The sky is blue. Long, thin wisps of cloud move at higher altitude in the atmosphere – we could have cloud cover in a day’s time. Following winter solstice, the sun perches low over the horizon in the afternoon. At 2:00 p.m. shadows run long over unimpeded surfaces. Buildings on either side of Edmonton city streets become canyons holding solstice shadow. Without a cloud blanket, the sun’s radiant heat will continue to escape and our part of the world will grow colder in coming days. In daylight, it is -32C … it is a colder day for some photos. Steam, a by-product from buildings maintaining heat, drizzles upwards into the atmosphere. Colder images from a colder Edmonton afternoon during Christmas break.
Quote to Consider / Inspire – “The most important thing about photography is who you are, and I can go into depth about the psychology of that, but there’s no way you can take a photograph and not leave your imprint on it. Every time you hit the shutter it’s based on who you are, that’s what makes you different from everybody else. My style is that I shoot from the heart, to the heart (Joe Buissink, Light Stalking).”
Listening to: Carrie Newcomer’s ‘The Beautiful Not Yet,’ ‘Three Feet or So,’ ‘Sanctuary,’ ‘Cedar Rapids at 10 AM’ and ‘A Shovel is a Prayer.’
This building is likely the only building in Edmonton in the Flatiron architectural style – triangular in shape with curved windows at its toe. One would find this building in the twentieth century and it would reflect Edmonton opulence. The Gibson Block building, built in 1913, precedes many things. It precedes Canada’s involvement in World War I. It precedes the roaring twenties. It precedes the era of Al Capone, the American prohibition and a Canadian connection. It precedes the Great Depression. The Gibson Block building associates Edmonton to being Metropolitan. One would find a similar building in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver. Its Canadian, older metropolitan style works well as possible landscape to Morley Callaghan’s novel ‘Such is My Beloved.’ One can imagine the Great Depression and the lives of Father Dowling, Ronnie and Midge intersecting in such a building, a building with ground level retail space, apartments upstairs and Turkish baths below. Neglected, the Gibson Block building faced possible destruction in the 1990’s. The Edmonton City Centre Church Corporation recognized possibility and repurposed the building. The Gibson Block building is now home to the Women’s Emergency Accommodation Centre and provides refuge to those in need – homeless and transient women. At Christmas, the building’s curved glass toe held a huge dreamcatcher, one, in size, able to encompass a person.
Listening to – Bruce Springsteen’s ‘One Step Up’ and ‘If I Should Fall Behind,’ The Black Crowes’ ‘Twice as Hard,’ Neil Young’s ‘The Needle and the Damage Done,’ Alison Krauss’ ‘Lay My Burden Down,’ Hank Williams’ ‘My Heart Would Know,’ Willie Nelson’s version of Coldplay’s ‘Scientist,’ Lucinda Williams’ ‘East Side of Town,’ Shawn Colvin’s ‘All Fall Down,’ Peter Himmelman’s ‘Impermanent Things’ and Ryan Adams’ ‘Chains of Love.’
Quote to Consider – “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place … I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” – Elliott Erwitt
I have been intrigued to find success in creating night time images from handheld shots using wide open aperture and ISO 6400; stabilization must have been accounted for and become the forgiveness factor in this camera. Good!
Listening to – liking Martyn Joseph’s new album, ‘Sanctuary;’ enjoying the tribute to Robert F. Kennedy in ‘Bobby’ and the instrumental work in ‘Sanctuary’ that reminds of songs from Martyn’s album ‘Thunder and Rainbows.’
Quote to Consider – “You’ve got to push yourself harder. You’ve got to start looking for pictures nobody else could take. You’ve got to take the tools you have and probe deeper.” – William Albert Allard
At Christmas we stayed in a West Edmonton hotel. Each morning a crew of cooks serves breakfast to a gaggle of patrons – early morning faces, searching for sustenance to anchor them to their day – tea, coffee, eggs, a bagel. Goodwill, care and interest are shared and are part of the help that helps them on their way. Curiously and lovingly, a listening ear and dialogue are offered, also anchoring the patron stranger to their day – encouraging them (adding courage to them).
Carrie Newcomer’s song ‘Betty’s Diner’ talks about this dynamic of communion, amongst the varied human narratives being lived, each coming into the diner for sustenance and a waitress who’s tracking their narratives each day, encouraging them (and adding courage to them), an anchor to would be strangers who find themselves more family than stranger in Betty’s Diner; it’s interesting that this waitress role of service is so similar to that of pastor. Carrie Newcomer’s song is now a musical. Here, a set of hotel kitchen utensils are clean and stand ready for tomorrow’s meal, becoming subject for these images and reminding this patron so much about Carrie Newcomer’s song, ‘Betty’s Diner.’
Quote to Consider – “There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what you see is what we are.” – Ernst Haas
Listening to – Steve Martin & Edie Brickell’s ‘Friend of Mine,’ ‘Sun’s Gonna Shine’ and ‘Heart of a Dreamer.’
