BOJAN'S BLOG

Photographs, words and sounds
6×6

What we taught a 14-year-old today

1608-bonavista031

I was going to rant, but honestly what follows just made me kind of sad.

Miss F., who is 14, wants to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program. The idea is that those kids who participate in the program will have an opportunity to learn about themselves and the world outside of the school environment, serve their communities, and hopefully become better citizens down the road. Part of the program requires them to spend one hour a week (ONE!) volunteering in their community. Miss F. loves books and spends a lot of time in the public library and she felt that it’s only right that she should volunteer with her library. She approached them on her own, which alone is a huge step for somebody who has always been cautious. She was told point blank that the library does not need or want volunteers. To say that she was disappointed, would be an understatement.

We heard several reasons why such response might have happen: the moral within the public library system is at an all time low (that I get, but still); taking volunteers is akin to admitting that volunteers can do the job of a unionized employee (I don’t get that one – why wouldn’t you want to work with a young person who is clearly your potential future member???); it’s difficult to find something for a 14-year-old to actually do… The point is that a 14-year-old was told by her favourite place in this city that she doesn’t have anything to offer that they would be interested in and that there is no place for her in the library other than as a patron. In the end, we helped her find a meaningful and a very exciting volunteer opportunity that she can start in January.

And then we tried to get her a swimming pass. Miss F. is an excellent swimmer. She has passed every swimming course available to her with flying colours. She has level one S.C.U.B.A. diving certificate. She has completed lifesaver program and now that she is 14 she is looking forward to her Bronze Cross certification training in January. She was approached several times by the local swimming club, but she has no interest in competitive swimming. She just wants to swim. Apparently, she is not allowed to do that for another year. At 14, she can only go to the pool during family swims when she cannot swim lanes, which is what she wants to do. She has no interest in splashing in the pool. So today, we had to tell her that there is no way for her to swim unless she joins a swimming club that does not offer anything but competitive program.

As I said, I don’t even have it in me to rant. It just makes me sad that a public library does not have a place for an eager 14-year-old bookworm and that she cannot swim for the joy of it – it’s either compete or don’t do it at all. I have no idea what is that she learned today, but I can’t imagine that it is a terribly useful lesson.

The seawall in the photo is in Bonavista.

Homesick…

1608-bonavista006

I have been away from Newfoundland for three weeks out of past five. I am officially homesick. The photos are from Bonavista.

1608-bonavista016

1608-bonavista015

1608-bonavista017

Michael Crummey on Rural Routes

GrosMorne009

New episode of Rural Routes is out. This time, we feature a conversation with Canadian author Michael Crummey. In his recent book Sweetland, he wrote about a very contemporary rural and that is, in many ways, a rarity. We talked about rural childhoods, and romanticized versions of rurality that are not true to reality of contemporary rural lives. It’s a good one!

The photo is Gros Morne National Park last winter.

The doctor is in…

1506-Vis007

The doctor’s in the house! It’s been a long and rather treacherous road to the very end – to the very last minute – but my fabulously smart M has successfully defended her PhD. No idea what’s in store for her after this, but I bet it’s going to be interesting.

Rural Routes on Mining Legacy

151107-MiddleCove006

You’d think that now that I produce regular content, I’d be able to update this blog. Not so, apparently!

The latest episode of Rural Routes is up and it’s really good, even if I say so. Dr. Arn Keeling and Dr. John Sandlos talk about mining industry in Canadian North and the environmental legacy of large mining projects. Give it a listen – it’s an episode with zombies, enough arsenic to kill everybody on the planet, and a message of hope. What more could you ask for?

The photo was made in Middle Cove just outside of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
 

New Rural Routes episode

1008-CI-HarvestingKelp2

New Rural Routes episode is out. This time, my guest was Bill Reimer, a sociologist at Concordia University in Montreal. Bill has been looking into all matters rural for over 40 years and still looks forward to every encounter that can help him understand rural Canada a little bit better. I’ve been joking that if there were such a thing as a rural council of the wise, he would be Gandalf of that council. Enjoy the show!

 

The photograph was made on Change Islands quite some time ago. This man is spreading kelp in his garden as fertilizer. I really wish I could go back there more often.

