Lake Street USA, a Photographic Documentary


Wing Young Huie, a noted photographer whose work bears comparison with that of Diane Arbus, spent four years making a visual documentary of the diverse people and neighborhoods along Lake Street in Minneapolis, Minnesota. To create a more complete view of Lake Street, Huie also recorded many interviews with its residents. The result was a six-mile-long public exhibit with over 600 photographs, weaving together the people and cultures of the area. In recognition of his achievement, Wing Young Huie was named "Artist of the Year" by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.


To supplement the actual exhibit, the Walker Art Center wanted to create an online experience where visitors could view all 600 images of the Lake Street photography project in the comfort of their own environments. Besides providing a more private way than the outdoor installation to experience the intimate reality depicted in the photographs, the web site provides an online forum for people to discuss the exhibit with others via a chat function, or to post their own comments. Visitors could also select photos that they most enjoy, create their own "exhibit" and share them with friends. The Walker turned to ATI for help in making this online component a reality.


Visitors needed ways to feel and respond to the emotional immediacy of the project. Instead of simply displaying images, the site needed a way to enable visitors to talk about the photos, to share their thoughts, both publicly and privately. All technical aspects had to be compatible with browsers as old as Netscape 3.0. One other thing: the artistic impact of the photos could not be compromised when presented on the website.


The ATI team created Lake Street, USA in sixty days. Opening at the same time as the public exhibition, the website received numerous positive responses from viewers.

ATI selected POET's Object Server Suite based on its ease of use, simplicity and multi-platform support, enabling development in any environment without requiring a lengthy and complex porting process.

ATI designed a custom Java Web framework, serving all of the site's database functionality needs, including dynamic storage and retrieval of images of each location and storefront on Lake Street.

The navigation design recreates the block-by-block display, reflecting the actual physical street exhibition. A sophisticated, backward-compatible Javascript code allows easy access to the more than 600 photographs without using a large amount of screen space.

A visitor could zoom in and explore the details of a photograph, without extra downloading time, and without a loss in clarity. In short, the online experience was very comparable to the real-life exhibit, minus the weather and the grit of Lake Street

The website is archived by the Walker Art Center and can be seen at: Lake Street USA.