ZIPMKE is code for photography, community and change
There are 27 zip codes in the City of Milwaukee and Dominic Inouye – with help from local photographers, friends and fellow Milwaukeeans – plans to photograph all of them.
The project, called ZIPMKE (pronounced "Zip M-K-E"), materialized in Inouye's mind after Sylville Smith was shot by a police officer this summer in the Sherman Park neighborhood.
"It wasn't just this event that prompted the project, I had been thinking for a long time about how divisive language is and how terms like 'inner city' and 'good neighborhood vs. bad neighborhood' and 'ghetto' or 'yuppieville' affect how we see our city and more importantly, how we see each other," says Inouye. "I wanted to do something to unify parts of Milwaukee."
ZIPMKE photos can be submitted and viewed at ZIPMKE.com. The gallery is just the first step of the project, however. It will later grow into an art exhibit and, hopefully, a community unifier. Inouye says he is aware there are similar projects in the works, but his mission is to offer another approach to creativity and conversation that could lead to change.
"My goal is to break down the geographical and linguistic barriers that divide us through the power of photography," says Inouye. "Our mission is to help Milwaukee see each other."
Originally, Inouye thought he would photograph all of the zip codes himself, but quickly realized it would be more powerful and rewarding as a collaborative effort. He reached out to Austin Anderson, a Marquette University student he works out with, and recruited him as the web developer and photo curator. Tera Greeland, Tracey Thomas, Bryan Kubel and Mario Sinclair also have prominent roles in the project.
"ZIPMKE is open to all photographers, professional and hobbyists," says Inouye. "You don't have to be walking around with a big Nikon to get involved."
If ZIMKE does not receive submissions for all 27 zip codes, Inouye will shoot the remaining spots himself, but it's off to a strong start: so far the project's received submissions from 17 of the 27 zip codes.
In the beginning of 2017, Inouye and his team will select 10 photos from each zip code and display them at the Central Library during Gallery Day on Saturday, Jan. 21. During the Gallery Day event, Inouye hopes it will encourage people from many different zip codes to mingle and have fun.
ZIPMKE will stay at the Central Library for four weeks and then travel to other libraries in the city.
"ZIPMKE is intended to be a conversation starter," says Inouye. "To talk to each other, to see each other and to enact change on an artistic level and beyond."
Through the project, Inouye hopes to showcase photos that reflect aspects of Milwaukee that are previously un- or under-photographed and capture local imagery beyond Lake Michigan, the Milwaukee Art Museum and eateries in trendy neighborhoods.
"These are beautiful places, but they are only part of Milwaukee," says Inouye.
The project has changed the way he identifies people and places. "I like to talk in zip codes now," he says. "I ask people what zip code they are from and share myself that way too."
Inouye grew up in Seattle (98013) and moved to Milwaukee in 1994 to attend grad school at Marquette University (53233). He later taught English at Marquette and later at Pius High School (53213) and The Prairie School (53402) for a combined 22 years before changing directions and becoming The Pfister Narrator (53202) and a freelance writer from his home (53213).
ZIPMKE has affected how Inouye navigates through the city. Unless he's in a hurry, he rarely travels from point A to point B through the most efficient route. Instead, he's been a man of meanderings and detours – and it's been a rewarding experience.
"The other day, it was a beautiful, sunny day, and I drove down an alley near Center Street and MLK Drive and there was peace-oriented graffiti and a beautiful entrance to a church and I had to stop and photograph it," says Inouye. "I'm going to places I've never seen before and I want to encourage other people to do so, too."
Visit ZIPMKE's Go Fund Me page to help offset the costs of web design, printed materials and an upcoming exhibit. For more information or to donate, go here.
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