Images and narrative speaking to the heart of Life – this homestead served a family for a time, a family living from the land. The home building, the cabin was certainly heated through the cold of winter and night by wood in a wood stove. This morning, I’ve returned for a look at response to my photoblog to find that Regina (Gina) Arnold writer/author/photographer of The Regina Chronicles has nominated me/my blog for The Heart of Fire Award. The photographs and stories connecting to them find meaning in several lives including that of Gina. And, Gina as fellow-blogger has been one to engage in the dialogue that responds and moves thinking forward in my photography. She encourages in such dialogue and does so again with this award … and I am grateful. Thank you Gina.
The award also is meant to inform others about the recipient highlighting seven (7) things about the blogger/photographer/writer. A husband, a father, an educator, a photographer, a writer, a brother, a son – all are roles I engage in daily. Beyond these roles, other areas of Life are significant – here are seven things among many.
- The Writing Life – Married within my last year of University, I was deposited at term-end up north to rejoin my wife in a bedroom community serving Fort McMurray, Alberta fifty kilometres away on the southern side of Gregoire Lake in Anzac, Alberta where my wife taught a grade 1-2 split class. I’m indebted to her fellow teacher for his down-to-earth grounding on what the teaching life is actually about and for his connecting me to Ira Progoff’s Intensive Journal Writing Method through Joe Couture. Through the years I’ve found myself reconnecting with the writing life in these weekend workshops – Convent Station – New Jersey, University of British Columbia – Vancouver, British Columbia and again at another convent in St. Paul, Minnesota.
- Fingerstyle Guitar – a piano and guitar have accompanied me through most times in my Life. In University Ma Fletcher introduced me to tablature, fingerstyle guitar and playing with others. The second guitar I bought was a Daion 12 string, a choice influenced by Dave Mason’s 12 string work (have a listen to Sad and Deep As You). My interest in guitar was rekindled after reading Presbyterian Minister, Steve Stockman’s book Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2 and finding him broadcasting across the internet from BBC Radio Ulster a show entitled Rhythm and Soul (8:00 p.m. Ulster – 1:00 p.m. Alberta). With a pawn shop Yamaha guitar I began working through Johnny Cash, Willard Grant Conspiracy and Martyn Joseph; because you could re-listen to the show you could play along to many of the songs. From there it’s been a 1989 Takamine EF 325 src guitar and L’Arrivee L-03 and a Taylor 355CE and finally a Martin Backpacker guitar.
- Story, Narrative and Novels – curiously, I learned more about the mechanics of novel writing through Bill Beard’s narrative film course at the University of Alberta. W.O. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen the Wind was perhaps the first novel holding meaning for me as a young adult, more because the Life experiences being considered were so similar to my own – growing up on the Canadian prairie. I am both a novel reader and audiobook listener. In university, when I’d have finished my day or evening’s readings/studies, I’d have audiobooks going that were stories referred to tangentially by my professors – it was a great way to fall asleep. Audiobooks were handy for walking, summer cycling and taking buses around town. I eventually adapted my love for listening into a means of study and enjoyed a full semester with marks at the top of all classes taken that term. In terms of story and stories, Emily Bronte’s discussion of soul mates in Catherine and Heathcliff still ranks high for me – Wuthering Heights. Hamlet, perhaps because of the investment of work in understanding the totality of it ranks high for me. John Le Carre’s stories about George Smiley and the circus still hold my attention as does the recent release of the seventies depiction of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. For a time, A Perfect Spy held my attention. And, I’ve understood through the years, that my like for spy stories has to do with their observations and insights about organizational behaviour. Beyond this, I like the concept of vertigo as found in Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being; and I like the orientation to humility that occurs within this story – there are truths, here.
