Picture this: Library’s Spring Photowalk brings out the artist in participants

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 19, 2015

By Elizabeth Roy

For the Salisbury Post

A drive through historic Salisbury can be the highlight of any commute, especially this time of year. The redbuds lend purple splashes to front yards, and white fences pop against their new green backdrops.

But to really experience the scene’s treasures – the architectural details of the 19th century homes and exuberant ferns adorning windows and walkways, for example – one has to park the car and go for a stroll.

And at Rowan Public Library’s Spring Photowalk last weekend, this is exactly what participants did. A total of 22 participants, ages 13 on up, came with cameras, ready to discover.

“When you’re actually walking through historic Salisbury, it’s a special kind of view,” said Paul Birkhead, reference librarian for Rowan Public Library and coordinator for the event.

Commenced from Rowan Public Library headquarters, the photo walk covered several blocks surrounding the library and passed historic sites including the Hall House, Utzman-Chambers House, and Bell Tower Park. Participants enjoyed a relaxed tour, and were free to linger at a particular site while the group continued on.

“It’s understood that you move at your own pace, and you’ll know where we’ll be,” said Birkhead. “People get wrapped up in it.”

Carolyn Glasgow of Salisbury was a return participant, and says that she looks forward to these seasonal photo walks.

“Today is a beautiful, perfect day,” said Glasgow. “I like that the walk gives you permission to take photos you otherwise wouldn’t.”

Since its beginning in 2012, the photo walk is a semiannual event for Rowan Public Library. The Spring Photowalk was held at library headquarters only, with Fall Photowalks to be held at all three library branches.

“We have tried to offer photo walks seasonally to capture the beauty of Rowan County year-round,” said April Everett, east branch manager for the library. The walks typically draw between 20 and 25 participants, Everett says, with a range of cameras – from professional cameras to cell phones.

Participant photos from the walk are shared in a public folder – look for the “Spring Photowalk Exhibit” link at rowanpubliclibrary.org – as well as in a physical display in the library’s lobby.

An enthusiastic shutterbug himself, Birkhead serves as both a tour guide and fellow photographer on the library’s photo walks.

“We’re all walking the same street and even taking photos of the same objects sometimes, but the perspective is different,” said Birkhead. “It’s just so neat to see what people come up with.”

That enthusiasm was palpable among the participants as well. All of the participants had their own objectives for the morning, everything from capturing detail, to better understanding their cameras, to simply enjoying the spring in a lovely setting.

“Feedback from participants is overwhelmingly positive, and most enjoy the fact that it’s an event that can be enjoyed by the whole family,” said Everett.

The photo walk experience – the appreciation of history and fostering of an interest in photography – ties directly in with the library’s mission of lifelong learning, Everett says. Participants can take advantage of Rowan Public Library’s extensive selection of books on photography, as well as the free online photography classes offered through the library’s Gale Courses.

Harley Hirst, a sophomore at Salisbury High School, enjoys the resources that the library offers to photographers and was eager to try out some older SLR lenses that he recently acquired.

“The walk is more of a learning experience. These are really the only places I can refine the skills I’ve learned myself,” said Hirst of the photo walk and of Rowan Public Library.

And for participants pulled in by the magnetic history of the homes on the photo walk, the library’s local history room is a useful resource. Many of the homeowners in historic Salisbury frequent the room, Birkhead says, seeking to learn more about their homes and town.

On top of the historic and lifelong learning reasons for holding photo walks, the library just likes to do things for the community, Birkhead says. And with its continued success and enthusiastic participants, Rowan Public Library’s photo walk is a compelling way to bring people together and celebrate the seasons of Rowan County.

“Any time we can enhance people’s lives, we like to do that,” said Birkhead.

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