Portrait of a city hall survivor

When was the last time you thought about your local government? About the folks who handle the switches and gears that control your community – making decisions on your behalf that affect your life in countless ways, every single day. If you never have, former seven-term Nelson city councillor, Donna Macdonald thinks it’s about time you did.

In her new memoir, tentatively titled Surviving City Hall, she offers up an intimate portrait of a city councillor’s life – that also aims to spark interest in and provide knowledge about our local governments.

I became aware of Donna’s book when she contacted me seeking a photographer in Nelson BC that could make some high quality environmental portraits, which she could use to help promote the book when it’s published by Nightwood Editions in Spring, 2016

She wanted some portraits that would put her in the context of her book, so naturally we headed to Nelson City Hall – where we made a few images in front of the building before being let into council chambers to make some portraits in her old stomping grounds where much of the fodder for her book was found.

A passion for local government

During the course of our shoot, I chatted quite a bit with Donna about her book and her passion for local government, which came through loud and clear.

In her own words:

There are very few general-interest books written about local government. Yet it has an immediate influence on our lives every single day. It impacts our neighbourhoods and our communities, the physical and social environment where we live, and the ways in which we live together.

Local government is about how we live together, what values guide us, how we resolve conflicts, what our shared goals are. It’s about building communities where people are healthy and active and feel safe and included, and where they work together for the common good and receive the services they want (from reliable clean water and drive-able streets, to libraries and recreation facilities).

She also mentioned that along with some education about the mechanics of local government, the book will feature some interesting tales of real-life happenings from her 19 years as a councillor.

The book is very accessible, written with humour and humanity. It offers information about local government; stories that may shock, sadden or amuse the reader; and reflections on the whole experience. For example, the book considers the nature of leadership (and what makes a good leader); how we practice democracy (and how we might do it better); and the role of women (where are they all?).

I wrote the book to engage citizens, to inspire people who might be tempted to run for office, and also to reassure sitting councillors that controversy and crisis go hand in hand with accomplishments and success. This book is for anyone who cares about their community and how decisions affecting it are made.

As a self-professed politics junkie, and a former local newspaper reporter who spent some time covering Nelson City Council, I couldn’t agree more. So I was happy to create some images to help Donna promote her book and spread the message far and wide. Keep an eye out for her book when it comes out next year!

Professional photographer in Nelson BC