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The Cassette Tape

the-cassette

My mom sent me this little cassette tape recently, and just like that it’s at the top of my most cherished possessions list.

My grandmother had a heart attack back in 1973. She was living in Saskatchewan at the time and our family was residing in the Northwest Territories. My mother made the long drive back to the prairies to be with her while she recuperated.

So it was just my sister, my dad and I at home for a few weeks and to this day I remember the abundance of sugar, weak attempts to skip kindergarten, evening pancakes, even later nighttime television and host of other new freedoms. Adding to the novelty, and mainly before bedtime, my father would get out the tape recorder and microphone and record us.

I wouldn’t shut up, always blabbering about everything and nothing — my sister on the other hand was quieter than a church mouse. My dad was diligent in his efforts to get us both to talk; asking us what we had learned in school that day, what gifts we wanted for our birthdays, trying to convince us to sing, and wanting us to say hello to our relatives. (He obviously had ideas of mailing the recordings to family members). It was cute stuff.

What really floored me though was hearing my father’s voice again. He died in 1985, so I haven’t heard his voice in almost 30 years. Not just that, but he was sick with cancer for 3 years prior to passing, so he wasn’t his normal self during that time period. My last recollection of him, his true spirit, full of life and enthusiasm — well I can barely remember it.

This tape however has it. Him laughing, joking, singing songs with us, being playful, full of both energy and patience, talking about the future, and trying to convince us that the rest of the world was already in bed and we should be too. It was amazing.

I was unaware how much I missed his soft and confident voice and the impact it had on me. A sense of resounding calmness came over me as I was listening — a feeling that I remember as a kid but haven’t experienced much of since his death, and up until this point, have even noticed. Again, amazing.

The 45 minute tape ended and I quickly flipped it over and pressed play, wishing and hoping for another full side to it. Silence. I fast-forwarded it 30 seconds and pressed play again. More silence. I did it again. And again. All with the same results — nothing. I listened to the white noise of blank air, afraid to admit that it was over and my time with my father was, once again, also over.

But what a gift.

 

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Stephen Gibbons-Barrett

My wife and I purchased one of Stephen Gibbons-Barrett’s paintings at a Fraser Valley charity event a couple years ago, and I loved the artwork so much that I wanted to know more about the man behind it. I called up SGB and he told me to come on over, and to bring my camera if I desired so.

Here’s a little preview I put together.

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The Portrait of Uncle Maurice

Photographing family has always been of utmost importance to me. These photographs are some of my most treasured possessions – photographic artifacts that I treasure dearly, and yet it has never been easy to take them.

I like to think that I live in the moment and when I’m with someone I try to be with them 100%, especially if I haven’t seen them in some time. Over the years I’ve become a little better disciplined at it than when younger, yet as someone who loves to document for historical and legacy purposes, meeting family often becomes a bit of an inner battle.

My wife and I recently traveled to the prairies for our annual pilgrimage to visit the clan. I instinctively loaded a few seamless backgrounds, light stands, clamps, and a couple sandbags into an already crammed vehicle and we hit the road for Alberta in anticipation of spending time with older relatives; especially hoping to visit with and then capture an image of my elusive Uncle Maurice.

My dear uncle has always been evasive around my camera. He’s an introvert and very private; I respect that and don’t push the camera on him – much. I have one picture of him with his late wife Shirley from about 2003 that I just adore; a lighthearted and spunky moment between the two, but not a picture since then. Shirley passed away about 5 years ago; married and inseparable from her for nearly 50 years, he’s never really been his playful self since.

We spent 4 engaging hours with him that Sunday, laughing and reminiscing about days gone by, eating Nanaimo bars and pretzels and consuming a little wine before heading to a restaurant for dinner. After the meal he asked if he could take us on a little tour to show us where his daughter’s new home was being constructed.  The day’s light was quickly setting and I was a little concerned that my plan to photograph him, which needed to be within the next 15 minutes, was going by the wayside.  We agreed to the tour – it was important to him.

At the subdivision he was telling me about the slope, the siding, and how construction was behind schedule. The sun was setting, and I found it harder to stay in the present. Luckily after a few more minutes he said something about it getting late and started heading back to the vehicle. Before opening the door I asked him if I could take a quick portrait of him.  He said ‘sure’.

Scrambling to set up my makeshift studio in front of a half finished garage, he chuckled and couldn’t believe I was ‘making this fuss’ for him. I started to photograph. Four frames into it he told me that I should have enough by now. I took about 50 more.

The photos above are the results. Asking him about the abundance of single and available ladies in his senior’s complex precipitated the great Uncle Maurice laugh; the same one I recalled as a kid. They won’t win first place in the annual PDN awards, (refusing to enter those contests affirms that – a post maybe for another time) but they are documents that I will cherish.

It would have been easy to convince myself that it just wasn’t meant to be on that particular day; I would get him next time, or even next year.  I’ve procrastinatively justified those scenarios in the past, and now no longer do. We all learn in life that ‘next time’ is never guaranteed.

* After sending this photo to my uncle, I asked him for a quote; something that I could use for a caption or headline for a blog post.  He replied, “Tell them ‘he’s my uncle and he’s available’.”

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How a musician makes tea

To use a poker term, I love how artists are ‘all in’ with their passions. I photographed and filmed my music friend Boris Sichon the other day and after we wrapped it up he made me a cup of tea.

 

 

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“Leaving school to focus entirely on my photography and writing.”

I was going through some old notes and came across this sentence I’d written back in 1992 while I was at the University of Regina studying sciences to potentially become a physiotherapist — “leaving school to focus entirely on my photography and writing.”

Writing… wtf?

Two and a half decades later, it struck and reminded  me — writing is something that I have always loved and considered doing more of, yet have never allowed myself permission to do so. Now, too old to procrastinate, or maybe to care, I’m finally giving myself that green light.

Photography has been a rewarding and yet challenging way to make a living. I would like to share some of my experiences and thoughts of a life in the visual arts in a genuine and candid way.

What else will I write about? Whatever I happen to be thinking of at the time, or working on, inspired by, maybe a technique or process, something I am reading, etc. It could be anything, but it will mainly pertain to the visual medium and every once in a while will be about a dog.

And I’d like to apologize ahead of time for the misspelled words, fragmented sentences, colons where obvious semi-colons should be, mixed up tenses, etc. I will try my best to avoid being a grammatical gong-show, but my goal here is not to spend days manicuring each piece to perfection and preparing it for a submission to the New Yorker — it’s simply for a visual with access to a keyboard to explore another creative venue.

Thanks for stopping by.