…feeling most alive / new work…

One year ago I moved to France.

One year ago I left Canada.

One year ago life seemed full of promise and opportunity. A dream was coming true, I was starting fresh in place that meant discovery was around every corner. Or at least behind every baguette…

But then, as life does, promise turns into reality and baguettes turn into fat if you don’t exercise. So you have to make a decision to stop eating so many baguettes. And then you have to figure out how to go forward in this new field of reality.

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My reality is one without my dad. And now I am slowly losing my mother to dementia. These things have taken from me. They have pulled at my ability to be whole. Now, I am away from home and I find one way to pull myself back together is through my camera.

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BOOM!

August 17, 2015  5:30pm the canon exploded and from that moment on I was hooked.

I have learned so much in the past year about the history behind this incredible tradition which originated in the Camargue. My newest project, SUD_ is going to follow several manades based in and around where I live.

Beyond the village fete and the spectacle created by running bulls through towns, there is a closely knit community of riders, photographers, spectators and ranchers that keep this way of life alive. Most interesting is the number of women now riding, in what was previously male dominated work.

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This project will grow in depth over time. It is not a shift away from architecture but a shift into looking deeply at the place I live. There is great joy in the moment, in the anticipation of that which might be wild, or dangerous and potentially life threatening. Not many things today make my heart beat as quickly as these riders on their horses chasing these bulls.

That is the initial draw. The long story, the rich story, is the behind those moments but they all lead to that rush where you feel most alive.

 

Urban Rising – A show at the Shangri-la Residences

Last week I flew to Toronto for a group show organised by Art Collectif at the Shangri-la Residences in conjunction with Chestnut Park Realty. I was the solo photographer in a group of 7 painters. 

Installation day was hectic but gratifying. The pieces seemed to be made for the living room they were hanging in. 

These two pieces were delivered to their new owners on Tuesday. These two editions are now sold out!

The views from the 65th floor were stunning. 

it started with windows…

…I couldn’t stop searching for the right one. Of course it was all about the perfect angle and a great juxtaposition of graphics. Then I realized they were few and far between and to practice the art of window reflections was inconsistent to say the least.

This just happened the other day after picking up morning croissants and made me realize how much has changed since my window days.

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(Another way to achieve this kind of image is to collage single images together with photoshop. But I am not technically savvy enough to spend hours making these collages.)

My life changed the day I was digging, through the menu of my Nikon, and I spotted it. “Multiple Exposure”.  I couldn’t believe it. I had discovered a way to construct my own photo collages using the subject matter of my design.  I didn’t have to wait for these 3 dimensional stories to appear. They were mine now, to write.

For me they add a complexity to the visual story bringing greater depth to the image. The challenge of composing through trial and error, which is a way of seeking through seeing, is thrilling.

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Architecture is more than building materials and form. It is touched by time, the environment and by us. It is in a constant feedback loop, creating and recreating context, atmosphere and space.

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These images were created using my smartphone. I can now play with these ideas while I am on the go. It allows me to test ideas and practice compositions without have to bring my big camera. I decided to start another instagram account that will only be my phone double exposures. @jo_dbl_expo is my new idea park for these tests. They don’t always work but sometimes geometry just seems to play right into the lens….

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My new favourite season

It used to be summer. It used to be the only season that had colour lasting longer than a week. And nights that were warm. It was the warm nights I loved the most. It was never spring. Spring was too short, in Toronto, if you blinked you would miss it. Suddenly there was no snow and blossoms appeared and then a rain storm would take them out. And summer started.

Here, spring lingers, warmth slowly creeping in and around rivers, forests, stone buildings. Like the wind, it swirls around the damp and the cold and pushes out winter, creating new space for life to grow. Fruit trees delicately began to leaf and then bloom. The rose bushes sprang to life in our yard, the jasmine began to bloom and fill the air with scent. The fields of wheat began to blow in the wind with poppies and thistles dotting the landscape. It is a feast for the senses. The light has also changed dramatically. Bright blue day time skies filled sometimes with crispy white clouds, and a coolish wind, make for sun that is hot and shade that is gorgeous. The sunrises are more confident and the sunsets have new pinks and purples that went away in the winter. It is a joy to see these changes.

So now. Spring. You have my heart.

