December 29, 2015

120 Color Photo essay: Winter on the Farm

Bella on the run at the Petkau farm. Morden, MB / Portra 800

Apple doesn't fall far from the tree. These two are jokers. Laughter and tenderness abound.

Atlas proudly holds young Bella. Winter 2015.

Beatty-Petkau's moon for the camera. We woke on the farm to a winter wonderland. 

The fog was dense and the light was incredible. Behind this family and hidden by fog lies a thick treeline. 

Atlas, Rebecca, young Arlo and Conrad. Quality family right here. 

All photos shot on my old faithful, the Kiev 60; shown in consecutive order in which they were shot. Portra 800 film did the trick to pick up on those warm colors on a cold day. The light was right thanks to a heavy fog and zero wind! Magic combination. Thank goodness my camera was loaded with color film. Contrast film would never have done the beauty of that day justice! I had never in my life seen such impressive hoar frost as I did the morning this roll was shot. Mind's Eye just mad snappin'.

Winter is magic!

December 15, 2015



I was sitting in my front parlour after work this afternoon reading. An excerpt from photographer and printer Elaine Mayes found in a well-loved coffee table book of mine titled 'Darkroom' struck me in the silver gut. It goes like this:

By far the hardest part of darkroom work for me is getting started in the first place. I have tried all sorts of ploys to make it easier. My current darkroom is at home, and I designed it with the procrastination problem in mind, feeling that it should be a comfortable, pleasant space. Being in a darkened, orange-lit place with the sounds of water and fan (for ventilation is very important) accompanied by acrid odors, are not ideal working conditions for me. Working at home is certainly better than having to go elsewhere, but still I find all kinds of distractions to keep myself away. A friend suggested that I reward myself afterwards, by washing the dishes or cleaning up the house, both tasks that are infinitely easier than taking the first precarious step into the mysterious arena called Darkroom.

I struggle between compulsive order and the will to abandon all rules, so the kind of darkroom I have, and the way I relate to its procedures, are in keeping with these extremes. The room itself is 7 by 17 feet, with a 2 by 17 foot wooden sink along one side, and the dry counter enlarger area, film drying cabinet, and door along the other side. This arrangement means that I don't have to walk around endlessly. After exposing a print, for example I just turn 180 degrees to the developer tray. The long sink is extravagant but it makes it possible to carry the printing procedure to final washing by sending the print through the chemicals in a continuos motion, although I normally tone the prints with selenium after all the developing and fixing have been completed. With 16 x 20 or larger prints, the long sink is perfect. The most special aspect of the room is the carpeted floor with a thick foam pad underneath, so I can work barefoot for hours without suffering from tired feet. I have a pull-chain light installed above the fixer tray so that I can reach up and turn on the light the instant the print has been sufficiently fixed (one to two minutes, usually). 

Another important piece of equipment is the radio-cassette tape machine which provides music while working. Waiting for prints to fix sufficiently or waiting for another thirty seconds during film development are endless repeated times with nothing to do, so I often sing along and sometimes dance to the music. 

Ultimately I am not a fine technician, and the technical aspects of photography don't interest me at all. But having a usable and adequate skill is essential, so I seek out methods that best suit the way I photograph and relate to the medium. Simplicity is important because I want to be able to concentrate on the image. If procedure gets too complicated or takes too much time, I get bored and anxious.

From Darkroom; Lustrum Press, Inc., 1977.

I struggle between compulsive order and the will to abandon all rules
I struggle between compulsive order and the will to abandon all rules
I struggle between compulsive order and the will to abandon all rules
I struggle between compulsive order and the will to abandon all rules
I struggle between compulsive order and the will to abandon all rules
I struggle between compulsive order and the will to abandon all rules

"I struggle between compulsive order and the will to abandon all rules, so the kind of darkroom I have, and the way I relate to its procedures, are in keeping with these extremes". Amen sister!

The Darkroom has been on my mind of late. These thoughts on rotation confirm that winter is here to stay. All I want to do is print. After taking a step back from textile production and backing out of the sale I had commit to in the first place, I thought it was absolutely necessary to at least make something if it wasn't going to be money. So I started by printing contact sheets of the Peters family. The contact sheets tell a sweet story of love at first sight and the debut of a wonderful soul called Ellis. My first portrait printed in over a year of moons was of that sweet boy. His little face still dripping wet on a nice, snappy 8 x 8" print hanging on the line encouraged me to keep going. So I did. Next I chose to print a few copies of a shot I took of Noam & Effie at ease on their push bikes. I set up the negative and then left to go pick up the brothers with a plan in mind. This was Friday. Noam, Effie and I walked over to my house after four. I made hot chocolate and set up the trays while they watched Tom & Jerry at my kitchen table. I invited them down and gave them their first lesson in the darkroom. We printed 5 copies of Brothers on Push Bikes and three of another print titled Three Muskateers at Halloween. They were mystified, stupefied and spell-bound by the magic of Developer. I'm thrilled they now think me a magician, but! The wonder of it all was they it was they who made the magic. Christmas is about joy and generosity. These boys made their parents a wonderful gift to remember. I am so proud to know them and spend time teaching them what I can while they are still hungry to learn. My children will be printers, no less. Well, at least until they are old enough to choose for themselves. Four year olds are magical creatures.

