Please welcome the stranger…

No image today. Imagine instead your own home. Your safe place. Now imagine that it is not so safe…

Home

by Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back….

Read the rest here.

 

 

Advertisements

A look back in Black and White…

Life looks different in black and white, doesn’t it? I thought it might be interesting to review my year 2016 through some of my black and white photos.

As a photographer, I really wouldn’t want to be limited to making photographs in just colour or just black and white. I love them both equally. Each makes me feel and see quite differently, and I need and benefit from both ways in my life.

Colour brings out the joy for me. I relate to the tones of an image as much as or even more than the shapes, lines and subject. I am drawn toward colour combinations that thrill me and make me happy — jewel tones, pure colours, colour duets, complementary colours, analogous colours, for example, even if the subject is subtle or moody.

As Andri Cauldwell observes: “To see in color is a delight for the eye but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul.”

It has been said many times that black and white distills a subject to its essence, and I find that to be very true. What is central to the photograph I tend to see much more clearly, without being seduced by colour. While it’s a quieter, more restrained way of communicating, it can definitely pack a powerful punch.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Giving winter a chance…

sun-on-icicles

Winter light on barn

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How many lessons of faith and beauty we should lose, if there were no winter in our year.

Thomas Wentworth Higginson

I live in a little town called Almonte, Ontario. I moved here six years ago, from Canada’s capital, Ottawa, but I’ve never really lived here. Why? Because for these last several years we’ve always been away for the winter and spring, down south on our sailboat, Windsong II, which I adored, and which we have now sold.

You may have seen a few of my pictures and posts (smile) of our adventures crossing to the Bahamas from Florida and enjoying an active, exciting and relaxing life on the water. I feel so alive when I am always outside, feeling the warm sun and wind on my skin. I hate the expression “living the dream,” but it kinda was…

I make no secret of the fact that I am NOT a winter person. I do not enjoy being cold and I’m not really into outdoor sports. I used to skate on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, but after a nasty experience with an icy bump and a broken elbow and another with bruised knees my enthusiasm for skating came to an end.

When we decided to spend this winter in Almonte, I wondered how I might survive this period. Then I stopped thinking about it. Christmas was coming and there was much to be done and lots to occupy my thoughts. The grandkids were back from the North and this was the first Christmas we would get to spend with them in a good while. Then my family arrived to spend a few delicious days.

When my sister and I get together, we always try to get out together and do some photography. This time it was friggin’ cold! And there was an Alberta Clipper that arrived on December 31.  We decided to go out anyway to see what we could see. We started by checking out the Almonte Falls, which were coated in ice. Then we drove around the back roads to see what this picturesque area looks like under a blanket of white snow. We came upon the Auld Kirk, a church established in 1836. It’s a beautiful stone building that I have photographed at other times of the year. But in a snowstorm it was magical.

My sister says that my time in the south has softened me up for winter. (I think I was always pretty soft.) I admit I wore the wrong gloves and was cursing my frozen fingers the whole time. But I thoroughly enjoyed getting out there with my camera, so much so that I went out again a few days later when it was a bit warmer.

So what inspired this change of attitude? A realization that has been dawning lately that opening to life means opening to what we don’t like and what we resist as much as what we do like.

As Jack Kornfield says:

True equanimity is not a withdrawal; it is a balanced engagement with all aspects of life. It is opening to the whole of life with composure and ease of mind, accepting the beautiful and terrifying nature of all things. Equanimity embraces the loved and the unloved, the agreeable and the disagreeable, the pleasure and pain. It eliminates clinging and aversion.

I’m not saying this is easy, just that it feels necessary.

Also, I’ve been deeply influenced by John O’Donohue, so these words of his rang true:

At the heart of things is a secret law of balance and when our approach is respectful, sensitive and worthy, gifts of healing, challenge and creativity open to us. A gracious approach is the key that unlocks the treasure of encounter… A reverence of approach awakens depth and enables us to be truly present where we are. When we approach with reverence, great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty of things. When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us. The rushed heart and the arrogant mind lack the gentleness and patience to enter that embrace. Beauty is mysterious, a slow presence who waits for the ready, expectant heart.

Maybe if I walk on the earth with greater reverence, including in winter — being truly present to where I am — the concealed beauty of things will be revealed to me. I don’t know, but I’m willing to find out…

Now that I have been opened…

cropped-by-the-river-in-winter.jpg

…Now that I have been opened
I can never be closed again.
The reflection of the sun on the waves
is a shining path to the horizon
a dazzling lucent shuttle
of unknowable complexity.
A cloud over the sun
momentary camera obscura.
And as I move towards resolution
the world abandons its detail
in a theatre at once dark & light
where life is a kind of joyous shade
a shadow over the sun
a dark radiance.

From A Radiant Inventory by Christopher Dewdney

 

The most real things…

waabi-sabi-christmas

Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.

The Conductor, Polar Express

 

“What do you think of Christmas?”
“I like it,” she said. “I think we should have it every year.”

Liz Flaherty

Wishing everyone a holiday full of light, magic and wonder. May your hearts be filled with love and joy, however you celebrate this special time of year.

And may the New Year bring you many opportunities to celebrate the mystery and depth of presence that is within us and around us always.

Sherry

 

Some favourite places in New York City…

In my previous post, I talked about and pictured a favourite building in New York — the Flatiron Building.