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Wheat fields near Collias, France
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Poppy, near Collias, France
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Wheat and poppies near Collias, France.
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Poppy field near Collias, France

Wet. Cold. But it was Paris.

We had planned a week long trip to Paris for what was supposed to a glorious spring week of watching flowers burst into bloom. Unfortunately it felt like it rained everyday and with morning temperatures hovering at 2 degrees it felt more like winter than spring.
The train trip started out like this…

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But we were soon faced with the grey overcast skies of Paris.

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Even with blustery days and rain swept mornings every inch of that city is cool. And why wouldn’t it be?

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Every few blocks there is a bakery, a great little bar or restaurant, all the shopping you could ever want and any kind of museum you would want to visit. And it is quiet. For a big city, it is remarkably quiet. Noise exhaustion does not end your day, tired legs do.

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All that was dappled and gold..

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This weekend we took a wee road trip away from our little village and the joy of our midnight marauder. This meant no rushing through lunch and the restaurant didn’t have to be chosen on the basis of whether or not it had Margarita pizza.

We started off with a stop for the first lunch in St. Remy de Provence. I have been told by numerous people that it was beautiful but I hadn’t been until now.

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I am not sure if it could have been prettier. It was perhaps, even a little too pretty. In the old city it seemed that every other store sold wine. All the buildings seemed to be restored and painted in the most perfectly “provençal” way.

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The light seems to have changed this week. It is warmer, there are rich undertones of gold and even in the shadows there are casts of yellow.

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After a quiet lunch on a patio tucked away from the street (the Tarte de Citron was everything) we headed off to Aix en Provence.

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And after wandering around in a daze of stores and restaurants we finally found the non commercial part of Aix, the quiet part I had remembered from 20 years ago when traveled there on my own and was delighted at the almost empty streets.

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Walled private gardens and clean public fountains where you could hear the birds singing, really differentiates the portion of the city south of the Cours Mirabeau from that north of it. Here there are no retail stores and the buildings are restored and or maintained meticulously.

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Noon mass was being conducted at the parish St. Jean de Malte. I am not overly religious but the sound of a choir in a church, always makes me take pause.

This trip was too short. I almost didn’t want to come home. It made me relish in the urbanity, small in comparison to Toronto, but it had everything you need to be happy in an urban life, perhaps even richer because it is so compact and you don’t have to drive.

We will be back.

Little moments buried in memory.

I spent some time yesterday updating my Behance account – Adobe’s social media platform for creatives. They have a great app for creating offline portfolios. And as there is a lot of travel planned for this upcoming month, I thought it best to employ some digital tools this time – instead of carrying around my printed portfolio and being charged by the airlines for doing so!

I had to go through and re-export photographs from each series and in doing so for South by Southwest, was reminded of all the long jaunts I did with my dad to get that work done. I am going to put together some posts that highlight some of the outtakes from that work – today I thought I would share a few of my favourites from that first drive we did together back in July 2015.

Because it was the first part of July and the canola flowers were resplendent. And be thankful I am restricting myself – there were many, many versions of canola.

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Part of each drive was spent spotting abandoned buildings and barns that were kind of accessible.

The worst thing about them – birds scaring the S*&T out of me as I walked up to them and prickly plants hiding in tall grasses.

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Best part about these scouting stops was after we had turned the car off and walked away from the road we could hear the bird songs (as well as the insanely loud buzzing of insects) and by wading through the tall grass, you could find gems like these.

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Stretches of pure crop were broken up by auto collector detritus…

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and crops politely working around building detritus..

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We finished at Wolf Hill. My grandfather was born here. The original homestead buildings are gone and the land is owned by another family now. I was hesitant to ‘hop the fence’ but my dad, as aways, encouraged this gentle trespass. Even with the long drive we faced back to Calgary, we stayed to watch the entire sunset in surprisingly bug free peace.

I go back to this sunset time and time again. Nothing else in the world compares to the space of the Prairie.  The excess amount of space that light has to travel and fall upon the land is extraordinary. It fills me with a feeling of freedom that is unequalled in any other place I have been. Perhaps this I owe to my father. His unbridled energy, his keen embrace of finding joy in everything he did, is here in this land.

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These are the gems I keep, these little moments I have to unearth to remember.