By Ted Simpson –
“What do you love about Ottawa?”
That’s the question Hintonburg photographer Dwayne Brown has been asking people all across the city over the past year for a personal project he has created and simply titled, LoveOttawa.
Brown appears, seemingly out of thin air, from the back of the Hintonburg Public House. “Through the kitchen, across the alley and up the fire escape, that’s my studio,” he explains.
The area around Wellington and Fairmont is Brown’s home and base for his business as a corporate and commercial photographer. LoveOttawa is an idea Brown created to fend off the doldrums. “Things generally quiet down in the summer, I don’t really like being quiet or slow, so I wanted a side project that I could do some portraits that were a little more street based,” he says.
He’s been doing photography for 31 years, 15 of them in Ottawa. Brown came here from Edmonton to experience a different part of Canada and decided to stick around.
For his current project, Brown sets out to meet people who share his affection for our city. His subjects could be a business owner, a chef, or tourist, so long as they have a few good words to say about Ottawa.
Brown takes his subject’s portrait on location against a signature white panel held up with red clamps and shares their story and their photo on his blog, love-ottawa.com. Of course, every story brings its own unique answer to the same question: “What do you love about Ottawa?”
“Everybody’s got their reasons,” says Brown. “I’ve got my reasons, I love the cultural mix of French English, I love the architecture, the history.”
“It ends up being a bit of a social documentary of right now, where is Ottawa at, what are people interested in, what do they love, it’s fun,” says Brown.
Brown recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of LoveOttawa with a party at 8 Locks’ Flat on the Rideau Canal. Bringing together people he has photographed and meeting new people who could become future subjects, is how Brown loves to build community. “It’s about connecting people, good people with good people,” he says.
Over the first year of his project, Brown has covered many of the city’s stars – politicians to artists to entrepreneurs – and he’s turning his eyes towards the unsung heroes of Ottawa going into year two. “The people that I now have my sights on are people that I don’t know yet,” Brown explains, “Strangers, that’s one thing that I feel I would like to get a bit more of.”
love-ottawa.com is an ongoing collection of reasons why our city is a great place to be, a place that is only getting better as more people share their passions, dreams and their hidden gems.
“The feeling that I’m getting, that I’m most excited about, is that the whole city is going through this positive evolution, this positive change,” says Brown. “There are less people that are cynical about the city and more people that are positive about the city.”
Five things you should know about Dwayne Brown
1. Dwayne has a personal blog
When he isn’t telling other people’s stories on LoveOttawa, Dwayne takes some time to write about himself at blog.dwaynebrown.com. These are stories and photos from inside the life of someone who has a unique job and a positive outlook on life. On occasion he shares a photo for free download.
2) You’ve probably seen Dwayne’s couch
Remember about a year ago when an ancient, iconic couch kept popping up all over town? Yeah, that was Dwayne and some friends with their Community Couch project. He lugged that old couch out to the Byron Farmers Market, Dovercourt, Mountain Equipment Co-op and Suzy Q Donuts – just to name a few local spots. The couch also made it out to Chinatown and the Parliament buildings. The photos are still online at communitycouch.tumblr.com.
3) He’s recently joined the cycling community
Sitting in the Hintonburg Public House watching the installation of a bike corral (read the story in KT right here), Dwayne’s initial response was less than enthusiastic. “I made a few comments about it on Twitter and that really got a conversation going,” says Brown. “What I realized very quickly was just how passionate the cycling community in Ottawa really is.” The conversation was enough to convert Brown to pedal power and he bought his first grown-up bicycle soon after.
4) He’s made amateur astronomy a new pass time
Brown and his son recently invested in a spiffy new telescope and is now pointing a lens in a whole new direction: up. “It’s the most humbling and inspiring thing I’ve done in quite some time, and I get to do it with my son,” said Brown. He’s even captured some stunning photos of the moon simply by pointing his iPhone through the lens of the telescope.
5) Dwayne is a cat person
Although Brown’s Instagram feed reveals a spectacular array of scenery, portraits and behind-the-scenes shots, the real star of the show is Polly the cat. In addition to photo assistant Maija Hirsimaki, Polly is a mainstay at the studio. So yes, even professional photographers love to share cat photos on Instagram.
Read more “five things” profiles right here and learn more about the people who make our community so great.