Note: This is the fourth in a series of six stories that are being done by participants of the HooHaa Holga Challenge. The rest will run through Friday. See information for the rest at the bottom of this post.
By Jeff Soderquist
Seattle, Washington is located in the far northwest corner of the United States, nestled in between the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges along the shores of the Puget Sound.
The Emerald City is a town defined by its surrounding natural beauty and distinct neighborhoods. Born and raised in Washington, I’ve lived in the greater Puget Sound region all my life, and had the pleasure of calling Seattle my home for going on six years now.
I’ve been told a time or two over the years that you can never truly appreciate Seattle unless you live somewhere else. To that, my response has always been, “What if I love it so much I couldn’t bear to leave?” I have immense pride for my town, which is why I jumped at the chance to share these feeling through the Holga My Town project.
The challenge called for each participant to shoot two rolls of film in their Holga, one color and one black and white. I chose to shoot with Ilford Delta 400 and Kodak Portra 400. From the 24 photographs we then had to pair those down to 12 which best represented how we see our town.
Initially I was teeming with grand ideas of things to photograph around town. My list of potential sites crisscrossed the city,
with a general disregard to any sense of order or theme.
While a few of those original ideas ended up making the cut, I quickly redirected my strategy towards the project to reflect more of a daily life approach to my town. Shot over the course of two weeks, I used my Holga to record how I live, work,
and play in my town.
The nature of the project is such that if done again, the resulting photographs would be completely different, yet the themes within them would be similar. Perhaps that is what I love so much about Seattle; the seemingly endless opportunities to explore and experience what it has to offer.
Since moving to Seattle back in 2007, my wife and I have bounced around. We’ve lived in a variety of Seattle’s distinct neighborhoods — the Central District, First Hill, Queen Anne, and Wallingford — before settling into our current location on the edge of Downtown and the vibrant Capitol Hill neighborhood.
This time spent living in different enclaves around town helped me grow an appreciation for just how rewarding urban life could be. Having spent my college years in a small city with a thriving downtown core, I was becoming increasingly interested in locally owned and operated businesses in an attempt to distance myself from suburban strip malls and chain restaurants.
Seattle’s collection of communities with bustling main street style atmospheres was like a dream come true. I can honestly say I take pride in the fact that my town does not have a single Applebee’s or Olive Garden within city limits (although to be honest, several other large chain restaurants have operations in Seattle).
One has to look no further than Seattle’s beer and coffee culture to see just how passionate this town is about locally sourced goods and services.
Coffee shops and brewpubs dot the city’s map, and are the corner stone of its communities. Not just one of each mind you, but several.
I could easily obtain a
cup of coffee from a different coffeehouse with in a three-block radius of my apartment for a week and still not exhaust all my options. That’s without even considering the likes of Starbucks, Seattle’s Best or Tully’s.
If you’re looking to unwind and have a beer, the options available to you are nearly as diverse. Most neighborhoods are home to a brewery, if not a handful. They vary in size and stature, from the nationally known Pyramid Brewery to the one-man operation at Northwest Peaks Brewery.
Beyond the breweries, it’s not uncommon for restaurants to have upwards to twenty beers on tap to quench your thirst.
Beyond caffeine and cold ones, the Seattle sports scene plays an important role in my day to day life.
I’ll admit Seattle isn’t necessarily known for its success in sports, but that does not mean I don’t pour my heart and soul into the local teams.
Large portions of the country are without a professional sports team, and I simply could not fathom living in such an environment. The painful loss of the Supersonics in 2004 to Oklahoma City only made me appreciate this fact more.
What would warm summer nights be without trips to Safeco Field to watch the Mariners? Or Saturday afternoons in the fall without trips to Husky Stadium with my dad to watch college football?
Sports at its best bring a community together, and I am thankful to be able to live in close proximity to so many professional and collegiate teams and experience their game day atmospheres.
Another aspect I love so much about living in an urban area is the walkability factor.
Growing up in a suburban neighborhood 30 minutes north of Seattle, owning a car was your ticket to freedom and mobility. Life without wheels was simply unimaginable.
My time in Seattle, however, has taught me that a car is not always the most effective mode of transportation through the city. Most of the areas of the city I’ve lived in around town have been set up in such a way that walking was easier and sometimes faster than taking the car.
Beyond walking, I’ve learned to rely on the bus, or as I like to call it, the urban limo, to link me between districts.
Ultimately the quest for the perfect apartment in a location near both work and a thriving community led us to move to a building located at the nexus of downtown and the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Everything we could ask for is within a 15-minute walk of our apartment, including work.
I’ll admit we have yet to go completely car free, but rarely do we take it out of the parking garage. Even rarer is our need to use the bus system.
Moving about the city on foot has helped me feel more connected to the city in ways public transit and a car never could. I feel more connected to things around me, I recognize people on the street, and have discovered new stores and restaurants I might not have otherwise.
Our central location in the city affords me the luxury to be able to walk to the Pike Place Market to get meat and produce for the week, have lunch up on Capitol Hill while I wait for film to be developed at the lab, and bar hop through Pioneer Square before attending a baseball or football game that night all without the stepping foot in a motorized vehicle.
By now you’re probably getting a sense for why when someone tells me that living somewhere else is the only way to appreciate Seattle, I simple reply, “No thanks. I have all I need right here.”
Seattle, my town, my home.
More photos from Jeff’s challenge are below:
See more of Jeff on the web:
HooHaa Holga Challenge:
Day five of the HooHaa Holga Challenge is Thursday, with Nada and Kuwait City, Kuwait.