Change Islands « BOJAN'S BLOG


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Posts Tagged ‘Change Islands’

A conversation about local knowledge


With the last episode of Rural Routes we waded into the territory of knowledge. Local knowledge. You can hear an artist and a scholar Pam Hall talking about her project Towards the Encyclopedia of Local Knowledge.

The photo was made on Fogo Island two years ago. It’s been a while since we were there.

New Rural Routes episode


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.

Photo links from Cuba to neighbourhood shops

Photo links post today:

Three things you should take a look at on [LENS] (incidentally, see how good and smart a photo section in a newspaper on-line can be when you dedicate resources to it!):

Photography in Cuba: It’s Not Easy. An interesting take on the International Centre of Photography retrospective of Cuban photography by both Cuban and non-Cuban photographers.

Visualizing the Common Core Curriculum. How do you photograph a government policy? Here is one photographer’s take on a new education policy in the USA.

In China, the Photobook as Art and History. I would love to get my hands on this one.

After [LENS], head over to The New Yorker’s Photo Booth and take a look Zoe Leonard’s photos of old neighbourhood shops. As somebody who photographs corner stores, I suspect I find this more interesting than most.

In the photograph is a scene from Vis Island, Croatia.

Reason 23451 to live in Newfoundland


This is Change Islands and that place alone accounts for a few hundreds of reasons why living in Newfoundland is fabulous, but the reason 23451 to live in Newfoundland is a very old lady who lives just around the corner, knocks on your door and delivers handmade knitted mice filled with catnip because she saw your cats in the window.



I am not sure where the last year went. Lots of changes. We moved to a place that allows me to have a darkroom, a tiny darkroom, but still a darkroom. I can already develop film, but making prints will take a bit more engineering to figure out how turn the whole operation vertical rather than horizontal. This should also mean that I now have no excuse not to submit something to a few competitions I have been consistently missing deadlines of for the past six years.

I turned 40. I finished my thesis – although I am still waiting to hear whether or not I actually met the requirements for my MA. So not a bad year all in all. Let’s see what this one brings along.

The photo was made on Change Islands this past summer.

Miss F. is 12


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


Summer and Change Island ponies


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.


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.




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

Change Islands


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?”

Thank you


Thank you. Thank you for all the comments and tweets and Facebook updates and emails on the previous immigration post. I am trying to catch up with all of it and I am pretty sure there are on-line conversations that were going on that I am not aware of at all. I will try to respond and follow all of you who decided to say something about it. Maybe that is what is needed the most – one big conversation to figure out how do we all deal with each other’s differences, expectations and needs. It won’t be easy, but let’s keep talking.

And a special thank you to a couple of you who commented on the photographs on this blog. When all is said and done, I am first and foremost a photographer so keep coming back. There may not be great discussions about hot button issues here every time you click, but there are always going to be photographs.

On immigration…


I am about to write something I promised myself I will never write.

A friend in Saint John, New Brunswick, who runs an interesting little media company called WickedIdeas, posted on her Facebook account a story about the provincial government urging everybody who has something to say about what New Brunswick can do to attract and retain immigrants to do so. I had this post in me for a long time, but I always thought that maybe I am holding too much of a grudge and that the time is not right to air all of it. But, since they asked, I’ll oblige.

We lived in New Brunswick for eight years. We moved there as starry-eyed newlyweds after driving across the country in a 1973 volkswagen SuperBeetle. It was older than either of us, rusty and packed to the roof with everything we owned including a bicycle. We drove for over 4,000 kilometres from Calgary all the way to Bathurst and we did not even have a shoe string budget. Probably the craziest thing we ever did.

Bathurst was an eyeopener in many ways and not good ones. I worked for an insane editor who did not dare to bully me, but he did bully everybody else. That is not what made us move. What made us move was the fact that my wife had rocks thrown at her as she walked down a path because she was an “English bitch” as one of the charming young men called after her. We moved because after we went to Youghall Beach on a Sunday with a pressman and his fiancé, I was summoned into my darkroom by his foreman who warned me not to socialize with those people because their class status is below mine. We moved because people called daily to ask my editor why he hired a foreigner and not a local person.

We lasted six months and than we moved to Saint John. It was better. We both had jobs and we made some friends – come-from-aways like us mostly, but not all. Those of our New Brusnwick friends, and you know who you are, you have no idea what your friendship meant to us because it was such an exception.

Our first daughter was born two years after we moved to Saint John. I came to work a couple of days later and the person working in the office next to mine walked in. She did not offer her congratulations. She did not ask about my wife and the baby. What she said was: “You know it takes three generations to become a Maritimer?”

Every once in a while I would get a call at work from somebody ranting against immigrants. My favourite was a lady from St. Martins who called me at the charity I worked for because she thought we helped a little boy from Afghanistan get a heart surgery in Canada that saved his life. Unfortunately, that good deed had nothing to do with us, but it did not stop her from telling me that all those dirty immigrants are just coming to take local jobs, if not outright steal from honest New Brunswickers.

My wife was an investigative reporter at a daily who had her work belittled and stolen by those who hired her. When she broke a major story implicating local businessmen and politicians in an immigration scam, she was told that she does not understand local business culture, being from away and all that. She was told not to write anything longer than 500 words without a special permission.

