BOJAN'S BLOG

Photographs, words and sounds
St. John’s

Rural Routes episode on immigration in rural Canada

A new episode of Rural Routes is up!

A neglected podcast and a neglected blog. Ha! Much of my work time these days is taken up by proposal writing, negotiating, and administrative tasks. It feels a lot less productive than creating content and developing ideas on how to translate academic research into something that can be of use to people outside the university bubble. Rural Routes podcasts have certainly been one of those experiments that have exceeded any expectations I originally had. It feels good to be working on that project again.

This new episode features the work of Dr. Michael Haan from the Western University in London, Ontario on immigration in Canadian context, especially in rural Canada. Have a listen.

The photo is from a recent celebration at our friends place here in St. John’s. The amount of talent around that table is ridiculous.

Media coverage of your favourite issue

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This post might upset a whole bunch of you. I am okay with that.

My social media feed on an almost weekly basis fills up with outraged posts about mainstream media not covering issue X. Stop doing that because most of the time it’s not true. It hasn’t been true with the Muskrat Falls development in Labrador, it hasn’t been true with the refugee crisis, and it’s not true with the Dakota Access Pipeline. So please stop saying that kind of stuff because you become the problem every time you say it. There is lots of coverage of any given issue. For the sake of the argument, I am going to post stuff that is in my news feed TODAY on Dakota Access Pipeline and the protests surrounding it (I could do the same with climate change, refugees, you name it):

So please stop it. You are all smarter than that. Please stop saying that mainstream media is not covering your favourite issue of the day. They are. They are also covering a whole bunch of other stuff that is just as important (like deforestation in Borneo, or migrant and refugee crisis, or the latest developments in Kurdistan). If you think the coverage of whatever issue you care about is biased or incomplete, than engage with those stories and journalists. Provide facts in your comments, suggest sources that would make the story better, offer your own expertise if you have it. Vast majority of today’s journalists can be reached through comments or social media. It’s really, really easy to help them correct a mistake or make their stories better.

There are a lot of problems with today’s media industry. They need to figure out a whole bunch of things. You telling them they are not doing their jobs when THEY CLEARLY ARE is not helping. Once independent, professional journalism is gone, you are not going to get it back. Your favourite site that posts unedited and out of context phone videos on social media, or an individual who thinks it’s cool to post a 47 years old photo and claim that the media is not properly covering an event,  are not going to be an adequate replacement for thoughtful coverage of complex issues. Whether you like it or not, thoughtful, in-depth coverage requires significant resources, multitude of skills, structures, and editorial oversight. There are some interesting funding models that make that possible outside of a typical corporate structure – crowdfunding, voluntary subscriptions, paywalls, collaborations with public agencies or not-for profits, co-ops, social enterprise models and so on. Not a single one of these or all of them taken together can, at this point, replace the resources, the reach, the depth, and the skill that the New York Times, the Star, CBC, or the Guardian can bring to covering an issue. So let’s help journalists and reporters do their jobs better while they are trying to do a heck of a lot more with a heck of a lot less then ever before.

Also, if you want independent, long-form journalism in Atlantic Canada you can support The Deep and their crowdfunding campaign right here.

/rant

The photograph is from a recent protest against Muskrat Falls hydro development project in front of the Colonial Building in St. John’s, NL.

What happens to women in journalism

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I was on vacation so I am late to this story, but I do want to write a few words because this is important stuff. About a week ago local reporter Tara Bradbury wrote an excellent opinion piece on what happened to her when she wrote a straight-up story previewing a feminist festival/art show/workshops event scheduled to take place in St. John’s later that week. The comments ranged from creepy to criminal misogyny.

This stuff has been happening for a long time and it needs to stop. The only good thing I can say about it is that we are finally talking about it more openly then ever before. Tara did a great job locally. Canadaland has been talking about the harassment and misogyny women have to put up with in media organizations for some time now. Whatever you think about Jesse Brown, this is the guy who broke Ghomeshi story and has been covering the situation at the Toronto Star together with other media. The world of photojournalism is no better. Colin Pantall’s blog has a couple of good posts about what happens to women in photojournalism and photography in general (here and here) and it should make you furious.

The fact that we have amazing women working in the media and in photojournalism despite the daily insults and misogyny they experience is a testament to just how committed and how good they are at what they do. So for this post, here is a bunch of links to some pioneering and contemporary female photojournalists doing stellar works. This list could go on and on, but this will do for now:

[LENS] has a story about pioneering women photographers in Mexico.

