This woman approached me while we were walking through a village and pointed to my hat, which had a Canadian flag. She gave me a hug and started speaking quickly in Spanish. Since I speak only a few words of Spanish, and she spoke only a few words of English, I smiled and said “no hablo Espanol” she smiled and said “you try? I try”. We had an unusual but friendly conversation- I think it was about my children and her grandchildren, and that she loves Canada and I love Cuba… and finally I said she was beautiful and asked to take her picture. A few hugs and kisses later, and I was left with an image that will always remind me of the beauty, strength and open hearts of the people I met in Cuba.
These photos are taken in Holguin City, Cuba. We ate at a 3rd story restaurant, so as I walked down the stairs on the outside of the building, I took the opportunity to frame this street from more than one vantage point. I find it interesting how each one tells a story of the city in a different way.
The first story to me is about architecture and the layout of the street, the second about the life and people of the city, and the latter photo is more about the man standing in his outdoor shop. Although I love all three for different reasons- I think I prefer the third- where the focus is more on an individual. Perhaps it’s because am primarily a portrait photographer, I am drawn to capture images of people more than scenery. What do you see in these images, and are you partial to a particular point of view?
On another note, Personal shops like this are everywhere in the city. We were told by our tour guide that Private businesses have been allowed for the last few years under the rule of Fidel’s brother Raul Castro.
I think my next several posts will be dominated by the images I captured during my trip to Cuba this week. We stayed in Holguin at a beautiful resort called Playa Pesquero (and I have many luxurious beach photos!). As lovely as our resort was however, the most wonderful and memorable parts of the trip were the 3 excursions we chose- that took us into neighbouring village and onto farms to meet the local people of Cuba. It will be months- perhaps years- before I can even truly absorb the impact some of the people had on me. I can’t wait to share my photos of these truly beautiful, generous and loving people- willing to open their hearts and homes to some nosy Canadians, and to smile for this particular crazy Canadian with a camera.
Today I will start with our trip to a Cuban Village school.
Our guide told us that Education is free for everyone in Cuba until grade 12. University is free if you agree to serve the country in some way later- depending on your chosen profession. All children are given books and uniforms, but there isn’t extra money for ‘luxuries’. Our tour had planned to stop at a different school, but as we drove through this village we asked our guide about the children here- and he said that the buses almost never stop in this village. Our group was fairly small, so he went and spoke to the teachers and got permission for us to come in and bring our gifts. I had packed some Crayola markers and crayons, pencils, pens, some stickers, and a few other small items for the class. Others in our group had packed toothpaste, soap, candies and toys. Because this wasn’t a “tourist” school, I think the children were much more surprised by the gifts and happy to have us visit. (later in our tour, we walked around the village with the regular tour school stop- another bus was already there giving out gifts and the children acted like it was commonplace) This easily is one of my best memories in Cuba. More than one of us got back on the bus with tears in our eyes!
I’ve lost focus for a moment or two (get it… focus… in a photography blog??? lol)
BUT, as my friends often say, I have ADOS (Attention Defecit… OH! shinything…)
I think that part of understanding why I love photographing such diverse subject matter, is really in understanding who I am as a person- I find so many things fascinating, and funny, and I really enjoy connecting with new people. (especially those who also find me funny) I love learning new things, and I love travel.
So… today I’m going to go back to November 2011 and share some pictures I took on a trip to London with my friend Chris. He’s an event planner for a Queen’s University school of Policy Studies, so I had an opportunity to go along with a group of British and Canadian Diplomats and Professors for a deeply discounted trip in exchange for some photography at a couple of official dinners. It was an amazing trip- I ate with former High Commissioners, and dined at the home of the Lord Mayor of London.
Added to that was lots of sightseeing, I could (and might) do several blogs showing the beautiful buildings, the streets, the lights… but for this blog, I’m showing you some of the funky, strange and artistic stuff we did with photos.
Chris and I took the same photography course in highschool (that was a long time ago- when we had fully manual cameras, and developed our own film and prints in the school darkroom.) One of the course projects was to create a photo collage- which, back then, was MUCH harder because we literally had to piece together real photos. (and with film, you couldn’t flip back on an LCD screen to make sure you got all the proper views as you were going) Now, with digital, you can nudge, and enlarge, and do all kinds of cool things to make it work. One of the important things to remember is to anchor the collage in some way- one way is by showing your feet to reference your position in the scene, another technique we used was to start by showing another person as the photographer in the scene. Here are a few collages from both of us. Because they are so wide, it is worth clicking on them to see them full screen.
Which brings me to our visit to the Tate Modern.
