I don’t remember how I first heard about Michael Cho’s beautiful book: back alleys and urban landscapes but the title made it a sure-fire gifty pick for an alley loving friend. The book is more collection of drawings than text—in fact there’s almost no text, which makes the experience of wandering through its pages not unlike ‘wandering’, generally. Flipping through—being careful not to leave jammy fingerprints [is it wrong to test run a gift book?]—I was reminded of my own favourite alleyway behind a Toronto duplex where I carved out a garden in the gravel between dilapidated wooden garages. With the addition of a wonky table and a barely working BBQ, it became a hub for summer games, watermelon seed spitting contests and the first of many ‘ant hotels’ [ant hills that are left to prosper and grow] complete with No Vacancy sign.
When seen in a certain light, past the grit and the scruff, alleys are more inviting than intimidating… connections not barriers.
Micheal Cho knows this and his drawings beautifully reflect one of the very best aspects of city life.
“They’re family places, quiet and often hidden in plain sight… when you know a city, you know its back alleys. It’s like a house: the dining room is in the front to show guests, while the real living goes on in the kitchen…” ~back alleys and urban landscapes, by Michael Cho (Drawn & Quarterly, 2012)
—Purchase back alleys and urban landscapes online at Blue Heron Books.