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Through a Changing Landscape

Photographing Place and Community in Waterloo Region

By Philippe Elsworthy
Afterword by Adam Crerar
Subjects Waterloo Region, Art
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Hardcover : 9781771125659, 200 pages, May 2022


What makes Waterloo Region unique? What defines a sense of place?

Seventy-five carefully chosen photographs depict the elements that collectively make Waterloo Region's urban landscape different from any other Ontario city, for example, the predominance of industrial architecture in the heart of the city, the Pennsylvania-German influences, and the Mid-Century Modernist buildings, which University of Waterloo Architecture Professor Rick Haldenby calls “the vernacular architecture of Waterloo Region.”

Sense of place has been defined as our relationship with places in terms of the emotions, personal experiences, stories they evoke. Elsworthy's photographs dramatically illustrate how the built form can attract or repel. He invites us into each of his photographs to experience and interpret each scene for ourselves. Over the course of the book, we come to see how community and sense of place are intrinsically and vitally connected.


“Philippe Elsworthy’s photographs take us on a brilliant journey through Waterloo Region, but, more importantly, through presence and absence in an urban landscape that feels both immediate and distant. The mystery is of time. There is always a sense that what we see is an illusion. We may recognize a building or a place, but one can never be confident in this collection that what is familiar to us even exists. And then there is the colour. The question of reality always hovers slightly beyond our grasp. Are we looking directly or is there a gauze or filter? How often does the space in the photo wander to an uncertain end? The images are the very stuff of memory, pale and vivid, matter of fact, and full of suggestion. Lost and found.” — Rick Haldenby, Waterloo Architecture

“Many books offer guidance on nature and countryside. Few do so for cities. Philippe Elsworthy fills this gap for Waterloo, Kitchener, and Cambridge with photos and observations derived from decades walking this growing urban region. His focus is architecture, culture, community, and how people see and change cities over time. The book emphasizes photos and discussions beyond the opulent generally used to showcase cities, as well as a revealing discussion between Elsworthy and history professor Adam Crerar. This unique book offers insights for Waterloo Region that are applicable to many other cities. And it enriches our appreciation of urban heritage.”
—Gordon Nelson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Waterloo

“For each of us, ‘home’ conjures up a different place. We feel fortunate that Philippe has shared with us this second glimpse into his world even as it gradually disappears. So we trace his familiar walks to work past the handsome homes of Waterloo’s uptown, past reminders of its industrial past—the Seagram barrel pyramid, the lone chimney of Mueller’s cooperage, the button works, the bingo hall. And we take that shortcut to the beer store through the railway yards and grab a burger at Sonny’s. These are history lessons we could learn to love.
Waterloo Region, with its distinctive tri-cities, its deep cultural roots, and confusing directionals, has become Phil’s home place. With his books as your guide, it will also become yours.”
—Susan Burke, museologist