A new apartment with a room full of happy orchids has me obsessing over flowers, of all things. The new camera and Sony G-Master 90mm lens is part of this descent into madness, I know. And then there are the tulips that my wife obsesses over, filling the house twice weekly with their silky touch and ever-changing shapes. Outside, just across the street in St. James Park, hundreds of tulips are about to spread their lips.
I’ve been trying to meditate, to better enjoy this semi-retirement. (Retirement? Never!)
I’m most successful in short stints, with my eyes closed. Meditating with my eyes open has been suggested to me but that’s what I do all the time anyway. And you can guess how that ends up … me contorting myself into whatever shape best works to capture those masters of shape and meditation: flowers.
Does that which doesn’t kill you really make you stronger?
During one of the worst weather days Toronto has ever seen, 1LoveTO suggested that if you found the weather too cruel, you might want to check out the AGO. They quite rightly added #Art and #Inspiration to their tweet, knowing that art can inspire us through tough times. And the Basquiat exhibition, in particular, (now on at the AGO) gives off a lot of heat.
But if spending some time at the AGO can help, would buying art be even better? And if you were buying art for warmth, what kind of art would you want?
So I thought I’d take a poll. Of the photos below, which one would you rather be spending time with today?
“The Beach” is where I’d be if I didn’t have a full schedule, so this photo of a painted one perks me up. I picked this one because there’s more to it than just another beach shot. There’s something odd and funny and lovely about how well the painter mapped his ideal escape onto a working stage. I love the door, the lights and the candy-colours he chose. And there’s something else that’s not in the picture but in my memory of it: It stands beside the boardwalk at Hollywood Beach, so it mimics the real beach just behind it. Unfortunately, I took this at night and never got back to capture that wider perspective.
“February Blues” is hardly the kind of artwork that most people want to buy. Yet everyone I’ve shown it to has said how it perfectly it captures the hardship of winter. When I ask if they identify with it, they all nod “Oh ya”, that’s me right there. <Men point to the man on the left; women to one of the hooded characters to his right> I’ve loved working on it because it reminds me of our toughness, of who we are and what we get through. And yes, getting through makes us tougher.
Art and drama are all about recognition. They were invented to connect us and to get us through. If you look at art buying that way, you may surprise yourself buying art that inspires and projects you.
And when you buy, you might want to hang it where you can see it when you most need to be reminded that you can make it through.
Embrace the cold! It’s making you tougher, stronger, better.
A while back, my friend and fellow photographer, Lola Akinmade-Åkerström, sent me this incredible image in an e-mail she sends out called geotraveller’s niche.I was floored.
Lola and I met on a Toronto for Photographers tour for tbex travel bloggers in June last year. She taught me a lot about shooting people, especially approaching potential subjects. In the months past I’ve gotten to know her work better, but still, this shot blew me away: The incredible humanness on that face, the cool condensation on the can, and especially the fingerprint of the left hand. I was connected profoundly to that being, with his lids closed in concentration of pure physical pleasure. The cold, the sweetness, ah!
Strangely though, Lola undersold her fanta-stic ape (excuse the pun) with an apology of sorts: “it’s one of my personal favourites”, she wrote, “– the human-like gestures and expression of absolute enjoyment on the monkey’s face; it’s also one of my least favourite because monkeys really shouldn’t be cooling off on hot and humid days with Fanta.”
I believe that photography should be a coup. Literally. A slap in the face or a shock to the system.
So I wrote her right back and then worried I’d written undiplomatically and in the wrong tone. “It’s a great photo because of it, I wrote, “It’s a shock. We need to be shocked. Keep doing it and for God’s sake don’t apologize for capturing the stupidity of men or the complexities of life.” Then I followed up with a note to say that I’d like to blog about it.
My hastiness with an e-mail has cost me in the past, but this one had a happy ending. She accepted my criticism along with my acclaim and said yes, I could blog about it.
Do you have a shot that’s bowled you over? I’d love to see it — why not post it here, on my facebook page.
I’m so far behind with my monthly upload of fresh baked images that I’ve decided to upload some more shots from last week’s ice storm. It was incredible. To see read my thoughts on the storm and for more images, see last week’s post, Ice Storm.
Awe came to town this weekend with its twins, terrifying power and unworldly beauty.
It came down as soft as rain and tore a city apart. Much has already been posted about its beauty. But there was much more than beauty. There was awesome. Awesome in all its greatness and fear, in the truth that everything can be ripped away in a moment. It took me twenty minutes to get out of the neighbourhood for the blocked roads and fallen power lines. But there was no other way to get my daughter to work or to pick up relatives without power. Arrangements had to be made for arrangements that had had to be broken. I too had plans – to capture the storm. God laughed.
I passed by Cedarvale ravine where a couple had been stopped by a gigantic tree across the path. Their dogs hunted back and forth for a way through the maze of ice and branches while their owners stood bewildered. Just then a tree fell at the end of the path, signified by a terrifying crack and a shower of ice at the breaking point. A minute later, another tree fell to my right, on the other side of the park. I thought “this is not over”. They proceeded undaunted.
Neighbours came out of their houses shuffling through ice and deadfall like zombies. We were the lucky ones, the ones with heat and power. It was hard to square the beauty with the sadness, the glory with the destruction. Humewood Park looked like a war zone, it’s typically placid benches surrounded by devastation.
But there was beauty. Unexpected beauty. Beauty where people rarely looked for it, but encased like jewellery, it was impossible to miss. Fragile beauty too. The kind that lasts only a short time and shines nevertheless.
Maimonides, a twelfth century philosopher, is said to have gone everywhere with a note in each pocket. In one was the message “I am the universe”. Crumpled in the other was “I am dust and ashes“. Yesterday was just like that.