November 30, 2011

Soon and very soon

November thirtieth, doors are open and the house breathes in and out. Mabel the cat follows the warm spots as the sun moves through the house. The morning arches over to afternoon. I went for a walk after a nice morning in. Checked the mail on the way out and found Tony Chestnut lying in wait. Feels so good on, thanks woman. Mini skirt, new look for me. Very bold comparitively, but the snug leather affirms it was a good choice. Tis the season for the old winter wardrobe switch over. Chanel sold me these incredible wool trousers in June. Been saving them for a day like today when I could wear them out with little shoes to the laundromat. Sassy folding. Exchanged hard and good looks with a handsome helmeted creature. Bagel jammed in his mouth as he looked. Hello. Simon inspired me to take my Voitlander Bessa (the old german acordian fold waist view from the thirties) out for a spin and on the way I met James, who is becoming a regular and favorite subject of mine. Maybe it is the Diane Arbus biography that I have been reading, I have no other explanation for my portrait prowess today. It felt good to hunt faces again. What is interesting? Who is incredible in their beauty and strageness? James lives on my street. Hard times these days, though he is very generous with his face. I shot my way to Monastiraki and took the owner of said little shop's portrait through the glass looking in. Bessa.

It goes quick, probably because when I am working on a guess, I might as well shoot fast. Look at the light, think about it. Think about distance. Think about intensity. Think about time. While cruising the shop I found a little chowchow for Sam. If you can picture it, Monastiraki is an odds and ends shop on the corner of St. Laurent and St. Viateur. I can go in with just quarters jingling in my pocket and leave with a treasure. Paperform usually. It is my favorite way to shop. Paper hunting. I love papers. Postcards, name tags, file folders, books, prints, old photos. You name it, he has it. Today I looked at a big cardboard tube about a foot in diameter, complete with a lid. Stenciled on top it read SEAT in great block letters even though it was clearly not a seat. An old mailbag caught my eye. Forty five dollars. The pièce de résistance of the shop is an old wooden letter holder (long envelop style) painted a very specific dark emerald green. Gorgeous. Two hundred and fifty dollars and worth every penny. Too much. Oh well. Good thing looking is free. Billy Madras, owner of Monastiraki has incredible taste and his displays are next level. Little touches.

Today while in the shop we got to talking and he asked me "why are you here in Montreal?". For school was the reply. I caught myself there, pausing to ask myself the same question again knowing full well school is no longer the reason. For change. For a test.

I miss home. Winnipeg is my home.

"Why do you stay?" he asked. I stumbled over my reasons. There are many reasons to stay and to go. Now after having left the shop and walked around making a few more pictures and really thinking about it more, I love the craziness of the city. It really is wild. You just never know here! Adventure is in the wind, in the people. A gathering town for wanderers. I had a crazy man yell into my face the other night while walking home from Janelle's house. I didn't know how to respond except go WHOOO and run home. I wish it was possible to photograph sound in those moments. Little bells ringing, what would that look like? Anyway, this is a wonderful city bursting with potential but I am also afraid of it. Art culture here is strong and sharp, it intimidates me to just JUMP INTO IT. Anglo art. But I hold back, unsure and hesitant.

Today in an effort to work on my chef photo series (at the laundromat this afternoon I saw a picture [sans camera] across the street that would have been the right fit for my series. A bagel baker, relaxed in whites, knee up against brick, smoking a cigarette in a very specific way, sparkly eyes). A while later I met Abdul, a journalist turned restaurant proprietor who works two days per week to stay limber. Contrast vision zero in. I fumbled with my Nikon F2 and missed the shot after realizing my film was full.  So I did my best with the Bessa (always an exposure gamble) and went on my way.

These days I am also working two days to stay limber and spend the rest of my time reading, making pictures, making soup (Grandma I made your recipe for Heine Zoup and it was pretty killer) and thinking about projects. Envelopes, this is the time to sew! I am off to print. My friend Zoi gave me her old Durst C35 enlarger so now I have two. Still missing a timer and a 75mm lens for the Omega B22 enlarger and then I will finally be able to start printing from the medium format pile of negatives. Other than silkscreen, I have never enjoyed the process of a trade as much as printing pictures. Quick repetitive steps.This is how I learn best.

