Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quebec City (April, 2001)

The white T-shirt at right, which reads "FUCK LE SOMMET", reveals something of the context of this visit to Québec City. I was actually visiting the weekend before the Summit of the Americas, since the following weekend I didn't have the means to get back to Q.C. from Montréal. Still, the fences were stacked up around the perimeter of the old city, ready to be maneuvered into place--and the locals had already begun to grafitti the large concrete bases of what would be the building blocks of a wire enclosure.
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Self (July, 2004)

My first attempt at using plaster bandage to make a mask by applying it directly to my face, then building up the outside of the mask with more bandage in a papier-mâché fashion. This was the first layer, designed to provide the scaffold for the rest of the mask's design.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Storm Coming (July 1, 2000)

Taken on a trip to Ottawa for Canada Day, 2000. Since I shot this one on film, it wasn't until after I had the printed developed that I saw how the clouds looked brighter around the lamps on the side of the hill.

The thunderstorm that followed shortly after I took this picture was just as intense as those clouds might lead you to suspect. I remember I was wearing a thin cotton summer dress (it does get very hot and humid in Ontario, in the summer), and I got drenched through before I managed to get inside a tent. Fortunately thin cotton also dries quickly!
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bulldozer (Winter 2002-2003)

Another in the "Development!" series.
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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Watchers (Milan, May 24, 2007)

Another photo taken while I walked on the roof of the Duomo in Milan, Italy.

This is a church saturated with statuary (3,400 in total, according to one source). The outside is made of carved white marble, and supports what looks like a lacework of stone, a spun-sugar facade cleverly cloaking what turns out to be a classically imposing Gothic cathedral. It is a (deliciously) shocking contrast when entering the dark interior of the church from outside on a 30-degree May day, the piazza pavement blazing with the clear Italian sunlight while the cool silence of the church seems to echo back its six centuries.

Up on the roof, I framed this image in such a way as to show what a view might look like for these figures, suspended on stalks of pale marble high above Milan, now-anonymous holy characters (for how many of us can visit them and can name them?) perpetually gazing out over the city's rooftops. I like the sense of isolation and watchfulness.
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Friday, September 25, 2009

Bathrooms, Victoria & Albert Museum (March 7, 2008)

Pretty much everything about the V&A Museum in London is stylishly elegant. I was struck a number of times by their seamless integration of "old and new", which is less evident here in the bathroom but more obvious in areas like the cafeteria, pictures of which I will post eventually.
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

LAX Relax (December 10, 2000)

There's something about Los Angeles airport. Not something I find pleasant, mind you--just that certain feeling the place has, or rather, that it has for me personally. In this image, taken on the way to New Zealand (LA is almost unavoidable as a stop), I feel as if I've captured something of the mood, some kind of representation of the sort of memories I associate with LAX.

The primary association for me is tiredness, exhaustion, a kind of mid-journey melting point at which you're either bleary-eyed and facing a trans-Pacific flight, or zombified and heading into another 4 hours' "layover" in the lounges of LAX followed by a 6-hour flight home to winter, and two weeks of jet-lag. If the floor is going to start moving around mysteriously beneath your feet, it's LA where it will happen. If your ears like to plug themselves after multiple take-off and landing routines, by the time you reach Los Angeles you're likely to be semi-deaf. And so the image of this fellow, who was taking a nap in the departure lounge while waiting for a Malaysian Airlines flight to Taipei, is basically iconic when it comes to the misery of low-budget intercontinental air travel.
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Queen Street West, Toronto (November 18, 2008)

There's quite a story behind this image, not one that I can tell well myself, but hopefully the links provided will assist.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gully (January, 2001)

This gully lies behind a playground and beyond some fields, not far from the house where we lived in Palmerston North (New Zealand). At the bottom of the gully, at its mouth, more fields spread out and a deep stream flows there, hemmed in by willows that suck at the water's edge. I used to swim there with neighbourhood friends. I remember we found some large chunks of styrofoam floating downriver one day, and used them as floats as we drifted. We reached that stream by following this gully, which had a nettle-and-hemlock-lined track that could be followed down the side of a hill face.
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Monday, September 21, 2009

Tunnel to Canada (March, 2004)

Heading back to Hamilton from Detroit, Michigan.

In looking at this picture and thinking about commenting on it, I realised that my view of things here might require some explanation. In New Zealand, where I grew up, the borders of our country were roughly the same as those of our coastline, with some exceptions involving various sets of tiny islands floating in the vast landlessness of the Pacific. Bearing this in mind, the concept of a border that begins and ends on land was rather a novel one for me, and I think it probably always will be.