Why? Why? Why?

I have this child in my group who I shall call Mapchild here, to protect his spirit in this public space. I admire him deeply and appreciate the way he challenges me to meet him where he is on a daily basis. His eyes are fierce arrows that pierce me in the most surprising ways. At school he lives for map reading and talking passionately about the places in the world he is interested in. As a teacher I push myself to take the steps I need to push him and guide him in his quest. When he does math he brings in his older brothers, using their ages to mark his progress as he learns the numbers 0-100 and their physical values. I imagine that the numbers 6 and 8 will be with him always as he is so fixated on these values during this particular sensitive period to numbers.

November 26, 2015

Atlas the Astronaut

Trying on his dad's old dirtbike helmet and looking so grown up.
Grandpa Ed and Arlo rocking in the sun and laughing at Atlas. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree with those laugh lines.
Arlo is a happy girl at five months old. October 2015.
Pensive about his new career. 
Atlas the Astronaut, all suited up for space thanks to his out-of-this-world mother!
Pensive Conrad at the poker table.
Iain's Aunt DeeDee setting up the quilt to prepare for basting.
Mother and son staple the quilt to the board for basting. October 2015

Olympus SP-35 / Delta 400

November 24, 2015

Tulabi Falls and beyond

Happy campers!
Enroute to the Falls with my darlin' and the Partycam.
Woosh! Beautiful drive I will not soon forget.
Self timer group shot.
Shitbird and Bambam.
Dingaling 1 2 & 3.
Morning mandolin.
Taking in the sights together.
Whistlin' along with the lake birds.
On top of the Pinawa Dam.

This series depicts an end of Autumn camping trip to Tulabi Falls, Manitoba with Iain, Grant and Rebecca. Good times were had by all. It was a beautiful weekend to get away and explore. We stopped at the Pinawa Dam on the ride home for a picnic. Great company!

Olympus SP / Delta 400 graintown grit

November 21, 2015

Caps To Ya Dome

Meet Nathan Dueck of Oldhat. He makes beautiful, quality hats for a living in Winnipeg, MB. Here he wears the Cadet hat which looks right at home on his dome.
Will carefully selects the right Cadet hat of his choice before sitting for his Oldhat portrait.
The one and only Will Belford, wearing the Cadet hat. Just right.

Lisa in the Cadet hat. I miss this ding-dong especially now that she has moved to Nelson, BC. So close, so far. 
Nathan sits for his Oldhat portrait shot by Natalie Baird (also wearing the Cadet hat while sitting on the Quality Builders drafting stool made by my Grandpa Frank KK).
Beautiful Natalie soaking up the October rays. Mid-shoot cold one for this gal.
Will cracking up the ladies as per usual.
Nat works at ease while shooting a portrait on her Hasselblad for Oldhat! Makeshift dark throw: my flannel housedress.
Iain dons the Cycle Cap with grace.
A beautiful soul called Chloe wearing the Conductor hat (my kind of hat).
Classic Lisa King right here folks. She wears the Schoolyard hat with sass.
Reason number one million and seventeen why I love this dingaling. 

Margot Pollo for Oldhat: contrast / candid edition

On a warm day in mid October, a few friends gathered on mine and Iain's back deck for a shoot to showcase the latest work of Winnipeg hat maker Nathan Dueck. Regular, wacky folk wearing five different styles of handmade, quality Oldhats: the Schoolyard, the Cadet, the Conductor, the Cycle Cap and the 5-Panel (sadly not pictured on this roll). Natalie Baird and I co-shot the lookbook (taking turns shooting portraits on her delicious Hasselblad) which was a delightful experience. I shot all of the contrast photos in the series above. It was a really interesting experiment to share the Directress of Photography reins with another photographer whom I admire deeply. We took turns at the camera and it turned into a really fun and intuitive dance. I really appreciated Natalie letting me learn to navigate her Hasselblad. What a beautiful camera to operate. The Hasselblad offered such a different composition experience compared to looking through the barrel of my Kiev! The experience slowed me down, made me second guess the decisive moments where I would naturally blast. And let me tell you, that was not a bad thing at all! It is good to slow down composition once in a while.

