Sunday, 12 August 2018

Danforth Strong

“Violence is what happens when we don’t
know what to do with our suffering.”
- Parker Palmer, On The Brink of Everything:
Grace, Gravity & Getting Old,
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2018, page 160

Once again....

At 10 o’clock on the warm Sunday evening of July 22, Toronto was traumatized by another brazen act of mass violence. And – yet again – the perpetrator was a troubled young man.

Why is it always a troubled young man?

29-year-old Faisal Hussain, who had a history of mental challenges, walked calmly among the late evening crowds of Toronto’s popular Greektown neighbourhood, pulled out a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol, and began shooting into restaurants. Within minutes, two young women had died, thirteen people had been injured, and the killer had committed suicide.

Two innocent young people – 18-year-old Resse Fallon and 10-year-old Julianna Kozis – died.

So many few answers. It has not been a good summer for Toronto.

Toronto’s Greektown neighbourhood stretches along Danforth Avenue – aka, “The Danforth” – between Jones Avenue in the east and Broadview Avenue in the west. I know the area well and love it. My late husband and I lived nearby for twenty years. Its many restaurants, bars, coffee shops, bookstores, and boutiques are a kaleidoscope of humanity, civility, and inclusiveness. As I write this blog post (Thursday, August 9), the area is preparing to host 1.5 million guests to the annual ‘Taste of the Danforth’ celebration. In the manner of strong neighbourhoods everywhere, the people of Toronto are determined to take back their city from the tragedy of three weeks ago and reclaim Greektown’s over-the-top exuberance. I wish them well.

Last week, I felt compelled to reclaim the neighbourhood for myself. I spent last Wednesday in Toronto, wandering along The Danforth, reassuring myself that Greektown was recovering. And indeed, it was. I spent most of my time at the Alexander the Great Parkette on the northeast corner of Danforth and Logan Avenues. It had become an unofficial gathering place for people to come and share their grief. A rain-soaked collection of flowers, stuffed animals, candles, and heart-rending messages surrounded the fountain. Despite the noise of heavy traffic and rumbling subway trains, it was strangely calm and serene. The photographs that follow give you a sense of what the area felt like. The informal shrine has been relocated to the grounds of nearby St. Barnabas on the Danforth Anglican Church.

Finally, I am always perplexed about the young men on our planet who feel the only way to express their anger is through violence. Surely we can do better than simply giving them weapons. Parker Palmer, that wise old Quaker philosopher, offers the alternative: love and a recognition of mutual humanity. Sounds like a good place to start.

I plan to return to Parker Palmer next week. Meanwhile, I hope you will find these photos to be restorative and engaging.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Sweet Light!

“Be the light.”
- Riff on Matthew 5:14

My beloved Prince Edward County Photography Club continues to nudge me into being a better photographer. The monthly theme challenges are an excellent propellant for my craft and creativity.

The theme of the July meeting was “Sweet Light”. Working on images for this theme reminded me – as if I needed reminding – of the importance of light in photography. Photographers are in the light business. Light is our oxygen and our tool; it literally illuminates our creative paths and exposes our vision.

The Vietnamese Zen Buddhist spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh once famously observed, “No mud, no lotus.” His words highlight the powerfully transformative role of suffering in our lives – no suffering, no joy. In a similar vein, without light, there is no photograph. And I don’t say that frivolously. Light can be annoying, unco-operative, disappointing, and capricious. It can be your friend and your nemesis. Working with it and getting to appreciate it is a lifelong journey. It’s the mud from which our photographs emerge.

Each of the images below play beautifully with light. I love them all and thoroughly enjoyed photographing them and curating them. 


Above the main altar, Notre-Dame Basilica, Montréal
May 23, 2018

Votive candles, Notre-Dame Basilica, Montréal
May 23, 2018

Royal Bank ATM, Complexe Desjardins, Montréal
May 23, 2018

Yellow bicycle helmet, Adelaide Street, Toronto
May 8, 2018

Light-infused bowl at my niece’s memorial service,
West Lake, May 5, 2018

Saturday, 28 July 2018

New York City Photos, Part 4: Sculpted Humanity

“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.”
- Twyla Tharp, New York City dance genius

Manhattan is alive with humanity, both breathing versions and inanimate versions crafted by artists. Today’s blog post is dedicated to ten visions of sculpted humanity. Only three of the artists – Alberto Giacometti, Guido Deleu, and Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux – are named. The rest of the collection of sculpted humanity is anonymous – artists/artisans whose names are lost in the Manhattan mists. Which means, dear reader, that if you can identify any of these shadowy creative souls, please let me know.

These images of humanity are wildly diverse. Some whisper profundity; some are clichés; some are cheeky; and some are just bizarre. Much like any random group of humans.

This collection is the fourth and last flowing from the recent dog-sitting visit that Bill and I paid to New York City. My camera and I are looking forward to the next visit!

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy these photos.

Head on a Rod,
Alberto Giacometti, 1947
Guggenheim Museum

Kewpie Doll, Central Park

Building Detail, West 40th Street
(across from Bryant Park)

Night Light, West 38th Street, near 8th Avenue

Ethel Merman Statue,
Drama Book Store, West 40th Street

Building Detail,
Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Ugolino and His Sons" 
by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Paris, 1860s.
Situated in the Charles Engelhard Court,
Metropolitan Museum of Art
(Thanks to Prince Edward County artist 
Gilles Miramontes for identifying the sculpture for me.)

Man Pointing,
Alberto Giacometti, 1947
Guggenheim Museum

Window Display,
Drama Book Store, West 40th Street

Variations of The Visitor, by Guido Deleu
Guggenheim Museum Gift Shop