What is most disorienting about the land-border is its blatant arbitrariness; the sameness of the landscape that is randomly interrupted by this drawn line, the official approval required to cross it, the effects of being on either one side or the other. When one stares out across a chain of mountains, no "border" presents itself; the idea of drawing a line through a lake or an ocean seems absurd. To be able to point and say "over there is Switzerland, and there, France, but here we are in Italy" is a peculiarly presumptive act.
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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Interview (September 19, 2009)

At a Liberal Party event on the outskirts of Hamilton, Ontario. Michael Ignatieff stopped here to speak with union members and supporters from the various ridings in the area.
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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Parade Cat (November, 1999)

Montréal Christmas Parade, Rue St. Catherine Ouest.

I really enjoyed this parade, primarily for the large and colourful (apparently papier-mache) characters that populated it, including the one pictured above. It seemed more interesting than the usual retinue of local business advertising embedded in a sluggish stream of wreaths, reindeer and elves. There were also giant nuns in the same style (I'm sure I'll post pictures at some point).
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Friday, September 18, 2009

Kitchen, Jackson Street (August, 2003)

This was the third Hamilton apartment in which I lived during the period from June, 2002 to August, 2007. I stayed in this one for a year (until August, 2004). It was a large bachelor with this separate kitchen, relatively spacious (though cramped enough that I was storing regular bookshelves in the kitchen-!). I'm definitely using the wide-angle setting on the 28-70mm lens, here.
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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Self-Portrait: Île des Sœurs (July, 2001)

Taken on Nun's Island (Île des Sœurs), Montréal. The Island has a small residential area and also a kind of park at one end which was where I had gone exploring when I took this picture.

I did use my steadfast Minolta for this shot, which means I sat the camera body on the table (and I think this made the lens tilt forward, adding to the skewed perspective). It seems the people walking behind me have noticed what I'm doing, and are having a chuckle.
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Beach Railway (March 14, 2008)

Brighton beach. When the opportunity for a one-day "field-trip" came up, I chose Brighton, since I had been interested in seeing the Pavilion and also the famous pier, which is visible as a kind of afterthought in the background of this image (mid-left third of the frame).

I love a nice, bright-overcast day for shooting in black and white. I also love a nice set of train tracks. I believe the train that runs on these rails is some kind of miniature affair that only runs along the beach/waterfront (I'm not sure what the correct term is).

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Boat Waiting (September, 1998)

Loch Lomond, Cape Breton. A mild Labour Day weekend, and a fine drizzle enjoyed whilst waiting for a lift over to an island.

Loch Lomond, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
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Monday, September 14, 2009

Joseph & Kim (September, 1996)

Taken in a classroom at Queen Elizabeth High School in Halifax (before they knocked it down, which was a few years ago I think).

In the photography courses I took, we were always warned against both excessive contrast (between light and shadow), and the lurking scourge of graininess. These two things tended to go hand in hand, effects that could be produced by over-development of the film (for too long and/or at too high a temperature), over-exposure or otherwise incorrect judgment of lighting when shooting, and probably myriad other technical slip-ups. The higher your chosen ISO, the more likely graininess would result; and some films tended more towards this than others.

As you might guess, I'm about to say "pshaw" to all that, in describing the picture above as one of my favourites; I love it when "rules" get broken, and I think most of my best photos (many of the best photos, in general) involve something of that kind. Yes, of course the window lacks a "textured white" (the light end of the desired spectrum of tones in a well-exposed, well-printed black and white photo). Yes, it's over-exposed, but without that it would lack the dreamy glow that I so enjoy. I didn't even try making a print using "burning" to darken the window area. That light works so well with the facial expressions--these two seem as if they are each off in a little private reverie. And yes, I was probably using Agfa 400 ISO B&W film, and thus basically asking to be handed a dish of grainy contrast for lunch, but: it was cheap, I was in high school, and I still love this picture.
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Heathrow (May 12, 2007)

Here I was waiting for my flight to Milan--actually I think I was waiting for the announcement of the gate I needed to go to in order to get my flight. Heathrow has an odd (and somewhat unnerving) system of disseminating this information. In general, departure gates are not listed until relatively close to the time the plane leaves, and since I am paranoid about plane travel anyway, this tends to prevent me from ever really relaxing.