- Chuck Me in the Shallow Water – My orientation to Life is somewhat primal and seeks the pragmatic. Down to earth exploration of what Life is about is perhaps a primary goal for us all. You’ll find me advocating the movie Venus with Peter O’Toole as one film exploring the wisdom associated with Life reality. You’ll also find me digging in to John O’Donohue’s work for his ideas on beauty, on Life and contributing to Life. And, for as much as I seem to understand Life, I’m aware of the ‘much’ that I’ve yet to understand … here, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians’ song ‘What I Am,’ especially the lyric ‘Chuck me in the shallow water before I get too deep,’ poignantly point out that haunting aspect that there’s more that I don’t know, there’s a bigger picture that I and perhaps none of will ever be able to completely fathom. Humility is there in the recognition that all that Life is can never totally be figured out. But, we go forward and make the best of the day that confronts us.
- Next steps photography-wise – in addition to continuing on with all things photographic, I’m thinking that my next move will be macro photography; I’ve seen some excellent macro photography on these photoblogs; one photographer who’s caught my attention because she sends me macro images is Kasia Sokulska – an Edmonton-based photographer. I’m thinking that my father would have loved digital macro photography for his images of flowers in and around the house on 58th Street in Edmonton. I want a good macro lens that will provide good depth of field work. So, it will be a Canon macro lens, for my Canon EOS 60D and 30D.
- Music – “There’s good music and music that’s good for something,” – so says Woody Guthrie. Music figures as an anchor in my Life. I note that in those times when Life seems stale or cold, there has usually been an absence of music in my Life – that which I’ve played, that which I’ve listened to and that which supports other activities. In creating Animoto slideshows the critical feature after inputting good photos is that of choosing music that suits the photos … it’s the emotional engagement portion of the slideshow. With music, I do have a goal of making it to the Greenbelt Music Festival in Cheltenham, UK one day; the weekend of music and lecture always seems to conflict with school start up. And, music has been something I’ve enjoyed my son’s part in as a member of the University of Alberta Mixed Choir – he’s on tour as I write. The top seven songs that I’ve played through time according to my iTunes library include The Verve’s Lucky Man (83), Radiohead’s All I Need (74), The Police’s Walking on the Moon (71), Radiohead’s High and Dry (71), U2’s Get On Your Boots (Fish Out Of Water Mix) (69), Depeche Mode’s Policy of Truth (60) and Snow Patrol’s Lifeboats (51). My son has also been listening to these tunes; so the statistics may be skewed.
- Podcast Listener – I bought my first iPod as one of the next steps taken when BBC Radio Ulster cancelled Steve Stockman’s weekly Rhythm and Soul broadcast. I had no idea what an iPod could do and no idea about how to use iTunes. That was back in 2006. In terms of podcasts that I can recommend the following rank highly – Scott Smith’s Motivation to Move (listening since October 2006), A Prairie Home Companion, The Chillcast with Anje Bee (listening since 2007), The Naked Photo by Riaan de Beer, The Nikonians Podcasts, Shuttertime with Sid and Mac, CBC Radio’s Tapestry with Mary Hynes, CBC Radio’s Vinyl Café Stories and BBC Radio’s World Book Club. Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac is good as is the Greenbelt podcast.
In terms of follow-through and to pay it forward, there are blogs I wish to recommend from a point of exploration and because they explore the arena of the ‘heart’ in different ways – thus, the Heart of Fire award extends forward to them. Their blogs are worth a regular perusal and they open-out in different ways much of what Life is about.
Paying it forward – have a go at sharing seven things about yourself and share with others blogs that capture something of heart. Please note – don’t feel bad if you don’t have the time to go through the procedure for this award. Just know that I think highly of your blogs.
Listening to – Tom Cochrane and Red Rider’s Good Times and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ If You Want to Get to Heaven.
