Sandy Sorlien My working life changed abruptly when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in late summer 2005. At the time I was primarily a fine-art photographer and educator, teaching a new class at the University of Pennsylvania called "The Photography of Urban Place," and working on a book about Main Streets. I was photographing in American towns, using film and a monorail view camera, making prints in the color darkroom back home in Philadelphia. I traveled a lot.

I was also the part-time editor of the SmartCode, a model design and development code for towns and cities that is based on smart growth and new urbanist principles. I was drawn to it because I could visualize the kinds of places it was meant to protect and create, having spent half a lifetime photographing them. This geeky work, far from the art world, became another way to honor my subject matter.

Because of my work on the SmartCode with its authors, Andrés Duany and DPZ, I was invited to head the Codes Team at the Mississippi Renewal Forum, a week-long planning charrette organized by Duany and the Congress for the New Urbanism with efficient urgency six weeks after Katrina. Many smaller charrettes and consultations followed, and suddenly I was a full-time code writer and planner, and teacher of coding workshops. This work took me far beyond the Gulf Coast, to at least twenty American cities and five countries.

Now in 2012 that stormy path is coming back to meet the older path, the art of photography. While out on the road finishing the Main Streets project, I'm also shooting with digital cameras for the purpose of urban analysis. The result of the latter work can be found at the new Transect Collection image bank. May it help those working on the art of planning the built environment, protecting local architectural character, and promoting walkable urbanism.

Photo: At the Manayunk Canal, Philadelphia. Credit: John Arnold.

Links to Sandy’s books:
Fifty Houses
Imagining Antarctica


Center for Applied Transect Studies

Sandy’s Blog:

Sandy’s Business:

All photographs
©2006 Sandy Sorlien.