PetaPixel featured Japan’s first female photojournalist who is STILL PHOTOGRAPHING AT THE AGE OF 101!

Ruth Fremson, wrote a story about women in photojournalism for [LENS]

And for the end I want to send you to three exceptional female photographers who were among those whose work was featured in June 2015 issue of National Geographic. What was remarkable about that particular issue was that majority of the stories were photographed by women and the difference in tone, style and subject matter was noticeable. We need those voices because they tell us very different stories. Spend some time with the work of Lynn Johnson, Stephanie Sinclair (Stephanie seems to be rebuilding her website so follow her on Instagram), and Carolyn Drake – you’ll be glad you did.

A fairy’s steed

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We went for a walk and as we were passing through the Bannerman Park, this guy stopped us all excited about the dragon fly that landed on his shirt. We had a great chat. He and his girlfriend very much liked the fact that the Croatian word for a dragon fly translates as “a fairy’s steed.”

Royal St. John’s Regatta – Part I

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What would a St. John’s summer be without the Royal St. John’s Regatta?

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A chemistry lesson for inept photo geeks like me…

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So apparently I’ve been an idiot for the past 20 years. Every time I develop film or make prints I also develop a rather nasty case of dermatitis. It’s not contagious, just uncomfortable and bad for me, and aesthetically – well, let’s just say I’d understand if you didn’t want to shake hands with me and were wondering why I am not in some sort of quarantine.

It turns out, broadly, that there are two kinds of photo developers. There are those developers that use metol as a developing agent and those developers that use phenidone as a developing agent. Well guess what… Most developers I use are metol-based and metol is a known cause of dermatitis. Phenidone-based developers, on the other hand, tend not to cause skin reaction. So all I have to do is switch to a phenidone-based developer and I am good to go. And it gets better: phenidone is a much more potent developer than metol so you can make more of a working solution with less chemicals. It’s significantly more environmentally friendly and some of phenidone-based developers, like Kodak Xtol, are practically hypoallergenic. Arghhh…

So why do I suddenly know all this? Because I was asked to work with a team of researchers here at Memorial University as their artist-in-residence-kind-of-person. I was researching developers to understand what could happen if we add certain unusual components to different developers and in the process learned something I wish I knew 20 years ago. I have no idea what is that this collaboration is going to look like or produce, but it should be fun.

The photo was made earlier this year when Little Miss F. and I went for a photo walk and yes, she is using film 😉

Graffiti NL style and some photo links

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“Since no genuine enemy exists, he has to be invented. And as universal experience demonstrates, the most terrible enemy is an invented one. I assure you, it will be an incredibly gruesome monster. The army will have to be doubled in size.”
The Doomed City by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

The photograph above was made along a path following the Rennie’s River. That graffito with its careful punctuation marks and precise legibility is my new favourite thing.

And a few photography links just because:

A road trip…

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Streets of St. John’s are empty at the best of times. On a long-weekend Sunday so sunny and warm you’d be forgiven if you thought you are somewhere much more south than Newfoundland, the chance of running into anybody on the streets is virtually nil. And yet, I ran into this family taking photographs in front of their house. The nephew, driving an old Buick with a maple leaf and a 10 of stripes on its hood, is on a trip of a lifetime – right across Canada. He’s done the Maritimes, is about to finish Newfoundland and then he will be heading west. He stopped to say hi to his relatives.

I had a blast making the photographs both for myself and some with the family’s cameras for them. I haven’t really done anything on the street in a while and I forgot how much I enjoy the encounters and stories street photography in a small town makes possible. This encounter was different only inasmuch as I was ever so slightly jealous of their road trip. It’s been a long while since I went anywhere with nothing better to do but wander. I would like a long road trip.

Here are a couple of road links courtesy of New York Times: “The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip,” and “A Comprehensive Look at California and the West.”

Photo links

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A neglected blog. Out of necessity, I might add, because in three weeks, through my work, I am going to launch an exciting new project that I think the readers of the blog will like as well. Stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the photo links on this snowy Thursday:

A fascinating story about an American photographer Louise Draper. Really excellent work and it is indeed interesting that he languishes in obscurity.

On lensculture, go see Javier Corso’s Fishshot. It’s an interesting project about issues of loneliness and violence plaguing Finland of all places. I am not sure what I think about the photographs and his approach, but he raises important questions.

Check out these charming Portuguese “lonely houses” work of photographer Manuel Pita who goes by the nom de plume (or is it nom de lumière for photographers) Sejkko. You can follow his work on instagram.

