Your Own Backyard

TAoN No. 92: Taking a closer look at what's close to home. Plus: A new icebreaker, and more.

I got a great note the other day from Lisa Germany, a photographer, telling me about a group photo exhibition she had sparked and directed, in Nuuk, Greenland. She mentioned the exhibition was partly inspired by TAoN — and in the process she has inspired a new TAoN prompt.

Here’s the deal. The show is called “In My Backyard,” and described as:

“An exploration of the urban beauty of Greenland's capital as experienced by ten of its best photographers. Challenged to showcase the area within 300m of their home, the result is a very personal look at many of the different neighbourhoods that make up the small city.

“Aside from the specified distance from their front door, there were no other instructions given.”

One of the posters for the show. The photo is by Cebastian Rosing

More of the official description:

“The exhibition aims to encourage everyone to take a second look at their own backyard — paying attention to what they love about it and the small details that make the space an important part of their home.” 

That’s such an easy idea to participate in, I love it. I also like the 300 meters parameter, which opens up the idea of “my backyard” — particularly to those who, say, live in an apartment that doesn’t have a literal backyard. What do you consider your backyard to be? And: What do you consider its outer limit? You can zero in on the fine details, scrutinizing things close up. But you can also include the wider view: look up, look out, look as far as you can see.

Photo by Inooraq Brandt
Photo by Lisa Germany

The show will be up at the Nuuk Local Museum through the end of January, and the project is encouraging Nuuk locals to participate with images of their own “backyards” tagged #inmybackyardnuuk on Instagram.


I appreciate the city-specific nature of this project. While each participant is offering something strictly personal, it adds up to a de facto portrait of a place. Maybe every city/town should organize something like this.

That said, the underlying “In My Backyard” idea also works on a person-by-person basis. So think about the limits of your “backyard,” whether it’s your actual property or elsewhere within 300 meters (or yards) of home. I’m taking this week’s prompt directly from the “In My Backyard” project’s language.

The prompt: “Document your own backyard — exploring and paying attention to what you love about it and the small details that make the space an important part of your home.”

Many, many thanks to Lisa Germany for reaching out! More about her here, and she’s on Instagram here.


The Art of Noticing is Rob Walker’s reader-supported newsletter about creativity, curiosity, work, and staying human. You are reading the free Monday edition; paid subscribers get a Thursday issue, too. Subscribers make all this possible! Thank you!

  • Noticing is about other people, too. The Icebreaker series aims to help with that. There’s a central collection spot for all the icebreakers to date, here.

This week’s icebreaker is from friend (and featured noticer!) of TAoN Rob Kilner:

"What olympic event would you do, if you could do any, no previous experience or talent required?"

Actually, it turns out this question came from Rob’s dentist, who asked it mid-checkup. “I found it tricky to respond whilst having my molars counted and prodded,” he says. “But the dentist and dental assistant were having a laugh.”

Rob adds: “The dental assistant said she'd go straight in there for the 100m Men's Final, which nearly made me spit out the dental vacuum cleaner lodged under my tongue.”

Understandable response! My thanks to Rob — he was featured in TAoN No. 33 (where, I just now noticed, I refer to him at one point as “Kilroy,” sorry!), and I recommend his Workers Lunchtime project.

As usual, I’m still working through the disorganized backlog of icebreaker submissions. But as always, I want more:

Please send your favorite icebreaker (whether you made it up or found it elsewhere) to

Programming Notes

  • I have several things in the works for future Thursday posts for paid subscribers, including a lesson via Aimee Mann on paying attention; thoughts from & about Dorie Clark’s recent book The Long Game; and a post about why I think people should stop celebrating “saying no.” And there’s one more that I don’t want to pre-announce. Anyway lots coming up!

  • Plus, every Thursday, a fresh installment of The Heard, sharing music that’s caught my attention (in a good way) lately.

  • Last Thursday’s post was a departure from what I had planned, but instead shared some awesome “tiny intervention” projects from readers. If you liked last week’s Make It Art (the Sequel) post, you’ll love this one. So fun!

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In Other News

Okay that’s it!

  • As always, I value your feedback (suggestions, critiques, positive reinforcement, constructive insults, etc.), as well as your tips or stories or personal noticing rituals, things we need a word for, and of course your icebreakers: Or use the comments!

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