November 24, 2011


Last night I gathered my balls and mixed chemicals in the kitchen even though I was working on a guess. 1+9. One part, nine parts to make a whole. 1200 mL divided by ten parts. Okay, figure it out. I got a sweet tip from a man named Francois, a sales guy at Photo Service. Use white vinegar in the Stop. More acidic than water, more economical than chemical. It worked well. Shopping on a guess, working on a guess, living on a guess. This is how I roll these days. What a funny time.

There is a working darkroom in my home! Finally, as Creme said when I told him. Yeah, seriously. Last night as I whipped between dry station and wet, I said aloud to myself "I am printing in my own darkroom". I have been looking forward to the moment the first image would appear like a magic trick in  the developer since my first introduction to printing in Mr. Ginter's IA class. IA. Industrial Arts. My weekly saving grace in Grade nine. Our class of 19 would ride the bus from Rosenort to Morris (fifteen minutes of wildy horny teens being teens) and I would hunt down Jeff Landry. We never even made out, but I was a girl charmed. Amy Zach, Chantelle Friesen and I would book our respective cameras (I think they were Nikon Fs) and run wild around Morris shooting each other until our rolls were spent and we would go check out the local thift shop called the MCC until it was time to head back to school. Could there be anything better? Thrifting and shooting. My mother found countless children's shirts in the laundry that year. Tired of arguing over appropriateness, she took to burning them in the barrel at the edge of the yard. (I will do the same for my own inappropriate teens).  I would pick up a new one at the following week.

During that entire year of Industrial Arts, all I did was silkscreen and photography! Graphic design? No patience. The first silkscreen print I made was a shitty little firetruck (digital animation style) on a small t-shirt. No idea where it is now. Probably burnt. Ashes to ashes. I have strong memories of that darkroom. I didn't see another set up until I was 23. Creme's basement. It all looked so complicated, but I loved sitting in on his sessions in that tiny setup. Creme chain smoking as he printed, Cat Power's What Would the Community Think blasting from upstairs. Good years together, more to come. I don't know if you read this Craig, but I love you dearly. You have taught me more than you will ever know, just by being who you are.

After my chemicals were dealt and the temperatures even, the first picture I printed last night was the Belly to the Sea House. What is it about that house? I has lodged itself in my visual memory like a burr. So printed it. Underexposed. I love trial and error. More light, more time. Overexposed. Try again. School gave to me the books,  tools and understanding that I needed to be able to work in my own environment. Thank you Chih-Chien, my photo teacher for explaining to me again and again the concept of exposure. It will take my whole life to really get it, but he helped in provide a strong foundation. I find I work with my enlarger with confidence.

Time to work. Currently, I am reprinting the black and white section of my portfolio. Bush depiction. Just printed my favorite shot of Maya eating lunch beside Jim Bob, the forester. Going to set up. Start again. What a life.

My first print. November, 2011.

November 21, 2011

Stubborn and Impatient

House is clean. That always feels good. I almost strangled a tiny little woman this morning. How out of character! I am normally quite drawn to the eccentricities of the elderly, but this lady had an axe to grind  apparently. I went into her fabric shop looking for some suitable blackout fabric and she razzed me for what felt like eternity for "shopping on a guess". She also refused to tell me the price per yard of my choice material until I coughed up some measurements. QUOI? Well, excusez moi for looking in your shop lady! When my curled ram horns started shaking I took my cue and huffed out to the door and zipped off with Alba. I hadn't exposed the fiery, stubborn side to my character in a while. Though I left empty handed, it felt good to cycle with a strong raging rhythm. Haha. Little old Jewish woman dies at the hands of angry unemployed cyclist in fabric shop.

Plates are shifting. I am a drifter these days. Must stop sleeping in, I am missing the best light of day. Taking a brain break from photography for a bit, though my cameras are at ready all around the house, just in case the spirit leads me. Still working to prepare the workroom for dark production.

Milky comes on Friday, can't wait to zip around town together.

Source unknown. Found this house tucked away in a folder called House Jazz. 

November 18, 2011

Test Striptease

Does anyone know the steps I should take to center this file in the header? Design savvy I am not today. Better luck tomorrow. In other news, I bought an enlarger from a wonderful man named Michael. He drove me home after a successful Craigslist adventure to NDG. Looking forward to learning the process. The last few days I have been puttering in the workroom, moving things around. I need a 5 gallon pail and some blackout fabric then I think I will be ready to rip! Mon dieu, the thought!