Photographer Viktor Egyed based in Slovakia has a lovely set of images from a village called Szödliget in Hungary.

Robert Götzfried, a Munich, Germany based photographer, has a set of images from his trip on the backroads of the southern United States.

Contemplative, serene seascapes of Hiroshi Sugimoto are a wonder. You’ll love it.

Patriots on the march

15-Family027At first, reading the stories about newly elected (installed? appointed?) Croatian government run by a group of right wing political parties calling themselves the Patriotic Coalition was like watching a Monty Python skit. From a safe distance of some 5,000 km, it was almost funny. It isn’t any more. It is rapidly becoming a horror show.

More that a hundred years ago, speaking in San Francisco, Emma Goldman described what we call patriotism in terms that ring very much true today:

“Patriotism […] is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of his self respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and conceit. Indeed, conceit, arrogance and egotism are essentials of patriotism.”

The photograph was made in St. John’s, NL.

Canadian media, unions, and a flashback

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Today, there is more news about layoffs in Canadian media industry. This time it’s not the CBC that is getting decimated, but Postmedia. They are laying off 90 reporters and merging newsrooms in Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Ottawa. In the meantime, the people responsible for the chaos are collecting seven and six figure salaries. I guess it takes enormous effort to be consistently that greedy and incompetent. The situation is no better in Halifax where the unionized employees of the Chronicle Herald have voted in favour of a strike action after the management presented a truly reprehensible list of demands.

All of it is a bit of a deja vu, to be honest. In 1999 and 2000, Ms. M and I worked for a small news agency covering southern Alberta for major metro dailies. Those were contract positions filled mostly by students like us and they required that you have your own equipment and a car and that you work from home. We lived in a small bachelor apartment in Inglewood and, honestly, those were sweet times. We were newlyweds and we thought we were making inroads in the media industry. Then the Calgary Herald strike happened. It lasted a year if I remember correctly. At one point, about half way through the strike, we were all hauled into a meeting with our editor and this guy they brought from Ontario (St. Catherine’s, I think) as the new publisher whose job was to bust the union. He intermittently yelled at us and tried to sweet-talk us into crossing the picket line. When it became obvious, with the exception of one person, that none of us had any intention of doing so, he told us he will make sure none of us ever worked in the media industry in western Canada. He was true to his word. As far as I know, none of us did – except the guy who crossed the picket line. That asshole who threatened us? He has recently published a book about leadership.

It became quickly obvious to me and Ms. M. that if we wanted media jobs, the best we could do was to move and so we did. A couple of months after we left, the Calgary Herald strike ended. One of the conditions was that the union had to be dissolved.

On this week’s episode of Canadaland, Jesse Brown has a conversation with Nora Loreto about the role of unions in Canadian media. In the interest of full disclosure you should know that I do support the show financially with a subscription. In this episode Jesse Brown, the host of Canadaland, is his usual somewhat pompous and somewhat unaware-of-the-world-outside-of-his-bubble self and Nora Loreto doesn’t appear to understand anybody younger than 35, but I think it was very important to have that conversation publicly. We need unions more than ever, but something needs to change and it needs to change quickly. The unions have to figure out how to make themselves relevant to a new generation of workers – journalists included.

In 2000, we did not cross the picket line because we had respect for the Herald journalists. We were never approached by the union, never offered their side of the story, nobody explained to us what was at stake. In the end, they were just lucky we felt solidarity with the people we saw as our colleagues. Or maybe we were just not yet aware that it would take another 15 years before we paid off our student loans. They can’t expect to be that lucky all of the time.

In the photo is a decidedly non-unionized shoeshiner on the Water Street in St. John’s

Geography links

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The photograph above was made on my way to work one day. I have no idea why these old suitcases were left outside by the fence – probably just for garbage pick up.

Time for some geography links. I haven’t done that in a while.

Let’s start with the worst news in a while as far as magazine industry, and to an extend geography goes. In Canada, geography is very poorly taught in primary, elementary, and secondary school system. To make things worse, even our national popular magazine about geography, Canadian Geographic, is so abysmal we actually did not renew our subscription. So the fact that National Geographic has been purchased by Fox is really tragic. National Geographic is not a perfect magazine, but it is the best magazine on the market that promotes geographic knowledge and encourages interest in the world we live in. It has a strong American bias and a share of other issues, but we had subscription for years. I read every issue and the girls are starting to read stories that are of interest to them. I would like to think that editorial independence and high standards, especially when it comes to visuals will remain as they are or get better, but Fox’s track record is not good. Not cancelling my subscription yet, but watching closely.