Treating your children right…

151107-MiddleCove008

We had a What-do-you-want-for-Christmas? conversation:
Me (pompously): “For Christmas, I want a book that will challenge me, introduce me to new ideas, and make me a better person.”
Little Miss F.: “So you want a book on how to treat your children properly?”

The photo was made during a recent walk in Middle Cove.

Thirteen

1506-Vis080

Miss F. turned thirteen today. So ridiculously proud of the young woman she is becoming.

Saying random things is not a good idea

1506-Vis002

Poor Little Miss F had a rough night with a stomach bug. The worst and the messiest of it was over by 3:30 am and she fell asleep on the couch in the living room. By the time noon came about she was almost herself. M asked her if she wanted to go to school after lunch. Thinking about it for a moment, Little Miss F calmly explained that if she goes, she feels like she’ll be tired and if she is asked a question she won’t remember what it was and she’ll just say something random so it’s not a good idea. She stayed home for the day.

Photo links from New York to Yangtze River

1506-Vis054

Photo links galore:

Apparently, Bruce Gilden has a new book out and it makes Sean O’Hagan uncomfortable. Bruce Gilden makes everybody uncomfortable, but I doubt he cares.

Robert Frank’s series From the Bus is interesting and totally new to me.

Fantastic photographs of East and West Germany from 1977 to 1987 by German photographer Rudi Meisel. Now a book, too: LANDSLEUTE 1977 – 1987. TWO GERMANYS.

Tatiana Plotnikova’s photographs of Russian pagans are beautiful. Really nice work and a fascinating story.

I am not sure what is more odd, the story of photogrpaher Mustafa Abdulaziz and his photographic work or the photographs he made along the Yangtze River in China.

The photograph above was made in Komiža on Vis Island in Croatia.

Lawlessness at Sea: Journalism done right

1406-Caplin001
If you read anything today, make it this series of exceptional stories from New York Times on lawlessness on the high seas. Most of it actually occurs in connection with illegal fishery, which is an incredibly lucrative business.

You can access the whole package through the splash page here or individual pieces:

Stowaways and Crimes Aboard a Scofflaw Ship

Murder at Sea: Captured on Video, but Killers Go Free

“Sea Slaves”: The Human Misery that Feeds Pets and Livestock – on slave labour of the world’s fishing industry.

A Renegade Trawler, Hunted for 10,000 Miles by Vigilantes

All of this is followed by a piece on possible solutions, an interview with a photographer covering one of the stories, and an editorial.

This was so good that I wanted to read all of it and have actually paid digital subscription once I hit the monthly limit of free stories. I suspected all along that if you want people to pay for your digital subscriptions you have to provide unparalleled content and New York Times provided an amazing content. There is a lesson here for Canadian newspapers if there are any real ones left out there.

Middle Cove Beach last year. Perfectly legal caplin rolling.

Contemplating ocean

1505-Family011

This is Miss F. at the Signal Hill National Historic Site in St. John’s.

I look at this photograph as I read, in complete disbelief, this story on the privately proposed monument to… well… I don’t know what in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. How is this even remotely possible is beyond me. I cannot imagine anything more un-Canadian than this monstrosity.

Miss F. is 12

1405-ChangeIslandsFamily001

Miss F. is 12 today. Time flies. The sisters are here on Change Islands last summer.

 

Summer and Change Island ponies

1407-ChangeIslandsColour001

I think it was a taxi driver in St. John’s who told me that summer in Newfoundland takes place on July 23 – in the afternoon. Well this summer has sure made that old joke irrelevant. We have been enjoying a marvellous summer – hot and sunny and so unlike a Newfoundland summer that everybody you meet is looking at you puzzled wondering, now that they have been to the beach and had an ice cream, what else are they supposed to do with this endless string of summer days.

1407-ChangeIslandsColour004

The summer started right, too – with a trip to Change Islands. I almost never use colour film, but for some reason I decided to do so on this trip and I am glad I did. The ponies in the photographs are part of the Change Islands Newfoundland Pony Refuge, an amazing community initiative spearheaded by passionate Netta LeDrew. She has so many stories about each and every horse in her care and about the community who is always there to support her and her efforts to save a truly unique aspect of Newfoundland heritage.

1407-ChangeIslandsColour003

1407-ChangeIslandsColour005

1407-ChangeIslandsColour006

And for the photography geeks among you: the film is Kodak Ektar and the camera is a YashicaMAT 124G.

