Of all reasons to take up photography, the most significant and most poignant is to draw together memory of home. Edmonton’s Skyline from the southeast, from Strathearn Drive is the strongest memory I have of Edmonton. My grandparents’ last Edmonton home was on Strathearn Drive and my grandfather always had my brother’s and I out for a hike before a Sunday dinner with family, through this river valley, walking within this valley being a primary form of transportation for him and his (my mother’s) family, something more economical and much healthier than riding a bus or taking the family car down town. Perhaps one of my grandfather’s influences in my Life is one of appreciating the value of exercise and the achievement of exercise. Never a day would go by without my granddad getting out for a minimum of an hour’s walk wherever he was in the world. For me, Edmonton’s skyline recalls all the cycling I had done in Edmonton’s river valley through each summer listening to audiobooks and to music on a Sony Walkman.
This Edmonton skyline image recalls family history – our return to Edmonton via CN Rail and the CN Tower from Montreal in 1964, our first returned days at the Hotel MacDonald, the adventures with Scouts hiking through this valley and excursions to the top of the AGT Tower (now Telus Tower), Canada Place on the right is where we got our passports and on the left I had an Edmonton Journal paper route on 111 Avenue running from the Westbury Apartment to the Grandin Apartments. This image of Edmonton recalls the cool, fresh, wet weather of June. The photo is taken at the western most end of Strathearn drive that overlooks that part of Connor’s hill where the Edmonton Folk Festival is staged each August.
Listening to – Schubert’s Rondo in A for Violin and String, D. 438.
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
Metallic spheres are jumbled into a pile in an architectural or sculptural masterpiece on the east side of the southern end of Edmonton’s Quesnel bridge, a marvel … the kind you would expect to find near or under Seattle’s Space Needle.
What surprised me in my work photographing the structure is that each sphere reflects you back from whatever standpoint you are at. You cannot be out of the picture unless you leave your camera atop your tripod and move 100 feet from the scene. “No matter where you go there you are.”
Listening to and fretting David Gray’s Sail Away and Dar Williams’ The Beauty of the Rain.
Quote to Inspire – “I am forever chasing light. Light turns the ordinary into the magical.” – Trent Parke
At night, light and shadow reveal girder and rivet patterning along the High Level Bridge, a bridge that connects the north bank high above the North Saskatchewan River at the Alberta Legislature ground site to the south bank – an area that becomes entrance to the University of Alberta and Edmonton’s Old Strathcona community. The scene within this image contains the light trails of two cars moving across the bridge while emphasizing perspective with foreground, middle ground and back ground elements – the riveted girders and bridge deck (near), the girder and walkway (opposite – middle ground) and the steam of the petrochemical plants along Edmonton’s baseline road in the distance. The bridge is a landmark within Edmonton and a piece of architecture I have cycled over and under most days during summer’s break between winter and spring sessions at the University of Alberta. At night, the bridge becomes vista from which to survey much of Edmonton – northeast to the legislature, east to the Muttart Conservatory and refinery row, south and southeast to the skyline of Saskatchewan Drive, southwest to the University of Alberta, northwest to a skyline that follows Jasper Avenue west and west toward Glenora’s community. On both sides, the North Saskatchewan River snakes through Edmonton – winding west, past Emily Murphy park and onto Hawrelak park; east past the Rossdale power plant, past the Edmonton Queen sternwheeler and onto Rundle park. At all times of the day and night, the bridge is active conveying people from one side of the river to the other – by foot, jogging, cycling, by truck, bus or car. Within this image, texture and sense of space attract me as do memories of former times.
Listening to – U2’s One, Walk On, Where the Streets Have No Name, Moment of Surrender and With or Without You.
Quote to Inspire – “I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.” – Diane Arbus
Street photography is something described as an audit of an environment that the photographer places him- or herself in. What’s there? What’s around you? What’s happening? All are questions that receive answer within the images produced and the street’s narrative is built and understood. If you’re actually photographing what’s happening in the street you’re bound to capture people in the act of whatever it is that they do. The street photography that I’ve looked through most recently is that of the Edmonton photowalk led by Darlene Hildebrand back in October 2011. The cluster of pictures from several photographers on that first Saturday afternoon in October present an audit of Life along Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue in Edmonton’s Old Strathcona area. Everything is captured – architecture (doors, buildings, windows); modes of transportation (cars, buses, trucks, bicycles); there’s a sense of space (that within the street and that which surrounds people, their personal space); there’s the colour and weather of the afternoon. Within most of it there’s the art of human endeavor. Conversely, there’s the defeat of endeavor no longer strived for; there are people broken and lost and at wits-end, the down and out. They too are captured in street photography. The photograph presented here is one taken from within the Pike Place Market in Seattle. To a certain extent it qualifies as street photography as it presents information about the environment of the market place – what you’ll find and what people are doing. What is surprising is the participatory element – people are tolerant of photographs being taken; it’s a touristy thing to do. Good. Maybe that’s the thing to think about in street photography – investigating the street by way of participation.