Here are a few other favourite places. On this trip, the rain prevented me from going to Central Park — the best park in the world in my opinion —  but I’ve made images there on at least two other occasions.

Union Square Park, which is down around 14th street, was designed by Frederick Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the same two who designed Central Park. You can see the same design philosophy at work on a much smaller scale. I find it fascinating to read about  how they so consciously used trees and plants, paths, tunnels, bridges, berms and ledges, and water features to affect people’s experience of a park.

Grand Central Terminal is another place I’ve photographed before — but I keep going back there because there’s so many beautiful details to shoot and so many ways to shoot it. And this time I was there on Thanksgiving Day, one of the busiest travel days of the year, so it was bursting at the seams with people. It’s an incomparable place to people-watch. I could do it for hours. Actually, I think I have.

I’ve been very fortunate to have had some exceptional meals in New York — some mind-blowingly amazing meals in fact. The most unbelievable ever was at Eleven Madison Park, where we went to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday some years back. My sister and I thought such a milestone birthday was deserving of a special meal — and I’m sure it will be the only Michelin three-star restaurant I will ever eat at in my life, so I treasure the memory and the event it marked.

Another great meal was at Mario Batali’s Casa Mono on one of my last trips, which was so busy that we could only get a reservation at 10:00 pm. But so worth the wait. I didn’t eat there this year, but I did go back to take a picture of the place, which is in Gramercy Park, a favourite neighbourhood to walk around in.

Of course, I have many more favourite places, including the Metropolitan Opera — where this year I had the good fortune to see world-famous soprano Anna Netrebko perform in Manon Lescaut. Sadly, I did not get a good picture of that amazing place and experience. It will have to live on in my mind only.

couple-grand-central-bw

My friend, the Flatiron…

flatiron-2016bw

I found myself agape, admiring a skyscraper — the Flatiron building, to be particular, ploughing up through the traffic of Broadway and Fifth Avenue in the afternoon light.

H.G. Wells

I’ve written about it before and I’ve shot it before. But there I was again. Drawn like a magnet to the Flatiron Building in New York City. It was a sunny day this time and the particular angle of the sun behind the building made it a challenge to capture.

I was a bit blinded by the light, actually. And I didn’t have a tripod or any filters either to help the situation technically. Still, I like how this image turned out. It captures a feeling I have for the building.

Like many innovative buildings, the Flatiron was not universally well received.  Architectural Record thought it was awkward, and criticized the large number of windows (the horror!). The New York Times called it a “monstrosity,” The New York Tribune describing it as a “stingy piece of pie,” the Municipal Journal & Public Works called it “New York’s latest freak in the shape of sky scrapers” and the Municipal Art Society went as far to say it was “unfit to be in the Center of the City.” But popular sentiment eventually won over the critics and now this is one of the most beloved buildings in the city.

I am by no means alone in my fascination with the Flatiron. This building has been the focus of esteemed photographers like Berenice Abbott, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen and it has been painted by Albert Gleizes, Paul Cornoyer and other American artists. It has appeared in the writings of O’Henry and scores of television shows and motion pictures.  Even before its completion in the early 1900s the Flatiron Building was one of the most recognizable and most reproduced architectural images in the United States.

It was so good to be back to hang out with the Flatiron, and I know this good friend will be waiting for me to enjoy on my next trip to New York.

 

 

Being taken by New York in black and white…

 

fire-escapes

Shawna Lemay wrote recently in her rich gift of a blog, Transactions with Beauty: “There is a point one reaches in one’s creative endeavors that … you find yourself covering familiar ground, repeating, circling back to familiar themes and concerns.”

I had just returned from New York City and I was going through my images. I definitely recognized myself in those words. Yes, that is me, for sure.

I’ve gone to New York City three times now since 2013 with more on my agenda than seeing the sights and experiencing some of the best music and art a city can offer. (Which I love to do, by the way.)

But I also strive to come back with images — not just snapshots — that encapsulate what thrills me about New York. And I do find myself considering the same subjects and themes over and over. (See my previous posts — I did a 7 part series in 2013.)

When I look at my gallery called New York City in Black and White, which contains images from more than one trip, I see that I am drawn to arches, windows, reflections, symmetrical and geometrical architectural shapes, buskers, young lovers, and silhouettes and shadows, just as a few examples. I am also fascinated by the contrasts between old and new and the built and natural environment.

(And whatever else I’m doing, I have to find time to shoot the Flatiron Building, my all-time favourite building. In a previous post, I talk about my obsession with it.)

But even as I tend to return to the same preoccupations with my photography, either consciously or unconsciously, I find that something has changed in the way I see. More and more I am struck by a “flash of perception” that hits me fast and furiously and it is a distinct frisson of excitement that compels me to turn my camera in a certain direction. Something I see feels fresh and new to me. Most of my very favourite images have come about this way.

I’ve noticed too that my memories associated with where I was and how I was feeling when I made these photos are much sharper and longer lasting than when I was merely documenting a scene, or even recording a nice memory. The image can bring me right back to the time it was taken with all the details intact.

I know that less and less I want my photography to be about looking at the world and saying to myself: Ah, that’s interesting or beautiful, I should take a picture of that.

It is the times when I am “taken by a picture” — even if I don’t quite know why — which always mean the most to me.

the-smooch-2016-edition

 

street-corner-shadows