Two blog posts in as many days is definitely odd for me, especially when there are often months between posts. Yesterday was the Women's March On Washington while that was uplifting, it has kept my thoughts firmly on the future, but in a rather bleak way.
With temperatures well above zero degrees yesterday (and today, and all week!), I am having a difficult time quelling feelings of dread. The unseasonably warm temperatures make me worried. Like many of us, I've known for years that climate change is a real, human-made emergency. Anyone who believes in reputable scientific opinion has known that this is coming. But, it's only in the last year or two (that I can remember, anyway) that I've really started to notice changes in my environment. Bizarrely hot summers with little rain and winters with almost almost no snow. And fog! Fog! I haven't seen fog or mist like this since I lived in B.C. This is coastal weather. This is the new normal?
This mist makes my once familiar home look like an alien planet. This is especially true at night. The light of the street lamps and car headlights bounces off the moisture droplets in the air; this hazy glow transforms the world into a mysterious and desolate looking place. It is evenings like last night that I feel even more uncertain of the future.
I worry so much about what's going to happen in the coming decades. I'll be 35 in April. What will Southern Ontario look like when I'm 55? Or 75? With the inauguration of Trump and the immobility of our own government on issues around fossil fuel production, I'm not feeling very optimistic. On the other hand I realize that feeling anxious about the future will not help prevent the outcomes about which I am so worried. Only real action, the start of which I witnessed yesterday, can help to change the future.
I went out to take photographs last night because I was enchanted with the way the world looked and I raced outside as soon as I got home from dinner at my parents'. But as I started making the photographs,I felt as though I was walking around a dream. A surreal place.
In surreal times, maybe this is the new normal.
I post this as the Women's March on Washington plays on my computer speakers. Many people, many languages, many incredibly strong voices. This morning's sister March in Kingston was equally uplifting. The turn out was high, as were the spirits. The speakers were inspiring and powerful. I feel proud to have been a part of the March on Washington - Kingston.
I've been on a real portrait kick recently. When Viara and I have done couples shoots over at Quirky Love, I've made sure to incorporate some standalone portraits of the couple, but each person individually. I also took a few of my boyfriend in December which I am personally in love with, but that could also be the subject matter ;). I am really enjoying the process of collecting these images. I also believe that a lot of people don't often have portraits of themselves, at least, like the ones I've started to take. Usually photographs are of you and family, or you and your significant other, or you at a party, but not often just you. And just your face. There can be a lot vulnerability there, and it can take a lot of courage to allow a photographer access in that way. Since I first starting photographing things and people, I have always been drawn to candid work, using principles of documentary photography to inform my practice. Confronting portraits in a more intentional way is new for me. Starting out in the last few years in wedding and family photography has really made me think about the origins of photographing people.
I'm not blazing any trails with my portraiture, that's for sure, but we'll see what develops. I'm really inspired by people like Richard Avedon, Chuck Close, and Bruce Gilden. Both Diane Arbus and Nan Goldin are close to my heart. I love these two women and their influence on me is unquantifiable. They both photograph people, but neither are what could be considered conventional portraitists. They're in a different realm, really.
Each of those artists have very different aesthetics, subjects, and, motivations. Many of my favourite of Close's work are his paintings, not his photographs. BUT they are all still portraits, for the most part, they're all just pictures of people. I love animal portraiture, too, which is a whole other wonderful sub genre. I do love taking pictures of my cats.
If you look at a lot conventional portraiture, there's often not a whole lot of difference in the basic composition. Not much has really changed from the eras when portraits were mostly painted, not photographed. A lot of the lighting is still the same, the basic poses haven't change much either. It's the faces that change from portrait to portrait and that's what makes them so interesting to look at. Of course there are objects people chose to hold, clothes they wear, the environment in which they sit; but for me it's the expressions, the wrinkles, the freckles, and intangible qualities that I enjoy the most. Many portraitists will tell you that they have different was of engaging with their subjects to tease out some essential quality of their personality. Or perhaps the photographer just waylaid them in the street and blinded them with a flash, like Gilden.
I am still exploring this process in my own practice. We'll see where it takes me.
The pictures below are from another shoot I did with my friend and very willing model, Gytha. You've definitely seen her around these parts before. I shot on both film and digital media. I have separated them under two different headings as I like to look at the differences, if there are any at all. I'm a grad student, not a billionaire, so they are scanned at the lowest (ie: cheapest) resolution at my local film place (shout out to Camera Kingston!)
Editing down to a manageable number of images is a skill I need to work on!
Get ready for a whole lotta Gytha!
Places I've been, people I've seen.