Saturday, August 7, 2010

King's Demonstration (January 27, 1998)

These pictures were taken at a Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) protest in Halifax, Nova Scotia (here is another from the same set). I'm not sure what paper I used, but they were all scanned in from 8x10" prints I made myself. This was during my second semester at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD), my first-ever year at university. Yes--this makes me feel...old.

I think this was the first occasion on which I was able to walk into a crowd of people and take as many pictures as I wanted without worrying about whether people would be annoyed or angered by it. Since it was an "event" and the crowd was the spectacle, photography was natural as a part of things (there were also many art students). This was in the days before everyone had a digicam the size of a packet of cigarettes, but there were still a lot of cameras. I would have been shooting with 35mm black and white film, probably my old friend Agfapan APX 400 (judging by the graininess), a film that has apparently been discontinued now. Sniff.

Below is a picture of several friends from NSCAD enjoying the scene in the courtyard at King's--I recall that our ceramics professor, Walter Ostrom, came to the demonstration (we were all skipping his class that afternoon, so it was just as well). I did get one picture of him but I over-exposed it and couldn't get prints to turn out. A number of us were taking photography as well, conveniently enough. That's Jason on the left, Carrie in the middle with the camera, and Christine to her right. I like the composition in this one, though it was probably mostly accidental.

Below is a great shot of Juliet--who was living in the King's residences--with her home-made sign, suggesting that 100% tax might cover all the costs of free tertiary education for Canadian students. I appreciate the sentiment, but unfortunately we'll need to find some other ways of covering it (and hopefully they won't involve massive tuition increases; therein lies the dilemma, and the issue that prompted this protest).

I really enjoyed shooting pictures at this demonstration, and since that time these kinds of events have always my favourite way of getting interesting shots of people without them noticing. Almost all the pictures I took during Gerard Kennedy's last campaign were of the same kind, and they are some of the best pictures I've taken. It's not about 'catching' people off-guard; I'm more concerned with showing the 'feeling' of a context, conveying the engagement of people with their surroundings and with whatever they happen to be doing at the time. Then you end up with a completely different kind of 'portrait', one that's almost impossible to achieve when someone sees a camera and turns to respond to it in some way.

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