I love art galleries. Even when I don’t understand all of the art contained therein, I always enjoy being in the presence of creative energy. At the Tate though, I have to admit that BOTH of us were a little… well…unsophisticated in our behaviour. In our defence, we were tired and a bit punchy from several days of busy touristing. I LOVED the Matisse, and the Picasso, and even several other artists I hadn’t previously heard of, but enjoyed nonetheless. It was some of the installations that I didn’t understand. The slight giggling began at an Ai WeiWei exhibit which was a pile of lovely ceramic handpainted sunflower seeds. The display was supposed to be sensory and interactive- that visitors could touch the seeds- that sounded quite interesting actually. BUT, the gallery decided instead of letting us touch them (someone might steal a seed) that they would sweep them into a pile in the centre of the room, rope them off, and then talk in a very serious and sombre tone about it. The laughter got worse at an exhibit that resembled piles of poo, and there was a sculpture nearby that we interpreted as MANY things, but I think turned out to represent a goat. I didn’t see it at all. Finally, we absolutely lost it at a large exhibit about families and genetics. There were actually some VERY lovely photographs of generations and different cultures- I was enjoying them, but then there was also frame upon frame upon frame of families of bunnies. Of course bunnies wouldn’t sit still, so they were all photographed sitting under plexiglass enclosures. In our delirious and tired mental state… we couldn’t stop laughing about the poor boxed bunnies. (OK, art is supposed to solicit a reaction… don’t judge our reaction!!!) I think you have to see it to understand:
This led to a discussion between the two of us about what Modern Art is, and then the BRILLIANT idea to create some of our own. We went over to a nearby white wall and took several photographs of each other, with the intent that we would use the photos to create our own photographic modern art. Yes, we got VERY silly, but it was actually one of the most memorable moments from the trip (well, that, and the time I woke him up at 2 am to tell him that I thought I heard horses outside the window of that beautiful royal bedroom in the collage above)
We both found GREAT inspiration from the boxed bunnies, as you will see. Photos taken of me were artistically rendered by Chris, and photos of Chris were transformed by myself. You’ll have to click on the first two to fully appreciate the details….
Many many thanks to Chris Cornish, one of my oldest and dearest friends for sharing the art with me….
Disclaimer: We didn’t intend to have our “modern art” taken too seriously- it was just a fun project for the flight home- and don’t yell at me for hating on the modern artists in the Tate. I LOVE art, I just don’t always understand it- and I laugh really easily.
I love fire.
Wait… that sounds a bit like the confessions of an arsonist. Let me rephrase that.
I love campfires.
I actually love everything about camping- but at the apex of the camp experience is the campfire.
It’s where everyone comes together at the end of a long day, kids and parents, friends, neighbours. There are no prerequisite skills- there is no need to paddle to keep up, to be brave enough to jump off the rock, to be strong enough to hold on to a tube (upon which you are precariously and terrifyingly clutching whilst being dragged by a boat at ridiculous life endangering speed), or even to BE anything except be there. You can talk, or not. Sing, or not. Roast marshmallows, or not. You can sit, or stand it doesn’t matter. (I’ve found that boys like to hold sticks and poke at the logs regardless of their age, but you don’t have to do that either if you don’t want)
The campfire is a place of late nights, warding off the chill of the evening air, resisting sleep for a few more minutes, another hour or two, cherishing the experience, holding onto the moment. Staring at the fire relaxes people, opens them up, invites sharing, welcomes both raucous laughter and reflective silence – often periods of both at the same fireside.
I spent just an afternoon and evening at my favourite campground yesterday- Bon Echo Provincial Park near Cloyne Ontario. Circumstances this year didn’t allow my usual extended camping trip- just a visit to a friend’s site, but even a short time there was soothing.
It was more of a quiet, reflective fire last night, and as we stared side my side at the dancing flames, my friend and I decided to have some fun with our cameras, trying to capture the essence of the fire with different shutter speeds. I couldn’t help but notice the many images the seem to form moment-by-moment as the fire leapt and crackled. It seems no wonder to me that medieval artists formed flame-like brush-strokes to illustrate dragons and demons… the images just seemed to magically appear and vanish before my eyes.
What do you see within these fiery images?
This first set was taken at 1/2000, f2.8, ISO 250.
Not all images look scary though… this one reminds me of a cute garden gnome.
The next two I took at 0.3 sec exposure, and I had to move my ISO all the way down to 64.
I love that the longer shutter speed blurs the light into brighter, happier, dancing figures.
This gallery contains 3 photos.
Last night- sitting home with my pj’s on, I flipped through the television channels until I came across a chick flick on W. It was called “the Wedding Date”, with Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney. The setting looked familiar- a wedding party at an Olde English country house, rolling hills, narrow roads, a chapel, tudor […]