Of capelin and drones

1406-Caplin015

The waves hitting Middle Cove beach were alive with writhing of small silvery fish spawning and washing ashore – capelin’s last act of defiance before the inevitable death. As people, whales, and birds flocked to the cove there was a frenzied sense of joy in the air – a feast from the sea freely given to all with a belly to fill.

1406-Caplin006

Newfoundland has been our home for six years, but somehow we always missed the rolling of capelin. Not this year. We were not prepared exactly – we had no nets or buckets or even plastic bags to catch the sea’s bounty in. We came for a stroll along the beach and I only hoped that the capelin might be there as well.

1406-caplin021

The weather was right – capelin weather – a rainy, cloudy and foggy late June day. And there they were. All over the beach, there were trampled bodies of fish and excited men and women and children – many of them Newfoundlanders born and bred, but also newcomers from every corner of the world who came to watch this small annual miracle and partake in a tradition of their new home.

1406-Caplin008

It did not matter that we were woefully unprepared because this is Newfoundland, after all, so an older couple quickly filled a plastic bag for us and there was really no way to refuse the generosity of the people and the sea. And why would you – there was plenty for all of us.

Every face had a smile and the fires were lit on the beach. People gathered to watch the little silvery fish and the minke whales gorging themselves in the cove. It was truly a perfect moment.

1406-Caplin010

I made a few photographs. It wasn’t really difficult. People were happy to be photographed, to engage in conversation, and some even asked to look at the TLR’s ground glass.

1406-caplin027

Unfortunately, even Newfoundland has its tactless ingrates. Standing on the beach, sporting a fluorescent vest you usually see on road workers, was a man with a drone. Until that moment, I felt pretty agnostic about camera drones and gave them little thought. Well, not any more. Whatever this is, it is not photography and it is certainly not documentary photography. It says volumes about that day that, despite the thing buzzing around our heads and swooping down on the crowds of people who were never asked, engaged or otherwise made aware of the man and his toy, nobody took a rock and knocked the bloody thing out of the air. It was invasive, rude, and if the reactions of those on that beach who came from less fortunate places in the world are anything to go by, it was also frightening. Everybody I photographed and engaged in conversation with that day frowned at the white drone and its annoying buzz. There was no escape from it and no way to say no. Once the man in the vest packed up and left, people visibly relaxed.

There is no sense in arguing against this technology. That ship has sailed and we are all going to have to learn to live with it. It is, however, disheartening that many of my former photojournalism colleagues are embracing the drones as if they are some sort of a technological breakthrough. This is not going to result in better journalism. Good photojournalism was always about storytelling. This has nothing to do with storytelling, compassion or genuine curiosity about people and places. This is pure gimmickry for talentless hacks – sort of like HDR photography, just worse.

So a fair warning: next time that thing buzzes around my head, I may or may not be as restrained as I was on that June day with the capelin miraculously rolling on Middle Cove beach.

 

Mummers II

1312-Mummers007Here is another one from this Saturday. This time just regular development. HP5+ in Rodinal at 20˚C.

1312-Mummers003

 

Mummers

1312-mummers025

Mummers were here again. And was it ever cold. In fact, it found the limit of my Zeiss Ikon – the batteries lasted about 20 minutes in sub -20˚C. After that, I was back to my mechanical Yashica Mat 124G, which is not bothered by such trifles as batteries. This was also a chance to try some stand development in Rodinal. This is Arista Premium 400 in 135 format and Tri-X in 120 format, both developed for an hour in 1:100 Rodinal with agitation in the first minute. Not yet sure what I think about the results.

1312-mummers019

 

1312-mummers028

 

1312-mummers031And yes, that is a Rob Ford mummer.

1312-mummers026

Fundamentalisms…

Sisak02

In the light of yesterday’s referendum in Croatia that made one form of discrimination (agains gay marriage, in this case) a part of the country’s constitution the words of Karima Bennoune yesterday in an interview with Michael Enright ring sadly true:

“Fundamentalisms are the political movements of the extreme right that in the context of globalization manipulate religion to achieve their political aims. They are basically power projects that use religious discourse to justify an extremist agenda.”

Karima Bennoune in an interview with Michael Enright
(You can hear the whole thing on CBC’s Sunday Edition website.)

On the photograph is the Old Bridge in my home town of Sisak.