Listening to Bill Mallonee & Vigilantes of Love with She Walks on Roses, Patty Griffin’s Tomorrow Night and Over the Rhine’s Jesus in New Orleans, all from a genius playlist starting with Pierce Pettis’ Everything Matters album.
Quote to Inspire – “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” – Dorothea Lange
The term ‘grunge’ is something I associate with a photographic style in which elegance of form can be sussed out underneath evidence of decay; the elegance and the decay together are, in their juxtaposition, a thing of beauty. Grunge is also a Seattle term denoting a kind of raw alternative rock music that has its origin in this city. Musically, grunge owns guitar work with heavy distortion, dissonant harmonies and vocals/lyrics that must be sussed out. Grunge lyrics juxtapose angst and apathy of youth’s forward look to the rest of what Life offers; in these lyrics the mean of human condition – yours, mine, his and hers – is presented as something sullied, something confined, yet something that must move forward glimpsing more and more of what Life really is about. The lyrics are also about finding freedom within a sullied, confined life. The music and lyrics are the raw energy and angst in response to the experience of disillusionment and one’s discovering personally an identity in the mean of human condition. Together, the grunge music and lyrics expose the elegance and beauty found within our sullied human condition.
The following Seattle photographs were taken on the last leg of the Seattle underground tour, an object of grunge – form and decay juxtaposed. SAM’S was no doubt a store or bar or restaurant; the signage seems to associate to the fifties or sixties in style and was bulb lit rather than a neon sign.
Listening to Grunge – Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, Joan Osborne’s celebrated song about the human mean, One of Us and Alice in Chains’ Heaven Beside You.
Quotes to Inspire – (1) “A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.” – Ansel Adams (2) “Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like.” – David Alan Harvey
Sunday – photographs that I’d intended to post linger on my computer’s desktop in a file of edited images. The week has been busy with obligations taking me into my nights. The first image is one of a barn located in a muskeg bog, just south of Figure Eight Lake on Alberta Highway 737; it is out of the weather and close to a water source; no house or homestead is in the immediate vicinity. One could have burned down. Or, perhaps the barn is associated with the homestead in the second image; this homestead is treed in and built on higher ground a kilometre further south on the west side of the same highway. In another image an inuksuk has been assembled at the southwesternmost corner of someone’s farmland alongside Alberta Highway 685, stating to all comers that others have stood right there, where they now stand. Within metres of the inuksuk, a heart-shaped wreath is fastened below a ‘no through road’ sign, perhaps inviting people to come and investigate. The next photograph presents a second rendering of the Fairview horses and lamas in spring’s sunlight; there’s a glow of sunlight from the animals. Beyond this, are the other b-side renderings of the Dunvegin bridge, photographed last weekend.
Listening to Tonic’s rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s Second Hand News, then there’s Sister Hazel’s take on Gold Dust Woman and Shawn Colvin performs The Chain, all songs are part of Legacy: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours’ album.
Quote to Inspire – “I treat the photograph as a work of great complexity in which you can find 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
A Craft and Vision e-book entitled Creating Depth disclosed some of the subtleties of creating depth in an image. One area of tradecraft considered in creating depth was the matter of choosing perspective that allows the viewer to glean visual information in the three chunks of the photograph – the foreground, middleground (where primary subject is located) and background. I am drawn to this image because of the placement of the subject, the house, as well as the image being one that has depth in terms of foreground, middleground and background. Beyond this, the image draws me because of the subject’s shape, the texture of the house’s wood-slat exterior and framing, because it is comprised of several tones of white towards grey, because there is visual information to be had at all points of the image and finally because this house is a first endeavors building, home to a family making their way in the world. I present the image in different renderings because I find each satisfying.
Listening to Over the Rhine’sOhio from their album of the same name.
Quote to Inspire: “Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.” – Matt Hardy