The Wow Waikawa! Photo Fest: community and heart

Last year I devised a community event called the Wow Waikawa! Photo Fest and asked a friend to help organise it. Today I submitted the final project report to the funders.

It’s very satisfying to have run this community event and to have received very positive feedback!

Jean: The photos were fantastic and was an awesome activity with the kids and dogs.

In a nutshell: we applied for and were granted funding, then ran a basic photo skills workshop, and invited submissions of photos that celebrated Waikawa Beach. A key factor was that this was not a competition about photographic skill or technique. It was a celebration, sharing what’s wonderful about this place.

To avoid privacy and permissions issues we specified photos were not to feature people or pets, though they could be in the background.

We received 120 photos and selected 32 for printing at various sizes as Walldots by a company called HappyMoose who gave us a generous discount for our event.

Anja: We found all of them. Good fun. We walked quite a few km’s and found a few places we hadn’t explored before. We found one thanks to Pokemon Go!!! Gosh, I didn’t even know we had a shower at the toilet block 🤷‍♀

Then we put the photos up all over Waikawa Beach, on fences, power boxes, the backs of signs (or even the front in one case), the wall of the toilet block, the back of a rubbish bin, the firefighting water tank, and even (in plastic bags and taped on) a couple of rocks by the river.

Aside: the photos on the rubbish bin and water tank looked fabulous then promptly fell off, thanks to the anti-graffiti paint the Council had used on them!

We also created clue sheets so those who chose to could search out the photos. We couldn’t give prizes but created a couple of PDF certificates we later mailed out to contributors and those who hunted for photos.

One feature was that some photos were in plain sight, so someone might happen to see them and feel a bit of a buzz at this unexpected pleasant thing. Other photos were a bit hidden, or in a couple of cases, well-hidden, so folks could enjoy hunting them out.

Aside: a random technician working on a power issue commented that the photo on the power box he was dealing with was great and that he really enjoyed seeing it. Perfect!

One friend, whose photo was selected, commented every time we all passed her photo, obviously really thrilled.

Now we’ve wrapped up, though some folks have opted to let their photos stay in situ. They certainly brighten up the power boxes!

Fiona: we had visitors and this was a great way to get everyone out walking and seeing all of Waikawa Beach area and not just the beach front.

I learned some things:

  • this project took way more time and energy than I would have expected, had I really thought about it beforehand, but it was very rewarding.
  • Charlie, my co-organiser, was invaluable in providing support, encouragement, process ideas and doing the work.
  • it took a long time to put up 32 photos around Waikawa Beach. (2.5 hours to scout out locations, 2.5 hours to put the photos in place — and that was with two of us. Then another hour or so for me on my own to add labels with numbers.)
  • Walldots aren’t designed for outdoor use but most of them stood up well to 3 weeks or more of sun, wind, rain.
  • Anti-graffiti paint works really well. 😆
  • I’ve sometimes visited photo exhibitions where photographers have put in immense amounts of skill, training, planning, time (sometimes months), post-processing to make a perfect shot. I look at those photos and they are ‘alienating’ in the sense that I think “I could never do that”. I’m truly a spectator. This exhibition had a sense of reality and immediacy because we weren’t looking for technical expertise but for a celebration of daily life. The photos were ‘flawed’ in many ways and for that reason made a real connection: “I could have taken that photo”. They were a reflection of what we were looking for: community and heart.

By sheer chance the usual summer activities at Waikawa Beach were all cancelled (Covid concerns). This event happened to nicely fill a gap.

Poster made by one participant, showing all photos.
Poster made by one participant, showing all photos (except one that was stolen on day one).
Miraz Jordan @Miraz