In this picture I think I am also showing (to myself, if not to others) the "pattern" of airports, their apparent replicability. I think this is something Manuel Castells discusses in The Rise of the Network Society. Airports are international spaces, and they all tend to look the same; much like shopping malls and university campuses, in fact. I don't think it is simply a similarity of form based on function. But the result is that on long journeys, when passing through several airports, one sees a lot of the same (with a few pleasant quirks from time to time; yes, I took that train and yes, there are moo'ing sounds).

This photo shows something of that repetition, for me--the tiredness that permeates the travellers' postures, the darkness that hides their faces, hinting at their anonymity in this "space of (human) flows" (even in this most-surveilled, most securitised space); and the light that shows only the view of planes from the window--which can't really be "placed" either, which could not be singled out as "England" if viewed in a line-up with any five airports from anywhere.
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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ross Building South, 5th Floor (October 30, 2006)

This vaguely disturbing shot is of the interior of one of York University's largest buildings, the infamous (Gilliam-esque? Weberian nightmarish? Ayn Rand's dream of spatial efficiency?) Ross Building, wherein the Linguistics and Languages department (pictured) is located. In other words, this was where I spent a good deal of time during the 12 months in which I worked on my Master's Degree in Linguistics (September 2006-August 2007).

I've always found it ironic that these kinds of blank, uninviting institutional spaces are supposed to support educational success, that they constitute an 'educational environment' (only by virtue of designation, if you ask me). This floor of the Ross building shows a total lack of consideration for the spatial elements of social and scholarly relations; though York in general suffers from a good deal of under-consideration in this area. Even the in building where my current program is housed, which was renovated shortly before I began my Ph.D, the same problems prevail. Not only was this exact uninviting design utilised (a deficit of social space in any area where people are likely to move through it regularly), but the graduate students' area was moved into the basement.

Another example of this under-consideration is that of my weekly teaching assignment last year. This consisted of one 34-person tutorial, fifty minutes long, held in a small lecture theatre with seats arranged in rows facing the front of the room and sloping upward towards the back--all seats bolted to the floor, naturally. How there could be any notion of a room such as this being sufficient for a small group discussion is beyond me, but these are the kinds of issues that may only seem significant to those who end up having to resolve them first-hand.
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Friday, September 11, 2009

Lucas on the Train (July, 1997)

Lucas and I cashed in our copious VIA Rail credits with a one-day trip to Montréal, during which I (of course) too far too many train pictures. In this one, I somehow managed to get the light on the back of the compartment wall to halo around Lucas' head such that it forms an outline there, created by the contrast against the unlit background. We're actually not sitting in seats in this picture, but in a lower berth designed for overnight sleeping.
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Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Live" Crabs & Lobsters (February, 2002)

This somewhat suspicious-looking storefront sign was spotted in Victoria, British Columbia. What on earth could have possessed these proprietors to place the word "Live" in quotation marks-? The implications are bizarre and off-putting, to say the least.
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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

St. Laurent & Marie-Anne Est, (November, 2000)

Plateau-Mont Royal, Montréal. This picture brings back some fond memories of my Canadian "home-town" during my favourite season. Looking forward to heading back in October for a reunion!
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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

La Fête Nationale du Québec (June 23/24 (?), 2000)

Taken on Québec's "national holiday", at Parc-Nature de l'Île-de-la-Visitation, in Montréal. The park is one of a network of "large parks" in Montréal, which also includes Bois-de-l’Île-Bizard nature park on Lac des Deux Montagnes, and parc-nature du Bois-de-Liesse.

While living in Montréal, I often took buses to these "large parks" to explore; urban parks of significant size were an unfamiliar phenomenon for me, and Montréal has quite a few, as well as (of course) the downtown parcs Mont-Royal and LaFontaine. I enjoyed the sense of being "outside" the city even while within it.
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Monday, September 7, 2009

Jane Street & East Drive (Sunday, September 6, 2009)

I took this while waiting for the bus last night, after Nathan's backyard BBQ/house-warming get-together. It took six or seven shots before I found a way to keep the camera steady enough (every other shot was blurred, of course, thanks to the low light). Of course, once I saw that the bright full moon would make it into the image, I had to persist until I conquered the lighting conditions. I thought the result was worth it; the moon, hanging in the upper left-hand corner of the picture, looks like some larger, higher-up version of the lights attached to the building, an effect I'd hoped for.
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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pretty Bears (June 26, 2005)

Taken, naturally, at Toronto Pride (while waiting for the parade to begin). There's nothing like a bear in a dress to get the party started.

Sadly, I can't recall the make/model of the camera I used, nor any of the technical details of its capacity.
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