Zane Osler has taken photos around the world in astounding places like Fiji and Barcelona, but it wasn’t until he moved to the east side of Columbus that he created his most meaningful body of work.
For the past year and a half, Osler has been working on “The East Side,” a book of black-and-white street photography portraits taken of people in their day-to-day lives from the King-Lincoln District, a neighborhood Osler felt was underrepresented in the Columbus area.
“When people think about Columbus they think about the Short North. They think about Grandview. They think about German Village,” Osler said. “When I moved here, I started interacting with the people and children from this neighborhood and I realized how special this place was.”
Osler said the project began a week after moving in, when he befriended a group of neighborhood kids. He started photographing them playing outside and quickly realized the potential of what he was shooting. He started walking the streets in search of new people to meet and narratives to capture.
Osler said he was immediately touched by the culture of his neighborhood, and as he began compiling the portraits of the people he met, he wanted to share their stories in a way that would live forever.
“At first I wanted to do maybe a gallery show or an exhibition and then I realized the work was too important and I thought it needed to be in a place that is not ephemeral,” he said. “It needs to live in a book. It’s the story of our neighborhood.”
Osler described street photography as making ordinary moments in people’s lives extraordinary. He said the ultimate reward of taking these photos has been the relationships he has formed and being able to provide his community with something meaningful.
After spending time with the neighborhood children, playing football and “just doing kid things,” Osler said he was able to take those moments and turn them into a physical memory for the kids.
Osler said it’s not just about taking a cool photo, but being able to establish a relationship that’s mutually benefiting.
“I never want to be the only one walking away with something,” he said. “They provided me with some of the best photographs I’ve ever taken. In return, I get to show them and their neighborhood in a way they want to be shown.”
The book is set to be released Dec. 2. Osler said he’s nervous for the fast approaching deadline but excited to finally present his book to the public, which will be available at Madison-USA — a store in the Short North where he also works as the lead photographer and stylist — as well as his website.
“People take cool pictures everyday, but I’m the only person shooting what I’m shooting, which is an incredible honor,” Osler said. “This is a small gesture I can do to memorialize this amazing place that has had a profound impact on my work.”