Quote to Inspire – “Nothing happens when you sit at home. I always make it a point to carry a camera with me at all times … I just shoot at what interests me at the moment.” – Elliott Erwitt
I have an uncle, my Dad’s younger brother, who was in his career a beloved literature professor at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. As a professor he was well-liked by his students and he knew what students were about and was able to direct them profitably and constructively in their academic careers. At lunchtimes in Edmonton growing up, Dad would read us letters in which his brother would own to his chagrin in the matter of occasionally having to borrow cigarettes from his students. His students esteemed him enough to forego this trespass – he got along with his students that well. What’s brought him to mind tonight is that he was someone who when sitting still at a task for too long got himself up out of his chair or away from his desk and out into his car and go for an hour’s drive and have a look about at his world; the last car of his that I road in was an early eighties Volvo sedan that he had had repainted a metallic green. He loved a drive as did his mother (my grandmother), his wife and daughter. A good drive was always a means to unwind from a day pressing obligations to capacity; he’d arrive back and he would have shifted his state … the world was better for having gone for a drive.
Yesterday, at day’s end I found that I had been sitting at computers, at school and at home, for more than twelve hours combined. And, I found that there was still more to do, more obligations to students and staff and their various undertakings … the work of the work was to stay at it and complete it. But, I wasn’t being productive, more a body realization than anything else … sitting down and sitting still from my day into my evening was not to be had. I pulled my uncle’s trick, I grabbed my camera bag, tripod, down-filled jacket, gloves and hat, and, I got into my car and steered it east from High Level. Twenty minutes from High Level, yielded the opportunity to photograph Canada geese, cranes, swallows and reflection upon water. The evening also yielded the good fortune of stumbling into a former colleague whose career path has mirrored my own; we probably haven’t chatted meaningfully for about five or six years. In half an hour I heard much about her world – her daughters, her husband and their next steps. I finished out the evening with another hour of photography and returned home.
Listening to – the Steve Miller Band’s Rock’n Me, Take the Money and Run and Mercury Blues; Murray McLauchlan’s Farmer’s Song and Hard Rock Town have featured as has Ryan Adams’ Chains of Love. The morning’s walk featured U2’s Magnificent, Eddie Vedder’s Hard Sun among other songs.
Quote to Inspire – “I treat the photograph as a work of great complexity in which you can find the drama. Add to that a careful composition of landscapes, live photography, the right music and interviews with people, and it becomes a style.” – Ken Burns
On this morning’s walk I chose music over prose. The brooding plot of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover in all the consideration before action seems quite bleak and maybe the story is written intentionally so that renewal in physical sensuality is highlighted against the mundane existence of day-to-day life.
Music suited me better in the initiation of the day. Robbie Robertson played first, then Bruce Cockburn and U2, then on to Roxy Music and The Tragically Hip, all on my genius playlist beginning with Sweet Fire of Love. Then, in combination with thought about this photograph Sting begins on a song called The Soul Cages. For as much as the song’s lyrics refer to our humanoid condition here on earth I was drawn to consider whether or not a camera is another soul cage. I’m thinking that a camera is a tool that cages the soul within the photograph produced in that it encapsulates a moment of time, recording Life status and history in whatever condition we or the world were in – good or bad.
The camera photographed here is a Leica. A while back, Maciek Sokulski encouraged his Shuttertime with Sid and Mac podcast listeners to purchase an older camera, one that causes you to think about photography beyond the digital means, a camera with which to use your honed knowledge/skills of photography and to exercise expertise and skill in creating good photographs without waste. This Leica is my father’s from the early sixties. It is a camera that was used technically in the production of plastic and was used as part of the process to view at a microscopic level the grade/quality of plastics at an Edmonton plastics plant. It is a Leica without a viewfinder and is something my brothers and I should try out one of these days to see how it shoots. Maybe we will give it a try this summer.
Listening to – Robbie Robertson’s Soap Box Preacher, Amanda Marshall’s Sitting On Top of the World, Jann Arden’s The Sound Of, U2’s I Fall Down, Joan Osborne’s Man in the Long Black Coat and Neil Young’s When God Made Me.
