A well-known Grand Forks videographer has been working to make a digital record of a neighbourhood devastated by flooding before all of its homes are relocated or torn down.
Les Johnson says he has been extensively photographing North Ruckle since May 2021, so future generations will know what it was like.
“People will be able to in a sense virtually visit the community, see what was there, browse around, move around as though they were in a car or walking down the street,” he says.
“I had the thought that in five or 10 years, visitors to this area, if they’ve never seen North Ruckle would not have the experience of knowing what it was like, and how it was laid out, and what was there.”
Johnson says he put his 360-degree camera on a tripod, attached it to his phone, and began driving through the neighbourhood.
While the project is similar to Google Street View, Johnson says he’d like to offer an enhanced version.
“Eventually I’d like to have recordings with people talking about what it was like to live in the community. More a celebration of life, so to speak, than a dry, funereal rendition of a dead community.”
That part of the idea came to him while watching a Remembrance Day ceremony and thinking about “augmented reality,” such as the Pokemon Go craze of a few years ago.
He realized it would be possible to use a digital device to walk up to the cenotaph and see pictures and read stories of the people whose names appear on the memorial. The same could apply to the North Ruckle project.
“I would like to bring people who lived there into this, what they’re willing to share about what it was like to live there. Right now it’s still fresh in a lot of minds, and still too painful for many. I can imagine how they feel, so I’m holding off.”
But Johnson has already created a test site in which viewers will be able to look at an aerial view of the subdivision, click on a house, and bring up images of it from multiple angles.
“People should be able to in 10 years, when this is parkland, hold up their digital device and see what was where they’re having their picnic or soccer game,” Johnson says.