cold and grey environment.

Calgary's 7th Avenue downtown transit corridor is a very grey, stark place most of the time.

Tacky Plastic Flowers

Flaneuring Calgary’s downtown recently (being the everyday tourist that I am), I was again appalled that someone thought it was a good idea to add hanging baskets with plastic flowers at the 7th Avenue downtown stations.  I was appalled months ago, but I thought it might pass. Is it only me, or do others think this is just tacky?

To brighten up the LRT stations hanging plastic flowers have been added to the station, which is very surreal on a cold winter day.

Banners are better!

I can understand why they did it - the street is lined with rather ominous office towers and there is no light for flowers or plants to grow – especially given Calgary has only 110-frost free days. Also, artificial plants are very low maintenance – no watering, fertilizer and deadheading needed. 

However, there is a better solution - banners.  Calgary has a very active and attractive banner program in other parts of downtown – Stephen Avenue Walk, downtown bridges, 17th Avenue and Kensington Village. 

Stephen Avenue has banners that change with the seasons and help make the street a more cheerful place for pedestrians. 

Where Have All The Banners Gone?

The 7th Avenue LRT Stations already have banner poles and I have seen banners up from time to time.  However, there doesn’t seem to be a strategy or program to hang seasonal banners at all times as there is in other high pedestrian areas.  With over 100,000 people using 7th Avenue every weekday, you would think it would be a high priority area for making it the most attractive place possible.

Currently there are banners are up at the 8th Street LRT Station, sponsored by the University of Calgary (its downtown building close by).  So, it would seem if a downtown business or organization wants to create their own banners, Calgary Transit is willing to will let them use the banner poles.

8th Street Station Banners add much needed colour for those waiting for a train. 

This photo is from a few year back when Kerby Station had banners when it first opened, thanks to Calgary Transit. 

Today the 7th Avenue streetscape has very few banner even though the numerous poles that line the street have been designed for them. 

Love These Banners

And at the same time I was observing the lack of colour along 7th Avenue, I was enjoying the lovely banners on 14th Street as I crossed over the beautiful Bow River on my walk into downtown.  The current banners - with their colourful and playful Impressionistic paintings of downtown – are lovely; they would be a delightful addition to downtown’s 7th Avenue LRT stations, which currently are very barren, grey and industrial.

Many of Calgary's downtown bridges have lovely colourful banners that change on a regular basis. 

Last Word

I have always thought banners are better than flowers, as they add colour year-round and there is  minimal maintenance.  The best banner programs are ones that change with the seasons, to help keep the sense of place fresh.  

If you like this blog, you will like:

Calgary's 10th Avenue SW Renaissance

Window licking in Florence

Peyto: Calgary's Everyday Street Walker