I have decided to leave school and pursue life. Perhaps I didn't challenge myself enough there, but this darkroom holds promise. Here is some recent work. Hopefully the LAST roll of black and white that I will bring in to have processed. Woooh! My room, in its usual state. My workroom is confused but I  have faith.

Work Table view in October.
Beauty October, clear and dry. Montreal, 2011.
Student self portrait. 
12:44 at the Listening Station.

November 14, 2011


After the park, Liz invited me to help her construct a piece for a last minute fundraiser art show. The only requirement was to utilize a wooden platform, with a surface a foot square sitting two inches off the ground. We brainstormed for a bit and decided on a small tent. The mathematics behind angle calculation were far more complicated than anticipated so we opted to make a free form 3D house out of thick wire. It was nice just to start something with someone, working away to CBC on the radio, Liz's mom clanging around the kitchen, her younger sister pumping Snoop from the other end of the apartment, Duncan the tiny poodle flying around. A family house, a real beauty of a Montreal home (backyard et al). I miss my family.

Back at the family house, the dark fell early so I left shortly after hoping to catch Miranda July's reading. I got lost en route to the church and went on a photo journey instead. Cycled around in the northern part of the city for a while just enjoying the weather system. A splash of rain. Alba feels like a million bucks these days, cycling feels good. Seasonal depression aside, fall is my favorite season for athletics and fashion. Body warmth in cool air. Slim jackets. Dry pavement. I can only imagine how planting in autumn would feel. Today's warmth reached 17 degrees in Montreal. Hasn't been this warm since the Thirties. Glorious.

Though school hasn't been going so well, I have begun a new project inspired by a photographer I was introduced to in my history class. Diane Arbus. Her body of work is incredible. She had a sharp eye for the bizarre, the surreal, the strange. Her subjects ranged from young families to cross dressers, circus culture to nudist communities. Though Arbus' portraits were considered quite controversial in the Fifties and Sixties, her depiction is consistently respectful and warm. I appreciate that in a photograph, especially as a young street photographer myself. It is hard enough to approach people on the street, never mind to enter the home of a stranger, the dressing room of a dancer, the birthday party of a prostitute. Liz lent me her biography and I haven't been this excited to read since my Aunty Daryl gave to me the story of Mabel Stark. Bed, bath, book, beyond. Winter is coming. I am dark, it is dark outside. Obsessed with bathing.

Started this new illustration technique a few nights ago in a moment of sheer delight (art flow is bottlenecked these days) which is drawing with a fountain pen/ nib and india ink on thick transparency sheets. This is nothing new, just new to me. Why didn't I think of that before? Even better than a laser printer! Who needs Adobe Illustrator when one has a steady hand and a pot of ink? I have been drawing my favorite Arbus photographs. The point is to use these illustrations as negatives to burn into a screen coated in photo emulsion. A process resulting in an image ready to print. Fabric posters, inspired by Diane Arbus. Sometimes the internet art world saddens me. Has everything been done? No. I could always draw my own photographs to guarantee originality. What do I want my work to say? I feel incredibly blessed to be able to live my life in a country that allows me to pursue pretty much anything my heart desires. Degree or no degree.

Originality is a beautiful thing. I hope my hand work makes someone laugh or feel hopeful. Anyway, time will tell. The only thing I know for sure these days is that the time has come to learn French! I am ready. Concordia is not the right fit and I am just fine with that. I realized the other day that I struggle with school so greatly because I my work comes from the heart or not at all. Having to create work under pressure is no good for this gal. Boo fucking hoo. Haha. Time to haul up my Montreal bootstraps, duck into winter, work my ass off in a kitchen to pay the rent, tuck into my work.

Goals/ priorities as a worker:

- darkroom, find enlarger and GET REAL about printing in my own damn home.
- work table for my studio
- submit to publish already
- work trade for a website
- OR seek lessons for illustrator
- business cards (my looseleaf scraps are a good joke)
- OPERATION OVEN: get one, make a lasagna before the snow melts
- start and finish the sewing projects that I have within me
- shoot a fashion spot for once
- write more letters, you're slipping Madge

Great, okay. I can't let the heaviness of transition get me down. Over coffee on the front balcony in the warm sun this morning, Laura said to me "change is the only constant". Yup. So here is to change. What the hell? It has been quite a year. Today I sat at a family table giving form to a little house. Who knows where I will be tomorrow. First, history of photography. Let the season change hands, it means I will be that much closer to home.