Quote to Inspire – “Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever … it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” – Aaron Siskind
Charles Dickens once wrote a novel about an Old Curiosity Shop, a shop much like that of current second-hand stores or thrift stores in which a store owner collects collectibles, curiosities that satisfy our need to discover things that fit the environment we wish to create for our lives. Tonight, day-long, spring snow flurries bring about a look-back through photos. This photograph surfaced as one provoking the curiosities that rusting relics are at that point before restoration in which appraisal and consideration of possibility occurs – questions stir about what needs done, what the vehicle can become, what it will be like to drive and who will drive it. Possibility is leveraged as much by reminiscence as by future anticipation. Something of this imaginative aspect regarding a curiosity to be purchased is what Dickens explores in his novel The Olde Curiosity Shop – the nature of how we choose what we will put into our lives. Rusting relics in this rag-tag, makeshift auto-yard have me wondering about the curiosity that these older vehicles hold and highlight the necessity of imagination in investigating the possibility of what any of these vehicles can become. For me, the teal blue 1959 or 1960 Chevrolet reminds of a car that my grandfather drove when I was three or four. I can only recall being transported in this vehicle two or three times in and around Edmonton and then back to their home on Strathearn Drive – a memory that requires some reaching back.
Listening to – Snow Patrol’s Lifeboats, Radiohead’s High and Dry, Coldplay’s Don’t Panic and Kings of Leon’s Closer; the song that’s been on my mind throughout the post has been The Tragically Hip’s As Makeshift As We Are.
Quotes to Inspire – (1) “Photography can only represent the present. Once photographed, the subject becomes part of the past.” – Bernice Abbott (2) “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.” – Diane Arbus
Water – within the past week I’ve slipped and nearly tumbled on water that’s oozed and frozen into globs of ice on High Level sidewalks during my morning walks. Water has met with gravitational pull and been transported as precipitation from clouds through a distance of kilometres to earth, sprinkling erratically. Water that’s changed state from snow or ice has in its melting been responsible for transport of dust and dirt from sidewalks to drains and through sewage systems. Water has been the key ingredient in transforming dirt into mud and curiously the removal of soil from our bodies is best accomplished with … water. And, within this photo water that is not in motion becomes mirror, an enigma catching my attention as I’m able to focus through its surface to the detail in my subject, the cattails. The water mirror allows cattails to become foreground to the backdrop of clouds of pink sunset, a feat that would not have been possible without this water mirror.
Listening to – Ray Lamontagne’s I Still Care For You, Ryan Adams’ Come Pick Me Up and David Gray’s Fugitive. The David Gray tune from yesterday that’s stuck in my head is We’re Not Right; the other is Shawn Colvin’s take on We All Fall Down. Today, David Gray’s My Oh My plays out to the end of this post.
Quote to Inspire – “In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.” – Alfred Stieglitz
A cube or a box – the physical structure of the spaces we tend to inhabit for the majority of our days are cubes or boxes. There’s the cube or box of home. There’s the cube or box of work. As human beings it’s important that we find the third and fourth cubes beyond our work environment and beyond the home, the third and fourth elements of our day that balance out contact with work and withdrawal from endeavor. The analogy works forward in terms of thinking outside the box, breaking from routine and locating yourself in activities in the world to gain perspective on your world. Add a camera to the equation and the analogy drills down a step – you’re gaining perspective on the world you live in in much more concrete terms. Photography allows for that look at your broader context. Photography orients you to the beauty you’ll find that’s only minutes away. In fifteen minutes, I’d driven east and found these cattails at day’s end on a warmer spring day well into melt.
Listening to – The Five Blind Boys of Alabama and their rendition of Run On For A Long Time, Feed A Man by Billy Bragg & Wilco, Shakedown on 9th Street by Ryan Adams, Buffalo by Kathleen Edwards, Fully Completely by The Tragically Hip, Wonderwall by Ryan Adams, Eh Hee by Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, You Might Die Trying by the Dave Matthews Band, U2’s Wake Up Dead Man and Jack Johnson’s Rodeo Clowns.
Quote to Inspire – “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” – Ansel Adams