Landscape and Fine Art Photographer
Contributing Editor // Landscape Architecture Magazine


Founder // Hinge Collective
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Lecture Title
Democratizing Design Through Photography and Visual Storytelling

This presentation will explore the ways photography and visual storytelling can be used as powerful tools for urban design and community engagement. Professional photographer, and frequent contributor to Landscape Architecture Magazine, Sahar Coston-Hardy, will be joined by Alexa Bosse, founder of the Philadelphia-based public interest design firm, Hinge Collective, to share their work integrating photography into the community engagement and design process. We will examine the ways photography, audio, and video were used to successfully engage with communities and how sharing stories from the perspectives of community members helps inform design. We will also discuss how documenting and sharing personal stories can have an impact on providing a deeper understanding of, and building public support for a project.


Sahar will explain the process of collaborating with Agency on XX, their 2019 Miller prize proposal, using visual storytelling to engage residents in Columbus, Indiana. She used multiple mediums as part of the engagement strategy, including portraiture and audio to help amplify their stories centered on women. Looking at the work she did with OLIN for Hunts Point Lifelines, Sahar will share examples of successful storytelling techniques and how they helped share information to inform the plan. She will also present her method of gathering stories and making portraits for the Eastern Market 2525 Strategy in Detroit, Michigan.

Alexa will share her work leveraging photography to find common ground in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. This neighborhood had been ravaged by the opioid crisis and tensions between intergenerational residents and the significant population of unhoused, opioid addicted residents

had been entrenched over 30 years. With many of the traditional means of engagement off the table, Hinge Collective turned to photography as a way to allow a conversation to take place around shared goals and aspirations. The installation, informally called “the wish gallery”, publicly displayed portraits of every kind of resident in the neighborhood, taken and printed on site during a massive multi-block party. In each portrait people held a wish, or fond memory of Kensington. Once completed, a display of large format laminated portraits showed that there were many shared visions and memories.


Sahar and Hinge are also frequent collaborators, and have worked together on the National Street Service (NSS) initiative and are currently working to develop the first ever urban forest strategic plan for Philadelphia; the “Philly Tree Plan”. Funded by Greenfield Labs, NSS sought to better understand and promote the idea of streets as public space. Photography was used, both to document the many engagement events, and to bring a human perspective to narratives around how streets are used and perceived. For the Philly Tree Plan, Sahar and Hinge are working with a group of 24 “Neighborhood Ambassadors” who will be a conduit to understanding relationships to trees and to help Philadelphia plan for trees in a way that supports the many unique neighborhoods with their own histories and narratives. Sahar will be providing a crash course in photography to the ambassadors and they will be documenting their perspective of trees through their photographs. Sahar is also facilitating a city-wide photography challenge to allow all Philadelphia residents to share their relationship to trees through their own photos.