Here is a peak of things that are happening in my world... and also what is important, interesting and entertaining. A blog of what I am up to and what's new!
...and who knows, perhaps even 'The secret of true happiness' ;)
...And it has begun! I am finally working on my latest coffee table book. It is simply titled “LOS MEXICANOS” and it will represent a twenty year retrospective of my time photographing the spirit of Mexico. The images that will become key components of this book will highlight an exciting and vibrant culture during the first two decades of this century. It will also show my personal journey as an image maker and I will include some of my early ‘serious’ photos when I decided my life would be dedicated to photography. I was lucky enough to work on both the east and westcoast of Mexico in my twenties and many of these film images will make the cut! That said, I have a huge job in front of me and the daunting task of narrowing thousands of images taken over twenty years, down to approximately one hundred and fifty... wish me luck!
There is exciting news on the horizon. I don't want to jinx things, but let's just say it involves packing things into boxes and moving! Not to worry...still on the West Coast of course. I have collected quite a few things during my lifetime and it seems that everything is dusty! The windows and doors in the studio are left open for much of the year and that may have something to do with it... In an attempt to get ahead of all the packing I have started on the first of my camera shelves in the office. There is loads of dust on these paperweights and it took me ages. My work cameras are always kept in their protective cases when not in use, but these display cameras are all machines that have broken, fallen, smashed, etc over the years. They may not be boxed yet, but at least they are clean.
I have so many projects on the go an so little time to dedicate to them. I suppose a positive of the Covid Pandemic is that I have alot of time. It’s no secret that I love all things mechanical, and I am please to re-visit my ‘Auto-Mechanica’ project that has been on the back burner for ages (years!). I have thousands of Automobile images I am now in the process of sorting and editing. There is alot of great vintage and patina in these photos and I am looking forward to having a show dedicated to the art of autos - now if I could only secure a venue.. Coronavirus sure has changed things. Another plus is that I am actually caught up on my own vehicle maintenances. Huh, who would of thought I would run out of tinkering in the garage!
Ok...Enough is enough, this Covid thing is completely out of control and is not only causing the world to fall apart, but it’s affecting mental health all over the planet. Imaging a place where it is full moon all the time and then magnify that by a million. Personally, I have had to limited my consumption of the news, cancel a couple international trips and (at all costs) avoid each and every paranoid and mysophobic person I see. I’m not trying to down play the issues behind Coronavirus, but luckily here on the West Coast of Canada there has been comparatively very little infection. People have quarantined themselves if there has been any potential virus contact... yet the crazies are walking around in body condoms and quoting scripture. I can’t wait for normal to return...
Taking advantage of all the downtime due to the Covid-19 shutdown, I decided to spend a few moments in the darkroom and get caught up on my film development. Although I ordered new dry chemicals out of New York, (they haven’t arrived at the time of writing this) so I only had enough to mix up a gallon of Developer and a gallon of Fixer. It’s enough to process some 120 film that I have been sitting on. Making images on film is such magic and it’s truly amazing to see all of these moments come alive in the form of negatives. So many moments on rolls of film. Some beautiful, some ugly... some happy and some sad, but they are all perfect. When my inventory of processing chemicals I can tackle some of my 35mm stuff!
Speaking of film, I am really happy with the latest edition to my camera collection... an original Ensign Ful-Vue box brownie camera from the thirties. I have a really soft spot for vintage and antique film cameras, and many have been added to my camera family over the years. I even still use a few of these cameras to make stunning images! I have been on the look out for one of these early Ensign cameras. These are great little British cameras with only a single shutter speed of 1/30sec, one F-Stop of 11 and a super bright finder, and unlike most box brownies, the most important feature of this camera is the use of120 film and 6x6 square format! I found this particular camera on-line in Greece and let's just say I'm 'well chuffed'.
Things are going slightly mad in the world... and people are scared. Everywhere I have visited in the last few weeks has been in ‘Shutdown Mode’. The journey away from the city highlighted how crazy things are getting. Rules about when and where you can go, supply chains breaking down giving us empty shelves and a general mistrust of your fellow man. Sadly there is alot of misinformation from misinformed organizations and people who can’t seem to turn off the news. It’s pretty simple, wash your hands regularly, avoid contact with communal things like dirty door knobs and if you are sick - STAY HOME! Do your part to be part of the solution and hopefully life will return to some sense of normality.