After you contemplate the terrifying concentration of the global media ownership, head over to the Economist and take a look at a story that claims that the EU will soon have more internal physical barriers to movement of people than it did during the Cold War.

The rest of the links should be a little bit less pessimistic.

Lucas Foglia has been photographing American West and is concerned about what rural America will look like: “What is going to allow people to continue to live in the rural American West and how are we going to preserve or use the wild land we have left?”

Cornell University Library and its Division of Rare & Manuscript Collections has made public an amazing collection of persuasive cartography. Watch out, it’s highly addictive and you may find yourself wasting ridiculous amount of time – although, in my books, that would not be time wasted.

Two somewhat connected and fascinating stories. The first one looks at just how powerful oral traditions are as repositories of community knowledge. University of Sunshine Coast geographer Patrick Dunn’s research demonstrated that some Australian Aboriginal stories preserve environmental and ecological memories and knowledge stretching as far back as 7,000 years. The second story comes from the world of art and focuses on incredible work by an Australian Aboriginal painter Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri. The fascinating thing is that his intricate paintings are not just visually impressive, but also serve as a repository of community stories. The code is incomprehensible to us, but those who understand it have an access to a lot more than a visually arresting work.

The Royal St. John’s Regatta 2015

1508-Regatta004One of my favourite things to photograph in St. John’s is the Royal St. John’s Regatta. It takes place on such a massive scale and in such a uniquely St. John’s way that nothing else really compares to it. Every year, I promise myself that I will spend some time photographing the actual rowers who spend months preparing for the event and I yet have to do that. The crowds are just too compelling. Here are a few photographs from this year’s festivities.

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For gear heads: This was all Tri-X in Rodinal.

Eight

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Little bug is turning eight today.

Contemplating ocean

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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.

Tito in a St. John’s cab

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When I looked at the driver and even before we said a word to each other, there was a jolt of recognition, a sense of familiarity every immigrant sometimes feels – a genetic alarm telling you that the person in front of you hails from the more or less same ancestral pool. It is not necessarily a joyous feeling, rather a mix of caution and a hope that you might be able to exchange a greeting in a tongue that feels familiar and mysterious this far from its homeland. This cab driver, a Bosnian, and I got along alright. At some point, he pulled the card hanging on an elastic band from his rearview mirror and turned it towards me. And there was Marshal Tito, in all his uniformed glory, in a St. John’s cab. We laughed and he looked out at the snow buried streets and said: “And here we are.”

That was a few months ago. To tell you the truth, I forgot about that photograph. I just developed some film this past weekend and this photograph suddenly became more significant than if I looked at it a couple of months ago. In two weeks, we will be leaving for a much needed family vacation to Croatia. It’s a cause of great excitement. My older daughter has fond memories of a couple of visits she can remember. How could she not? When she is there, she is surrounded by people who genuinely love her and care about her and what is more, they get to see her so rarely that they are willing to fulfill her every wish. That is certainly not how her parents treat her. For the younger one, this is the adventure of her life so far – she is looking forward to almost two months of firsts: a first plane ride, a first train ride, a first trip abroad, and the first visit to grandparents who last saw her when she was a gurgling bundle of diapers and blankets. Above all else, for my daughters, Croatia is a place of madcap stories, odd relatives, happy childhoods and magical beauty. It is that because of me. I am the one who over the years created that narrative and now, as I read yet another surreal article about the rise of nationalism, poisonous catholicism, and glorification of the country’s fascist past I feel guilty about it. I feel I lied to them. I never told them about this other Croatia rapidly unfolding over the last few months on the screen of my laptop.

This Croatia is a country whose nationalists seemingly read Orwell’s essays on nationalism and totalitarianism not as a warning, but a how-to manual for achieving a supreme state of paranoia, xenophobia and the hatred of everybody and everything that is not Croatian. “Every nationalist is haunted by the belief that the past can be altered,” wrote Orwell and Croatian nationalists took it to heart. From nazi salutes at football games to wilful blindness when it comes to the horrendous record of the Croatian nazi collaborators, to fascist movements, to Marshall Tito and five decades of socialism, Croatian nationalists are re-imagining history busily following Orwell’s advice that for nationalists: “…history is something to be created rather than learned.”

