Sunday 29 October 2017

Pay Attention

By Mary Oliver

                                    It doesn’t have to be
                                    the blue iris, it could be
                                    weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
                                    small stones; just
                                    pay attention, then patch

                                    a few words together and don’t try
                                    to make them elaborate, this isn’t
                                    a contest but the doorway

                                    into thanks, and a silence in which
                                    another voice may speak.

From Devotions/The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver
(Penguin Press, 2017)

The arrival of a new collection of poetry by Mary Oliver is always cause for celebration. Two weeks ago, Devotions landed in the mailbox, and I have been measuring out a few poems each night to make them last. I find Oliver to be emotionally accessible, yet her accessibility should never be confused for a lack of depth. Her advice to “patch a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate” is wise indeed – Alice Munro's approach.

And so this week, I shall try to channel Mary Oliver’s advice – I’ll say a few things about the photos and then step back to let them speak for themselves.

We’ve had gloriously beautiful autumn weather lately, perfect for photography. I’ve had two good wanders lately, one exploring the shoreline of the Bay of Quinte near Point Anne and the other walking along Meyers Creek Road near Trenton, with side trips to Airport Road and Bonisteel Road – excellent opportunities to pay attention and listen to other voices.

I hope you enjoy the images.

Point Anne

Point Anne

Point Anne

Meyers Creek Road

Meyers Creek Road

Meyers Creek Road

Meyers Creek Road

Airport Road

Bonisteel Road

Monday 23 October 2017

Dreaming With One Eye Open + Project 179

Looking through the lens, I dream with one eye open. 
 - Rebecca Norris Webb,
Slant Rhymes, by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb
(La Fabrica, Madrid, 2017)

This week’s blog posting draws together three disparate elements, culminating in Project 179. 

Bear with me while I explain.

Element #1: Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb’s new book, Slant Rhymes, arrived in the mail last week. A husband and wife team, the Webbs are skilled photographers who bring passion and intelligence to their images, ably enhanced by Rebecca Norris Webb’s elegant poetry. Slant Rhymes is a collection of their photographs that both transports and delights. Rebecca Norris Webb’s quotation, “Looking through the lens, I dream with one eye open,” has stuck with me all week.

Element #2: One of my favourite morning rituals is to plug an ear bud into my iPhone before getting out of bed so I can listen to CBC Radio Toronto’s Metro Morning. Matt Galloway, Metro Morning’s host, brings me up to speed on the news and weather and introduces me to some fine music. Last Monday, he played a scorching version of Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle to You) with Kesha and Dolly Parton from Kesha’s latest album, Rainbow. (YouTube link) Wow – what a great way to start the day! And as I listened to it, I realized I had found the piece of music I wanted for a slide show of my ‘people photos’ I was planning for the Prince Edward County Photography Club. Woohoo! I rushed out and bought the CD at the local Sunrise store.

Element # 3: Another one of my rituals (yes, you’re hearing a lot about my rituals today) is to phone my 97-year-old Aunt Jeanne in Toronto every Sunday morning. Yesterday, our conversation turned to the late Lloyd Thompson, an excellent Picton-based photographer who had a genius for black and white portrait photography. For many years, The Picton Gazette featured Lloyd’s “Portrait of the Week” – an ongoing tribute to this fine photographer. Aunt Jeanne reminded me that in 1976, The Picton Gazette published at Face Value, a collection of Lloyd’s portraits, which in turn reminded me that I had a rare copy of the book packed away in storage. After our conversation, I rummaged around and found the book – and what a delight it was to savour it again after several years. I had known many of the people featured in the book - seeing them again was both poignant and emotional. The difference this time, however, was that I was also looking at them as a photographer myself, which led me to admire Lloyd’s work even more.

How do these elements all tie together? And what does Project 179 have to do with anything?

Let me explain:

• I love photographing people – my version of dreaming with one eye open. I think Lloyd Thompson would understand.

Old Flames is a great piece of music that has 179 well-defined beats in its 4 minutes and 26 seconds.

• I went through my photo files and chose 179 images of people – one per beat in Old Flames.

• And – presto! – through the magic of iMovie, I’m combining these 179 images with the music to produce – I hope – a fast-paced slide show that should be great fun to watch. Alas, I won’t post it to my YouTube channel because it will have copyrighted music and a few images of children.

So, with tips of the hat to Rebecca Norris Webb, Lloyd Thompson, Dolly Parton, and Kesha, I offer the following sample ‘people’ images from my Project 179 slide show. Enjoy!

Spencer in Sydney, 2007

Clown Doctors, Sydney Children's Hospital, 2010

Lindi and Denis, 2017

Art Gallery of Ontario, Professional Model, Photography Course, 2017

Shriner Camel Rider, Milford Fair, 2016

Loyalist College Photography Student at Fuller Native & Rare Plants, Belleville, 2016

St. Kilda Beach, Melbourne, 2013

Monday 16 October 2017

Meaning and Joy


“...our human nature demands meaning and joy
...accept that this meaning and joy will involve
a passionate love of the physical world.”
- Philip Pullman, from his lecture “The Republic of Heaven”
in his forthcoming essay collection, Dæmon Voices

Yesterday’s Sunday New York Times Magazine (October 15, 2017) brought a marvellous article, “The Magician of Oxford” by Sophie Elmhirst (free when I checked the link) about Philip Pullman, the luminous author of His Dark Materials, an epic fantasy trilogy for young people of all ages.

I have been an over-the-top fan of Pullman and his trilogy since its publication - The Golden Compass in 1995; The Subtle Knife in 1997; and The Amber Spy Glass in 2000. His creation of a parallel fantasy universe that starts in Oxford University and ends up in the company of armoured polar bears in the high Artic is wondrous indeed. One of my great joys in teaching Middle School English for many years was introducing Pullman’s books – and its stellar heroine, Lyra Silvertongue - to annual waves of eager young readers. I can hardly wait to introduce the trilogy to my grandchildren and grandnephew.

And now comes the news that Pullman is about to publish a prequel (my descriptor, not his) that starts off when Lyra is six months old and “being hunted by henchmen of the Magesterium” to quote Elmhirst. And it will be another trilogy!

Title of the trilogy: The Book of Dust
Name of the first volume:  La Belle Sauvage
Publication date: October 19, 2017!

Woohoo! Guess what I’ll be buying!

And while I wait impatiently for the arrival of La Belle Sauvage, I am posting photos that humbly attempt to honour Pullman’s philosophy above:

“...our human nature demands meaning and joy...[that involves] a passionate love of the physical world.”

Pullman is an atheist, but his writings have always beckoned me to a spiritual dimension that parallels and enriches his plot lines.

I hope that you will enjoy these images and that you will join me in celebrating Philip Pullman.

Toronto City Hall

Silver Lake, near Perth

Spring Brook Road, Hastings County

Ripley's Aquarium, Toronto

Bill's Meringue, Pre-Low Carb Days

Lindi's Papers

Lake Consecon 

Queen's University, Kingston

Portsmouth Harbour, Kingston