The world is falling apart... or so the news says? Coronavirus is shutting down the planet and people are wearing any kind of mask they can find. Time to 'get outta Dodge' or something like that. Vancouver is getting really weird around Covid-19 and there has even been panic buying of Toilet Paper (even though the virus symptoms have nothing to do with that end!) Well... gas prices are the lowest they have been in nearly a decade, so time for a surprise photo road trip away from all the city doom and gloom. Where to on the map? How about Highway 3 and up into the Rocky Mountains for a couple weeks :)
I picked up a few new books this week to add to my library. One book was a great find in a small used bookshop about my favorite photographer - Diane Arbus. It’s funny how many millennial photographers no nothing about the history of the medium. That is another discussion, but most have no idea the photographic path that the art has taken over the last 120 years. I love the work of many photographers, but Diane Arbus’s work just connects with me. She often photographed people on the fringes of society always probing the questions of identity. She used a TLR and her images were not about the ‘tech’ but about the moment. I highly recommend reading about her! “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know - DA”
I love Vancouver Island...there, I said it and any chance to head over and enjoy the Island lifestyle, I am in! It is a wonderful place and like all of the islands of the coast of BC it has such a chilled vibe, that you can’t help but relax. A full tank of gas in the van and over on the ferry for a few days to check out a few of the places on the Eastern Coast. So many great places to ‘renegade’ camp and I made some amazing images. I particularly loved Cumberland and had a fantastic coffee there. So many quirky little places all along the coastal road, but the winner was a crazy Bric-à-Brac shop in Campbell River with all sorts of things and a surprisingly great selection of antique cameras. !
Time is a difficult concept... especially when associated with photography and memories. I have found myself with the luxury of time on my hands and have decided to revisit over twenty five years worth of my analogue imagery. It is time to properly go through thousands of negatives and prints and digitize my archive. This is no small endeavor, and many of the images were personally important when I made them. I did attempt this a few years ago, but sadly circumstances brought everything to a halt. I am now ready to catalogue and clean up my photo past so I can concentrate on the future and all it brings. It is time to “Enter at Own Risk”
Last week I had the chance to photograph a couple of properties for a boutique renovation company here in Vancouver. Although I have shot quite a lot for the Real Estate pros, I had never made images for renovation contractors. I have got to say it was great! To meet the craftsman who actually do the work on these million dollar properties and feel the pride as they point out the finer details and the technical challenges was a real eye opener for me. It never occurred to me how much work goes into altering properties in downtown Vancouver’s high-rise market! Thanks to James and Owen for the gig and I look forward to your next impressive project!
I was unpacking a few boxes the other the other day and I came across some light modifiers I bought about 5 years ago and never used! All my studio lighting schemes are produced from a combination of up to five strobes and various softboxes, reflectors and umbrellas. Pretty simple stuff really... but I always think my softboxes are too small. Don’t get me wrong, they are great for food and product images, but I always feel my portraits have odd rectangular catchlights. Long story short, I bought this 60” Octabox but never got round to using it and it was packed when I moved across the country. There it stayed until this week... It’s amazing... and humongous!
I was treated to a lovely gift by somebody very important to me... a week away in one of my favorite cities - Portland. It has been years since my last visit, but Portland always has a special part in my heart. It is a place one to itself with a unique style and thriving art culture... and my favorite book store on the planet - Powell’s (Google it)! Off in the mighty Vandura we made our way down Highway 101 and the rugged Oregon Coast. I made loads of images as we our way through Olympia, Astoria and Long Beach. Patina and genuine people, Shipwrecks and craft beer the journey unfolded in front of my camera. The USA does some things so well...and some not.
They say the real estate industry in Vancouver is having an ‘interesting’ time and sales are down on every type of property. Honestly, I haven’t seen a change in the requests for property listing and promo images. I had a photo shoot on the North Shore of a six million dollar home that sold ten days after listing! The home was stunning and included an infinity swimming pool and the most amazing gourmet kitchen. As I worked away photographing ALL 21,000 square feet, I kept thinking to myself “why would you ever need so much space”? I never really came to a conclusion, but I did image myself living as the other half and being the six million dollar man.