Everybody Street

051325-street004Balloon caterpillar hat on Water Street made sometimes last summer.

We just watched Everybody Street, a documentary about street photography in New York featuring some of the most prominent photographers working in that particular broad genre. The trailer is bellow. Best $5 I’ve spent lately.

[embed width=”500″ height=”400″]https://vimeo.com/ondemand/everybodystreet[/embed]

Change Islands

1008-CI-ChangeIslands4

I am transcribing some research interviews from Change Islands and Fogo Island. Here is a quote about whether or not a government should have a role in local development:

“They must. They must have roles to play in it all. They should be able to come up with something, but you never hears them talking about it. Just a project or something for a few weeks of work for the hours. That’s not a real job. That’s something to keep us quiet, eh. Just like a bandaid. A bandaid on the situation. Patch it up. Keep the people quiet so they don’t say too much. It shouldn’t be like that. There should be some permanent thing they could put there. They wastes money everywhere else, how come they can’t waste a bit on Change Islands, eh?”

Photographers, researchers, and librarians: A love story

1008-CI-PuntRace6

Change Islands, The Great Fogo Island Punt Race to There and Back

Today, I am giving a presentation on the links between research, photography and librarians/curators/archivists at the annual Newfoundland and Labrador Library Association conference.

This post is sort of a resource post to back up some of the things I say in that talk. So if you are a regular reader, I hope you find it useful. If you are coming here for the first time as a result of the talk, welcome…

Werner Bischof photographs on Magnum Photos website

Rose, Gillian. Visual Methodologies: an Introduction to Interpretation of Visual Material.

Haggerty, Kevin. “Ethics Creep: Governing Social Science Research in the Name of Ethics.” in Qualitative Sociology.

Poynter’s Guiding Principles for the Journalist

Farm Security Administration wikipedia page

Farm Security Administration collection at the Library of Congress (Really??? In 2013 you have a website that looks like that???)

The Fogo Process webpage at the University of Guelph that is now a home for the Snowden Collection

Some of Candace Cochrane’s photos in Newfoundland Quarterly

Greg Lock’s Journey into a Lost Nation

Sheilagh O’Leary’s Island Maid and Twinning Lines

Jamie Lewis’s They Let Down Baskets

CNA journalism program blog

Fogtown Barber & Shop

12-Barber007

I have this story idea I’ve been meaning to pursue and no time to actually do it. However, here is a quick look at a first little vignette. I was going to create a fancy slideshow with an audio, but there are not that many photographs and, besides, I get bored looking at those slideshows, so here is an audio file and a selection of photographs from Fogtown Barber and Shop. Press play (less than 4 minutes):

12-Barber001

12-Barber012

12-Barber002

Family Barber shop Chris refers to in the story was one of those St. John’s institution that has been a mainstay of downtown for decades and it closed sometime in 2011. This is the only photograph I made of it although I have been getting my haircut there since we moved to St. John’s. The barber in the photo is Ted.

1008-Barber

Russian sailors…

StJohn'sStreet001

Russian sailors exploring the streets of St. John’s.

Photography rant… and photos from Fair Island

FairIsland02

Recently, a full-time photojournalism position opened at a local daily. I considered applying. For years, that was the kind of job I really wanted. It was the only job I wanted. And then it struck me that I don’t want that job any more. Or at least, I don’t want the job that I would be asked to do. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about where, when and why my own view of what photojournalism should be diverged from what photojournalism is. Some of it has to do with technology, but there are other and more important things, too.

The imaging technology has changed dramatically and I am bored to death with it. I am bored with new digital cameras. I am bored with megapixels and neverending upgrade cycles. I am bored with HD video. I am particularly bored with videos that start out out of focus and then slowly bring into focus some mundane and usually irrelevant object or a generic street scene. I am bored by partially desaturated images. Entire newspapers filled with portraits bore me to tears. I am not bored, but offended by HDR – it’s just kitsch of the worst kind. I am also offended by selective colouring. I know, it was done in the 1920s as well as today. It was bad then and it’s bad now. Please let it die and please, please don’t publish it in daily newspapers. I am bored with journalists who are trying to be cool on twitter and I am bored with the publications that are forcing their writers and photographers to become celebrities. I am embarrassed to read tweets by local, national and international reporters passing themselves off as some sort of experts on one thing or another.