While taking in the color lookbook for the first time, I could hardly tell whom shot what. I'm taking that as a good sign Nat! Looking forward to seeing those portraits make their way onto the Oldhat site. CLICK to scope Nathan's current shop selection. I have the Conductor and wear it to death. Sturdy and slick all at once. My kind of hat!

Margot Pollo presents: a funny behind-the-scenes look at the 2015 shoot for Oldhat! Thank you to Lisa King, Natalie Baird, Nathan Dueck, Chloe Bishop Dueck, Iain Petkau and Will Belford for graciously modelling.

Kiev 60 / Delta 400

November 16, 2015

Back in the saddle

Time to step out and debut what has been cookin' on the back burner for many a moon. Textiles! Printmaking has long been a passion of mine and loooooooord does it ever feel good to approach the process once again. While I have yet to slip my printing apron on and pull a lick of ink, I have been spending my evenings between the ironing board readying a fat stack of fabric for the first go and at the light table playing around with old work and new.

My hat is off to all the fine folks out there who do this type of production for a living. The list is long but the process is rich.

I have gone back and forth for ages on whether or not to sell my work and finally I decided to quit winging and just do it. AIN'T NOTHIN' TO IT BUT TO DO IT. Get those wacky, imperfect textiles out there and buy yourself a new computer goddamnit woman! Integrity shall remain so long as honesty and quality are at the helm of it all.

So, on Sunday, December 13th I shall be debuting my take on textiles. I am really into cloth napkins and beautiful throw pillows in my daily life. Pillowcases. Maybe even a shower curtain or two. You can count on those items for purchase. Oh! And a couple of Lady Longbody's too because WHY NOT.

For this particular sale, my approach is to hand print and dye various fabrics; combining my ongoing obsession for stencils with good ol' ink-and-quill illustrations for a fresh take on printing. I have a hunch some papery bits will be flung in at the last moment too because once my print train gets going there ain't no stopping this old gal pal. Full steam ahead!

Back in the saddle with loose reins and eyes trained on the horizon. Feels electric and good; familiar and foreign at the same time. Now back to writing report cards for three and four year olds I go hi-ho. Life is wacky, weird and wonderful. November has been a real treat thus far. Iain dragged home a firepit for his sweetheart over the weekend. Sheer delight 'ditzeid.

Sparks are flyin' over here to say the least.


November 6, 2015

General Store blues

Soft focus general store of wonders. Should have shot more on color film and less with my eyeballs. Tongue wagging historical beauty in Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia. July 2015.
Excited to the bone. Iain tolerated my Christmas-morning-like hysterics with impressive grace as we prepared to enter this heritage village in Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia. I knew I picked the right guy after this day.
Impressive bedroom geraniums in funny Victorian house museum at Sherbrooke Village in Nova Scotia. Who tended those fairweather wonders I wonder? Beautiful chair, soft focus, incorrect exposure. It goes.
I love this ding-dong so terribly. Speaking of terrible, terribly interesting choice of DOF here Madge. Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland.
Fierce competitors / Content companions. Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland.
Wet campers play Scrabble and drink rye and many an Oland Export and get drunk at 2 in the afternoon. Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland.
Beautiful creature enjoying the boardwalk in the oceanside town of Trout River, Newfoundland.
We hiked a many trail. I cursed as he led and I followed with camera. He laughed as I cursed as I led. Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland.
Cape Breton Island cruisin' taking in the endless grey and sharp rocks from pretty pull-over spots. Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia; July 2015.
My expression is misleading. I am thrilled to sit upon a rock at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick with my sweetheart, I swear. Olympus Sport self timer edition. July 2015.
Montreal; summer in the city in a nutshell. July 2015

Let's go back to those slow afternoons of endless driving through impressive landscapes and long lunches of cold meats, crackers and icy cool Oland Exports, listening to The Band in the truck and wearing backward caps with tanned feet up on the dash and pulling over and doing it in bushes and other funny places whenever we felt like it. Okay, good idea. Yes, let's.

All shot on my trusty old Olympus SP partycam of choice. Gotta love that self timer option! Crappy unmentionable color film and Delta 400 thrown in just for fun.

Dear Nova Scotia, I love you so much and I will be back. I have a feeling it will be sooner than I think. Suzette is calling my name from her attic darkroom. I have my sights set on Ambrotype. That is all there is to it.


October 20, 2015

Observations of Fall time light

* all photos shot on a Nikon F3 / 50mm