One of my responsibilities at Strong Towns is posting information about upcoming events on our event page. I get the details about the event from my colleague Michelle, and all I have to do is format it, find a photo to use as the header image, and hit publish. Easy.
The part that sometimes trips me up, though, is my photo search. For big cities like Montreal and Minneapolis, it's not hard to find a free and useable photo, but for the smaller towns, there's often a depressing dearth of any pleasant, representative images.
Take Thompsonville, MI for instance. We have an event there in the spring, but when I searched for photos to use on this event posting, I came up with hardly anything. I ended up using an image from a previous event there, which is fine but doesn't tell us anything about the town. I am sure there are some beautiful spots in Thompsonville that would be well worth highlighting, but the internet doesn't appear to have them.
Back when Strong Towns members and staff were collaboratively writing the Strong Towns Strength Test, one question that didn't quite make the final ten-question cut was: "If the President/Queen of England/Beyonce was visiting your town and you were asked to give a tour, are there any neighborhoods that you'd avoid?" If you didn't answer Yes to that question, I think you're probably lying to yourself.
The flipside of the question, though, is which neighborhoods would you highlight? What is your town most proud of? What makes your community special? Now I know you have some answers to those questions. You're probably brainstorming an entire list right now...
And once you've got that list, you can use it to make your town stronger. If we start with those beautiful places and ask, What makes them successful? What makes them a draw? we can learn about our communities' assets and build off of them.
If your favorite spot in town is a peaceful park, maybe it's time to take what works in that park (good seating, nice garden, frequent events and games) and apply it in another local park. If your favorite street is a lovely historic avenue, maybe it's time to help that street grow by encouraging new businesses to fill its storefronts or sprucing it up with wider sidewalks and a fresh coat of paint on the buildings.
So let's take a moment and celebrate our towns' wins. And then let's share those with the world.
I've got a charge for you: Take some nice photos of your town. I firmly believe that every town has a beautiful side to it. Find that and capture it, then share it on social media with the hashtag #Lovemyplace or even better, post it in the #WhereILive channel on Slack, where you can share about why this place matters to you.
And let us know if we can use the photo on our site. Hopefully we'll be coming to your community for an event soon and we'll get to use that photo to showcase the best that your town has to offer.