It’s never a good thing when a journalist becomes a story. The details are usually either sordid or horrifying and almost always a result of an unchecked ego better suited to some other professions. It’s cool to see your name in print, but a byline or a photo credit is where it should end. Just look at the two latest controversies in the world of photojournalism: the Paolo Pellegrin photo from an ill-conceived Magnum Rochester project (here, here, here) and the debate over this year’s World Press Photo winner Paul Hansen’s post-processing of the winning photograph (here and here). None of this did any good to anybody. It’s important to discuss and draw attention to, but it does no good. Somehow photojournalism stopped being about stories.

Local daily is a great example of that. At least once a week, the front page features a photo of some poor bastard dragged into or out of a courtroom. For the rest of the week we have people staring at us from the front page. I can’t figure out what that contributes to the readers’ understanding of the news the journalists and the editors obviously thought important enough to cover and print that day. It’s easy to criticize daily photojournalists. The pressures to produce something out of thin air is huge and the job is becoming more stressful than ever.  Deep down, I never was a daily photographer anyway. My heart had always been, even before I knew that, in long-form story telling both visual and narrative.

 

FairIsland03

Over the last few weeks, my wife dug out a set of 6×4 prints I gave her years ago. We always thought we should work on some sort of a collaborative project, but between kids, grad studies, moves and jobs there was no time for that. She pulled them out now and it is fascinating to watch these photographs come alive as poetry, essays, mini-plays and short stories. Then last Friday, I had one of those moments that reminded me what is that I love so much about photography. That story started almost two years ago.

My MA thesis supervisor invited me and the family to come with her and her husband to a small reunion held on Fair Island, a resettled island community off the east coast of the main island of Newfoundland. Her husband’s family were Fair Islanders. It was August, but the weather was miserable. Nonetheless, we went and we had great time. I made some photographs and posted one of them here. The photograph I liked the most was the one at the top of this post. Context is important here. The photograph (in my mind anyway) is called “A pipefitter and a gaming executive make fish in a resettled community.” What you see here are not two fishermen, although I suspect both of them would be happier if they were fishermen. What you see is two people with roots deep in a community that does not exist any more engaged in an activity that is crucial to their identity, but it is meaningless economically. For me, this is in many ways a quintessential Newfoundland small island photograph. Except, this past Friday I found out that this is not the most interesting or the most important photograph I made that day.

Sometime last year, I got a call from the Research Centre for Music, Media and Place at the university I work at asking if I would allow them to use the Fair Island photo they found on my blog. A few folks working at the centre were taking a beginners documentary film making class and they were producing a short doc on Stan Pickett, an accordion player originally from Fair Island. You can hear and see Stan play in the video bellow.


I said sure and told them that I had a few more photos and that they are free to chose any of them. They picked three. Last Friday, the class got together and screened the three shorts they made to a very small audience of their classmates and a few other people who in some way helped with their projects. I was invited as a courtesy and came out of curiosity. Stan Picket was in the audience, too.

The films were quite good. In fact, given that they were made in 14 weeks by people who never made a film before, they were great. After the screening, I was introduced to Stan and we got chatting. I pulled out my laptop and showed him a couple of other photos from Fair Island. His eyes glanced over the fish-making photo, but the little pond, the pillars of the old church and the photo of stages and stores at the end of a wharf caught his attention. He became animated and happy, in fact so happy that his excitement was contagious.

FairIsland13

It turns out that the little pond known as ‘the rink’ sitting in ‘the meesh’ (marsh) was not just a place to play a game of hockey, but also a major social space. There were bonfires on the neighbouring hills and games and midnight runs with torches between the hills. Stan could just spin one story after another and I kept wishing I had a recorder rolling. The photo below brought the memories of “old-year-out-new-year-in-day” and downhill races in an old wooden punt that would end at the bottom of the gulch and, sometimes, in the ocean. And the church pillars? Well it was his dad who started the church and… It was magical.

FairIsland14

FairIsland17And that’s what photographs should do. They should tell stories, make us tell stories, and make us imagine stories. Today’s newspaper photography fails at all of it most of the time and I am not naïve enough to think that I could somehow change that even if I could get that job in what is bound to be an insanely intense competition. So, I’ll keep doing it my way and, thanks to Stan, I have a great idea for a project.

EDITED FOR TYPOS AND CLARITY.