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.

Pounding heart, boozy boys.

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This weekend there was a spring festival in our village. I think St. Chaptes either has strong ties to the manade community or they really like to drink – because we often have the abrivados in our village. This weekend there were two abrivados each day and 2 bandidos each night, and in between, very cheap aperitifs. This meant a lot of whoo hahers, (my affectionate term for drunken yellers).

The horses are simply wonderful. And while I understand the bull is the main event, I go for the horses. Their thundering hooves, extraordinary colouring and incredible work ethic make for in unbelievable display of Provencal tradition.

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It all begins for bystanders to choose a spot on the street to stand. The horses and bulls are stationed at the arena, just on the outskirts of town. A bull is released from the truck and two or three riders encourage / goad the bull through a route in the village. The young men run after the bull and attempt to stop it through sheer force.

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Most of the bulls this weekend had their horns blunted and wrapped in leather. This prevents goring but doesn’t really take away the physical threat that the bull possesses.

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When the riders and bulls approach from down the street, the suspense quickly builds. From relative quiet, the air quickly fills with the sound of pounding of hooves on the pavement and the shouts of communication between riders and runners.

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The thrill of the event is in the closeness to the animals, the suspense of waiting for the galloping horses and the unpredictable nature of the bulls. In spite of all the boozy boys, filled with adrenaline and testosterone, the thrill of danger combined with the mastery of man over nature, causes even the calmest of hearts to pound.

Storytelling

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what started it all

This is the original cibachrome print of house boats in Paris, taken by father in the early 60’s, that hung in his home office my whole life. The clarity, sharpness, and depth of colour, stuck with me. It was the first photograph that took me somewhere. And I wanted to go there.

I do have the story in my past, of always having a camera in hand, from a very young age. Yes, photography is a part of how I see the world. But I think more importantly, this image impressed upon me the stories that architecture tells. I have had many discussions about the stories that faces tell, that humans tell with their pain, distress, joy, euphoria – and why not focus on capturing these stories? I am simply a human that is endlessly moved by architecture. It has mystery, sadness, fear, chaos, spirituality and breath taking beauty. It can cause us to lose our minds and it can care for us.

This image is my root. My centre. My beginning. Not only because of the man who took it, but the simple story it tells. I brought it home from Calgary and now it hangs in my bedroom in France. It is a bit of my father watching over me and a reminder of how important beginnings are.

Past Due

In February of this year, I presented a new series of architectural double exposures at the Artist Project in Toronto. This new work was shot in Avignon, Uzes, Anduze, Nimes and Arles – France.

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This was a really hard show to put together. I constructed and shot the work in November and December, after I found out that my father was going to die from pancreatic cancer. I pushed forward, planning to attend the show in February as my father was adamant that I plan on attending. I returned to Canada in January to care for him. While we were in the hospice I was editing files, making postcards and putting together the final choices for printing. He was able to see my proofs and it brought him right back to the places we had seen together just months earlier.

He passed away January 27, 2016. With the show on wheels, driving itself, we had his funeral, buried him, packed up his house and I was on a plane to Toronto February 15th. One of my oldest friends in the world helped me hang the show and there I was on February 18th.

Standing in front of the streets I had taken him to in October. It was exciting to be surrounded by images of my new home but emotional at the same time. I could recall our conversations and know that they were some of the last conversations we would have about architecture. It was our bond. Architecture. Our place to completely know wonder.

As I write that, I know how deep this loss will be. No one else felt that with me. To share something like that with someone so close is to be complete. Now there is a part of me missing. A call that no one will answer.

And so, because of all of that, life has been upside down lately.

And like most things on my plate, this post is past due.