‘Where I live now’

Photographer captures community and identity in Winnipeg project

September 24, 2014 | Young Voices
Rachel Bergen | Young Voices Co-Editor

Karen Allen is originally from Kempton Park, South Africa, near Johannesburg, but she currently lives in Winnipeg.

Why on earth would she choose to live there, you ask? You aren’t the only one.

She sometimes asks that of herself, especially after last winter.

In response to this question of place, Allen, a graphic designer, began a photography project called Where I Live Now (W/I/L/N). Her project involves photographing cultural events and people, and interviewing them about why they live in the Slurpee capital of the world.

The 30-year-old, who is a member at Bethel Mennonite Church, began the project seven months ago after a trip to South Africa where she got married and visited family.

On the 27-hour trip back to Winnipeg, she took the time to evaluate her concept of home. “I realized that [Kempton Park] isn’t my home anymore,” she says, adding, though, “I’ve been away from home long enough, but I still don’t feel Canadian.”

In the last several months, she’s realized that she’s really happy living here. And she keeps finding that other Winnipeggers are, too. “For the amount of grumbling we’ve done, especially in the last year, there are a lot of reasons to stay here,” she says. “People talked a lot about family, friends and the community that’s here, the connection they have with people.”

Allen thinks W/I/L/N is an important storytelling medium in a world of negativity, saying, “[My husband] Jamie sees it as the anti-venom in the snake pit.”

--Posted Sept. 24, 2014

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