2015 is here. It has arrived. Christmas has come and been, presents have been shared and received, family has been enjoyed, rest has been had. An emphasis on creating images has been more absent during this time.
The time has offered the chance to explore/research the photography of others and Google Circles has been a key venue for doing so. It has been an excellent venue for sharing images. What I am impressed by is the speed and rapidity by which new images are added to one’s home stream. And, it is entirely too easy to reach out and access the camaraderie of other photographers and genres of photography that you or I define. Google Circles is a marvelous means of gathering inspiration for photography by way of witnessing what others manage to create – ideas for what I or anyone might try are right there, in front of you. With Google Circles it has been necessary to pare down distracting and unintended kinds of images; but, it can be done in an easy way that can serve your photographic interests. What I did not anticipate was that it would surface significant interests for next steps in photography.
What this exploration has also surfaced is that good photographers are always in touch with their world; they are familiar with current affairs; they have a good sense of what’s going on in terms of the Arts; they are current with literature and the intentions behind such narrative. They are in step and in sync with their world. And, they create images with intention.
So, this blog, takes its next turn. What will I photograph next? What skills will I aim to grow? What influences will I find in this next year? These are likely your questions too. Good! Let’s see what images we can bring into being.
Gratitude – thank you, to all who have been a part of these three years of ‘In My Back Pocket – Photography;’ thank you for your interest and encouragement; thank you for those times when you’ve steered me to a next idea or skill; thank you for the camaraderie (or, perhaps better stated, solidarity) associated with a common pursuit. It ‘all’ counts and I am grateful.
The images presented here are some fun with black and white and selective colorization, images from this summer’s travels.
Listening to – Chopin’s Nocturne No. 14 in F Sharp minor, Opus 9, No. 1; a recording by Amir Katz.
Quote to Consider – “The best images are the ones that retain their strength and impact over the years, regardless of the number of times they are viewed.” – Anne Geddes
At Christmas, Love amplifies, powerful and lifting, scrabbling through the dark mess of tangle. Care and pardon affirm, anchoring you, there, in other Hearts – disgrace yields, grace overcomes. Love finds its way. At Christmas, the first steps within the incarnation are taken; a betrothed groom and fiancée making the best of things, travel within a colonized Israel to add their names within a census, a decision perhaps that may have to do with the practicality in it being safer to identify as a family with what will follow from the census; the fiancée is pregnant, a surprise to the groom and his betrothed. Are the two young? Is Joseph older and knowing something of how to live a Life within this colonized world? Is he prepared for this night? A makeshift moment allows the two to shelter among animals in a barn or cave. Mary moves into labour, a baby is born, a new Life that becomes central to a grand narrative we all are participating in. The name Joseph is first used with Jacob’s wife Rachel, when she conceives and bears a son after many years barren; Joseph literally means ‘he who takes my shame away.’
All this and more become the Christmas story. A few songs tell the story well; but, the one that might best fit today’s times and needs could be that provided by Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds in ‘Christmas Song.’ I like the conceptualization of any of us as ‘soul-searchers.’ The blood of the children reference is, while scary, accurate within this song – blood covers sins; Christ’s blood was shed for all to overcome their/our sin-state and thereby becomes the blood of the children referred to within the song.
The incarnation is an inconceivable event, something that needs more acceptance than figuring. You need to involve your imagination in such reckoning as precursor to such an event in preparation to be able to recognize when and if such an event does happen, has happened or will happen. You’d have to consider how involving God here on earth might play out.
The song that brought this kind of precursor imagining about best was a Joan Osborne, grunge-rock tune, that I heard most helpfully sung by Martyn Joseph on Radio Ulster’s ‘Rhythm and Soul’; thank you to Presbyterian Pastor, Steve Stockman for bringing all of that about. Here’s Martyn’s version.
Here’s the Joan Osborne version of ‘One of Us.’
Quote to Consider – “The camera doesn’t make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But you have to SEE.” – Ernest Haas
Listening to – Martyn Joseph’s ‘Beyond Us, ‘Not a Good Time for God’ and Martyn’s take on Bruce Springsteen’s ‘If I Should Fall Behind’ and ‘One Step Up.’ Also, taking a listen to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Highway Patrolman.’
There’s a lot of grace encountered in ‘Highway Patrolman;’ Springsteen goes on to tell that it deals with family, responsibility and duty when those things conflict. The lyrics are good dealing with brothers sharing good times as much as the morality involved in dealing with a brother who is straying – lyrics catching my attention follow ….
“Well if it was any other man, I’d put him straight away
But when it’s your brother sometimes you look the other way.”
“Me and Frankie laughin’ and drinkin’
Nothin’ feels better than blood on blood
Takin’ turns dancin’ with Maria
As the band played “Night of the Johnstown Flood”
I catch him when he’s strayin’, teach him how to walk that line
Man turns his back on his family he ain’t no friend of mine.”