A bientot, Winnipeg. Montreal, you are hard but good.

I have a date with a burly frenchman on Wednesday. HA! TRIPLE WEIRD. He pitched Edward Burtynsky's large format photography exhibit at the McCord, how could I resist? I am a sucker for galleries and little black dresses.


My friend Leonard keeps growing and growing. Montreal, October 2011.

Just checking out some broken glass. Montreal 2011. 
Checking things out at Parc de Gaspe. Montreal 2011.
So proud to say this is Leo's first photo! Fujichrome slide film x processed. Montreal, October 2011.
Hay Poulet. This was the day of Leo's first photography lesson, October 2011.

Low light depiction

Currently looking for jobs from my bed. Nanny for an 8 month old boy? Yes please. Pizza cook? No thanks. I have decided that school is not in the cards. I need a good dose of Winnipeg.

My friend Steve. Montreal 2011.
Classic Shannon. Montreal 2011.

November 9, 2011

Rest You

I skipped school this morning. An 8:30 Photo 210 class easily trumped by a decision to stay in bed. Figuring in sadness was a no brainer, I might as well have penned it into my day planner: tears for a dear woman. Tears, a river of them from my soul. I woke and made a cup of coffee, turned up CBC on my receiver and sat down thinking of my Auntie Marj. Coffee and CBC seemed a good place to begin this day. How can one begin to sum up the pain of a year? There has been plenty of good, so many joyous births and occasions to celebrate, but buckets of tears.

I rarely listen to CBC but today I felt compelled to spin the dial away from Radio Classique. As I tuned in, Sarah Slean was being introduced. She opened her set with a live rendition of a song called "The Right Words" off her latest album. Never a big fan, I hadn't heard her in years but something told me to stay close. Headphones. I listened and wept and wept. My planned breakfast date slipping through cracks, I listened thirty more times.

Dear Auntie Marj, you have been gone for one year now. How can this be? In the wake of sadness, your loved ones have been left wondering how the hell we are supposed to operate in this lifetime without your unbridled laughter, crazy stories and deep love for all. I don't even know how to pen the depth of loss and have questioned the validity of this place for months. I honestly do not know how your husband children get out of bed each day.

Your children--the cousins I grew up shit disturbing with--have wowed me over and over with their incredible strength and compassion for others, despite the obvious right to curl up and turn inwards with grief over the loss of their mom. I have no doubt you are fiercely proud. Life continues, somehow. Babies grow, more people pass along to the other side. Your legacy glows on, fanned by mass missing.

Sometimes I am mad that you are gone, that you haven't held Kate's Romeo yet or Sara's first baby, that you won't laugh into the camera on my own wedding day as I have watched you do so many times. Anger doesn't resolve sadness, this I know. All one can do to honor such loss with deep Love. Today I am honoring you with a cup of coffee, a candle, with CBC and a song that went straight to heart, with a walk in a warm coat, and with laughter even though I would rather cry in bed all damn day.

I haven't picked up my camera in weeks. School assignments, whatever. I never shoot unless my heart is involved, this is something I have learned from watching you. As a small girl I would watch you move around rooms in church basements, parks or wherever--leading with your Nikon--asking permission without words sometimes, capturing faces that others wouldn't dare to, laughing all the way. You shot with ease, passion and conviction. It was so plain to see people relax into the true essence of their character in front of your camera, truth and trust in portraits. I miss watching you shoot and hearing stories of your various assignments, disaster weddings, barfing brides, babies babies babies. God I miss you. You continue to be a mentor in memory. Even after death, you inspire me to LISTEN, to ask hard questions, to laugh and charm my way beyond barriers, the importance of sharing stories, to trust in my guts and to use my camera as a way to relax people and in this unveil individual stories others might miss.

You are one hell of a woman. I weep alongside so many others for you today, tomorrow, always.

I love you so much, God rest you woman.


November 6, 2011

Quality Baby

Sang a baby to sleep this evening. There is nothing better, this I am sure of. Malec, nine months and a real old soul. He has soulful eyes. It was exciting to watch him and his twin sister Leila learn to stand against the same table Leo did just months ago! Time flies.

Quality dad. Rosenort, Manitoba 1987.