…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.

 

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.