One Great City!

Stuck in the Middle serves as strong reminder to vote intelligently

Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg is a coffee table book exploring the love-hate relationship some people have with our city, written by Bartley Kives, a Winnipeg Free Press journalist who wrote his first book, A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba, in 2006. All photos are by Bryan Scott, a local photographer best known for his Winnipeg Love Hate photo blog. There’s also a foreword written by Weakerthans front man John K. Samson.

“We started in 2011 and spent a couple years whittling it down from 4,000 images, to a couple hundred and then eventually the roughly 200 that made the final cut,” Kives says. “We wanted to create a coffee table book for people who hate coffee table books because they can be stodgy. We didn’t want to just compile a bunch of sanitized images because we’re not dressing up Winnipeg with a fancy bow and pretending that the city doesn’t have any issues.”

Aside from photo captions, the book also contains 12 chapters with short essays examining the various issues Winnipeg has faced and continues to deal with. The first chapter sees Kives painting Winnipeg as a city that’s stuck in the middle of many different possibilities, which perfectly sets the tone as we gear up for the civic election on Oct. 22.

“I was definitely thinking about Sam Katz’s term ending and a new mayor coming in when writing that,” he says. “I still think we’re on the precipice of a really important decision because we could repeat all the mistakes of the past or we could do something that could actually guide our development in more of a rational way. 

“But it’s not that easy; things are so screwed up and for reasons that aren’t just Sam Katz’s fault, these are reasons that have been decades in the making. I’m not overly optimistic or pessimistic, I’m just looking at how difficult things are and being honest.”

The fifth chapter sees Kives taking on Winnipeg’s “love affair with the car” and how it took the city 36 years of talking to build the first 3.6 kilometres of a rapid transit corridor.

“We’re just trying to explore the simultaneous love and revulsion that we have for Winnipeg,” he describes. “We love it, but we want it to be better. And the only way the city can be better is if we acknowledge what actually sucks about it.”

This book probably won’t solve all of Winnipeg’s problems, but it does do a good job of acknowledging them.

“People say they recognize the places in the photos, but don’t remember seeing them that way,” he says. “They think Bryan’s work makes them look more beautiful or uglier or grittier than they thought they were and I don’t think that’s bad because cities aren’t beautiful all the time. Winnipeg is a quirky, interesting city with a fascinating history and a lot of potential to be itself. What I would love is for Winnipeg to just be comfortable in its own skin.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 7 of The Uniter (October 15, 2014)

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