The season is changing and the days are shortening and I find myself spending as much time as possible making images on the coast. The sunsets can be especially spectacular and I often wonder why more ‘Westcoasters’ are not spending their moments bathed in the Sun’s embrace? It’s ok though, I am quiet happy to have the beaches to myself... we all have those introverted and serene moments... and it makes for beautiful images. I usually walk with just a single camera with a single fixed lens. It reminds me to be in the moment rather than being about producing a product. It’s a good thing, although there have been a few missed shots, but that’s okay, I still loved the moment!
My ongoing project of photographing the faces of people caught in the viscous Vancouver gentrification cycle continues... but it is difficult personally. So many humans are finding it difficult to exist here in the Lower Mainland. The news is filled with tent cities, people living in vehicles and the horrors of the DTES. I have watched the Eastside change into hipster heaven with micro-breweries, brand name clothing shops, expensive restaurants and exclusive micro loft apartments... and the entire time the people who manage to barely carve out a life have been squeezed into ever smaller spaces. It is heart breaking. With elections looming, I DARE the powers that be to take a walk and open their eyes. I dare the hipster Millennials to not be ignorant.
It’s that time of year again when the days of rain mean my time can be used to process and edit my undeveloped rolls of film. Unlike many, I never did stop making images on film. I did stop using sheet film, but 120 and 35mm roll film are always in my camera bags ready to go. The next couple days will be spent in a very dark room with some fun chemistry that turns the invisible latent image into something magic! It is great to no longer be living on an island, where photo developers and fixers are classified as dangerous goods and could not be shipped. I will never again take for granted my D76 and Rodinal film developers! Film always makes me happy and seeing beautiful and unexpected surprise images is one of my biggest joys in life.
What’s this? 36 hours off time, a clear weather forecast and a 4x4... that means time to drive up into the mountains and enjoy a photo camping adventure! What I wouldn’t do to actually spend loads of time to make images in the wilds of Canada. Anyway, off in the top-down Jeep with 4-Wheel-Drive engaged and a few hours later - the retreat and withdrawal of the wild! It’s a fantastic feeling to be away in a stunning natural and quiet location where my camera actually sounds like the loudest thing for miles and miles. I’m not really a landscape photographer, but with the amazing sights that sunrise and sunset provide, it’s hard to not get excited and actually look forward to editing!
Remember when photographers made beautiful photos?... I do. Now my desk looks like this... and I worry about engagement, reach, hashtags, bounce rates, KPIs, conversions, awareness, influence, spelling, growth, impressions, fonts, conceptualization, meta data, tracking, budget, impact, click-through rate, design, aesthetics, creativity, marketing, retention, brand awareness... My eyes are going square from looking at screens ;) It’s interesting how many ‘non photographer’ things have to be done these days, but that is the new norm. I think I’m going to grab a roll of B+W film that only gives me twelve pictures and go for a walk like the good old days.
There are so many places I have made images around this wonderful world of ours... and I seem to always come back to the same conclusion. I love photographing in Mexico. It is a place of life and reality. People are so accepting of my style of making photos, they know I am there, they know what I am doing and they allow me to be part for those split seconds. This time I spent a few weeks staying in a small oceanside town on the Westcoast. A place where the Mexicans come to enjoy family, sun and time away from their busy lives. A place where the Gringos and Touristas avoid... especially at the time of year when heat and rain are at their peaks. It is beautiful, it is alive and it is perfect. Sadly, I have to return to the North, but the moments will echo.
Time...everytime I travel I feel there is not enough time to enjoy what matters. I managed to free up a good block of time (sadly weeks, not months - but I am working on that) and off to Mexico I make my way. I promised myself that I am going to make images of everything I love to experience in my life. It is a tall order, but just a few days in and I have made a couple of images I am so proud of. This time of year is an anniversary (of sorts) that life won't let me forget - so being in paradise allows me to concentrate on images and the future. It's really positve and I am lucky to be traveling with somebody special who is a great photographer in her own right... time is on my side for once!
The last time I was away I dropped my C330s into the Pacific Ocean. Even though it was less than a second, the damage was fatal. The salt and sand damaged both the body and the 55 wide that I was using. The noise this poor machine made as I tried to adjust the bellows was horrendous as the sand made it’s way into each meshing gear. I was pretty gutted as this is one of my favorite medium format street cameras. I don’t use the Rolleiflex on the street because it’s too delicate and valuable and the ‘Blad is just too much to be inconspicuous. Luckily, I was able to source an exact replacement out of Japan. It arrived in three days and I couldn’t believe what great shape it’s in. I count myself lucky as all of this film stuff is now scarce and hipster rare!