And it’s not just history. As the economic recession drags on and the number of the unemployed stays stubbornly high, as those who can leave the country in search of a better life somewhere else, leave, the range of issues that sends nationalists frothing at the mouth is growing: homosexual and reproductive rights are out, misogyny is in, asylum seekers are not welcome, anything to do with science and technology – from vaccines to large hadron collider – is suspicious, Catholic Church is trustworthy, and every crackpot conspiracy theory makes perfect sense to them. After all, Orwell said that “totalitarianism […] in the long run probably demands a disbelief in the very existence of objective truth.”

And so what am I to say to my daughters about this place we are going to? That their worth will be measured by how they look because the opportunities for women in a society overrun by rabid nationalism glorifying violence and subscribing to a bizarre version of fundamental catholicism are non-existent? That nobody will say a word of encouragement to a 12-year-old who is writing her first novel? That the 8-year-old’s ambition to become a chef will be laughed at? That just by virtue of having this cocktail of Austro-Hungarian, Scottish, French and Cree genes running through their veins they are less then perfect? And, maybe worst of all, that their parents are antifascists and humanists who find the crassness and futility of cheap nationalism as scary as it is repugnant?

“And here we are,” as the cab driver would say.

We will go first to an island. Small islanders everywhere still know how to live. After that, we’ll thread carefully. We are going to see a Rodin exhibit and we’ll spend a lot of time with grandma and grandpa discovering some old recipes that have been in the family for generations. We’ll build some memories and strengthen family ties. We’ll hike in the countryside and visit some rural places. We’ll sunbathe and swim in crystal clear waters. We’ll read lots of books. Hopefully, all of it will serve as a bit of an inspiration to a budding novelist and a beginner chef. And I am sure we will have conversations about poverty and unemployment, and what it does to people. And we’ll talk about nationalism and fascism.

And most of all I hope that we will also make some new stories – the family kind we can all share with friends and hopefully they will be just as crazy as those I told to my kids already.

Mummers are here…

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What would Christmas time in Newfoundland be without Mummers’ Parade? The last year’s parade was brutally cold. The batteries in my Zeiss Ikon froze twice. This year, it was unseasonably warm with light rain. Still, loads of fun…

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Tantrum deterrence failure

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We love Bannerman park. It’s a little green oasis in the middle of the city and on hot summer days it’s full of people just lounging around, having picnics, practising circus tricks or rehearsing Shakespeare’s plays.

For the past couple of years, the park has been going through a much needed revitalization and if the work that’s been completed is any indication, it will be great. Today, all around the park they are pouring concrete foundations about the size of a garden box. It’s not quite clear what they are for, but I suspect we’ll eventually see some benches there.

Little Miss F, who today threw a tantrum right in the middle of the park, was curious about those concrete foundations. I told her that they are for the cages where parents will be able to lock up children who throw tantrums in the park over nothing. You would think the child would resolve to never throw a tantrum in public again, but not Little Miss F. Without missing a beat, she told her sister: “I have to remember to always have a hairpin with me.”

Sigh…

Of capelin and drones

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Seven!

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Little Miss F. is seven today. Seven! When her big sister turned seven some years back, as a practical joke, I told her that it is an ancient Croatian tradition that a child for her seventh birthday gets a list of chores she is expected to do. Today, almost five years later, she reminded me of that and told me she will always consider that list as one of her birthday presents…

Family photo albums are oral histories…

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A family photo in honour of Day 2 of single parenthood. We miss our fabulously smart researcher currently exploring rural Newfoundland.

Some time ago, during a very short conversation with Dr. Robert Finley, he made a remark I have been thinking about ever since. He said that every family photo album is, in fact, an oral history. I like that – a lot.

William Klein documentary

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The photo above is from last fall. I think that’s the only time I’ve ever seen somebody actually using those phones. And the fact that they are wearing shades is just icing on the cake.

Thanks to Brandon Manitoba based photographer Colin Corneau, I had the pleasure of watching this documentary on William Klein and you should watch it too. It’s fabulous.

[embed width=”500″ height=”400″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnN9LMvjM7Y#t=1691&aid=P7CJu421HAA[/embed]

 

Remembrance Day 2013

1311-remembranceday006Catching up on some older photos. The Remembrance Day this past year was truly miserable with high winds, cold and torrential rains.

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And to go with the photos here is New Brunswick bluesman Matt Andersen and his version of “Last Letter Home”

[embed width=”500″ height=”400″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8lFVk0jRCg[/embed]

Handcuffed

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For once, there is no need for a comment…