May you find Grace this Christmas – my gratitude goes out to each of you who have been part of each step and evolution of this photoblog. Thank you – take good care of your good selves.
New Year’s Day – in Edmonton and its surrounding region the daylight hours of 2013 are sun-filled against a backdrop of blue sky. I’m out, looking around at the world with my camera, making my way from Edmonton’s west end, through its University area and Whyte Avenue. My wife, daughter and son are at my brother’s home reading … and there’s some baking going on.
I have some of the day with my camera.
The Edmonton Clinic at the University of Alberta reveals itself to be something eye-catching when complete – a longish curve of glass that will stretch for a city block in length and upwards about eight stories; the building will be about reflection as much as the glass permits a looking in on all that’s going on. But, the photo is not for today; the construction is still in progress and from the best angle impedes what is likely the best shot.
The day does hold its share of shots as I move to the Molson Brewery site that’s being dismantled. Then, it’s out to St. Albert to Edmonton’s northwest. My wife has recalled our seeing grain elevators as we drove into St. Albert last summer for a huge farmer’s market and she recommends searching for them. I have a look and discover that the grain elevators are part of a heritage museum in St. Albert. The elevators are behind chain-link fence, yet I can still photograph them.
I move from St. Albert west towards Spruce Grove. I use an elasticized, nylon tow rope to pull out someone in a silver, Dodge Dakota whose slid into a country ditch with the snow. On this road are many old farms and farm structures to photograph. But, at this time of day with an upcoming get family together this part of the day is about scouting visually for possible shots … for next time.
Listening to – Paul Gross and the Due South soundtrack.
Quote to Inspire – “My life is shaped by the urgent need to wander and observe, and my camera is my passport.” – Steve McCurry
A Sunday evening, alone – wife and daughter at fellowship within our Church care group. And, me … I’m dealing with the sore reality of a yet to be diagnosed stomach ailment, something beyond the jungle tummy that’s been making its way round the globe. My wife has brought me a DVD to watch tonight and I’ve found it to be something powerful, something to recommend and something I’m sure I will own – ‘Being Flynn’ with Robert Deniro and Paul Dano. The movie grapples well and quite realistically with open-your-eyes-wide issues of broken families, homelessness, what lives amount to in their totality and moving on with Life despite the muddles encountered. ‘Being Flynn’ is a narrative of making that quantum leap to put the mess behind you and about getting to that strong and compassionate state that underscores the ‘why’ in contributing to make a better world for coming generations. The film is personal commentary about family and families for each of us as much as it is social commentary about something more than societal malaise … it chronicles the downward spiral of human life discarded and disposed of, Gehenna’s trash heap, before one encounters death; Lives are lost while the world looks beyond the down and out. ‘Being Flynn’ is essay as much as it is narrative film.
The image presented here is an array of street lights that light Anthony Henday Drive in Edmonton – the S – Curve attracts my attention as does some of the roadway architecture as Gateway Boulevard meets Anthony Henday on Edmonton’s South side near Ellerslie Road.
Listening to – ‘Know My Mind’ by Bo Weitz, ‘It’s What I’m Thinking’ by Badly Drawn Boy and ‘Mother in Law,’ by Allen Toussaint.
Quote to Inspire – “What I did, anybody can do.” – Weegee
The front face or façade of a derelict farmhouse precedes a wooden grain shed and newer, state of the art grain silos. The image contrasts new, old and older. The house sits on a ridge overlooking a storage yard for people’s equipment, a collecting point or nexus for anything unused and nearly disposed of … old mobile homes, vehicles, farming implements and machinery. This house, on the other hand, has structure and form and context – it has beauty; it had purpose in a former time. What would this house have been like in its day, when people were proud of the land’s first fruits? Is this a homestead house built following World War I or World War II? Would the farmers who farmed here have come to Canada or would they have been a generation or two arrived. In terms of today, why has the building not been torn down? What memorial does this house provide and to whom? Who does this house continue to serve?
Listening to – Radiohead’s ‘Little by Little’ from the King of Limbs album (Live from the Basement).
Quote to Inspire – “Quit trying to find beautiful objects to photograph. Find the ordinary objects so you can transform it by photographing it.” – Morley Baer
Glowing green against the copper-lit reflection of city lights upon clouds, an image of Edmonton’s Muttart Conservatory moments after the world has shifted from 2012 into 2013. Other images are from the metallic, spheres structure/sculpture from the Southeast end of Edmonton’s Quesnel Bridge.
Listening to – Cheng Yu’s ‘Purple Bamboo’ and ‘Pipa 2’, Dust Devil’s ‘Liquid Lounge,’ and Alexander Kogan’s ‘Two Guitars’.
Quote to Inspire – “For me, photography has become a way of attempting to make sense of the strange world that I see around me. I don’t ever expect to achieve that understanding, but the fact that I am trying comforts me.” – Mikhael Subotzky
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