Our second daughter was born. Then the government canceled Early French Immersion program effectively denying educational opportunities to our children. That was in many ways the last straw.

On top of that, my wife’s workplace became downright abusive. At that point, I freelanced full time. I could get work for  Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian in the UK as well as on national and regional CBC programs, but not locally.

Our friends were experiencing the same brick walls of nepotism and cliquishness we faced. They started moving away. And so did we.

Let me tell you about our very first day in Newfoundland. We’ve never been to St. John’s or to Newfoundland and we did not know a soul here. That first day we went for a walk downtown to find the French immersion school our daughter was going to attend. We found it and liked it. We walked down King’s Road towards Duckworth Street when this grizzled old man ran out of his house and yelled: “Wait, wait, wait…” We were rooted to the spot not quite sure what the heck is going on – our five-year old standing beside us and the one-year old in a stroller. The old man came back carrying a giant polar teddy bear and he said: “I won this in a raffle once. I’ve been waiting for a little girl to pass by so I could give it to her. So, here you go.” My older daughter, hugging this teddy bear almost as big as she was, was speechless and so were we. I would stop and chat with this man sometimes after we moved into that neighbourhood – he did not remember I was the dad of the girl he gave that polar bear to a year ago. I am not sure he even remembered the incident. It was just something he did. I know his name. I know he would have preferred if Newfoundland became a US state rather than a Canadian province. I even made a photograph of him once.

There were many such incidents.

My wife wrote a story for Toronto Star on storytelling tradition in Newfoundland and for that story she interviewed actor Andy Jones – the same way she interviewed hundreds of people in New Brunswick. A month or two later, it was a Sunday and we were walking to Sobeys to pick something up around 2 p.m. when Andy came out of his house and said: “Come in, come in. I have a new puppy. The girls would love to see him.” We left close to midnight that evening after a dinner and an afternoon and evening filled with stories and laughter.

Of course, there have been terrible moments here. We had professional disappointments. We had a nasty landlord. We had a leaky roof and a wasp nest under the clapboards. We had a drug dealer on our street, but we worked with our neighbours and we made the neighbourhood safe again. Childcare has been hard to organize, and housing and food are expensive and there are days in March when you wish to be anywhere else but on this rock in the middle of the North Atlantic. And then a friend comes over and you have a cup of tea or mulled wine and you forget that the wind is blowing at 130km/h and the uncanny mix of rain, snow and ice is falling sideways as usual.

We’ve been here five years. People ask me every day where I am from. They don’t ask because they are angry I have a job, but because they want to fit me into the master narrative of this place or, if I am on Change Islands or Fogo Island, they simply want to know what is that my people fish. That’s what they are like, these Newfoundlanders. They somehow learned how to take what they like and share what they have with those who come from just about anywhere. They will teach you how to make fishcakes in exchange for a Mediterranean fish soup recipe or simply for a good story. They are comfortable with who they are, so they let you be who you are.

If New Brunswick wants to attract immigrants, New Brunswickers will have to make peace with who they are. They have to stop being paranoid about everybody and everything. The world is not out to get you, although there are some very rich folks among you you should keep a better eye on.

Immigrants are not some exotic species of a bird that you can attract by planting the right kind of a tree. You have to accept that we are no different than you. We are not less human than you or more entrepreneurial or smarter or dumber or better or worse educated. We want the same things you do: good neighbours, safe streets, jobs, decent housing, good schools that give our children an opportunity to be the best they can be. We may not speak perfect English or prefect French, but we might speak Croatian, or Urdu, or Farsi, or German, or Dutch, or Mandarin or any other of the hundreds of languages out there in the world. Make us feel like there is a place for us and we will share everything we have with you and be just as passionate about your province and your communities as you are even if we are not third generation Maritimers and even if our family did not come to New Brunswick shores on the first Loyalist ship or during the terrible tragedy that was the expulsion of Acadians. We will volunteer and contribute to our new communities if you give us a chance to build some stability in our lives without feeling like permanent outsiders because we have accents, darker skin, or sometimes wear funny clothes. Don’t expect all of us to be entrepreneurs – most of you are not. Some of us will be entrepreneurs, others will be teachers, and potters, and photographers, and chefs, and some of us will sell delicious samosas at the City Market.

What you do need to understand, though, is that treating us like outsiders even when we spend years trying to make New Brunswick home will make us leave and we will never come back.

My family, we miss our New Brunswick friends. We miss the City Market and the skywalk and the library and the museum and the Buskers’ Festival and every June our older daughter talks about the fair and the rides at the Harbour Station. We miss Canada Day and New Year’s fireworks over the harbour – they don’t do fireworks quite as well here. We miss our landlady terribly. She was like a grandmother to our kids. She was an immigrant, too and her kids are only first generation Maritimers so not yet a real deal, I guess. What we don’t miss are petty snubs, blatant nepotism and constant reminder that we are not part of the place we chose to call home.

If you want immigrants from abroad and from other parts of Canada, you will first and foremost need to be kind. It will make an enormous difference.


Photographers, researchers, and librarians: A love story


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


Between work, family, finishing off my MA thesis and other assorted academic obligations I barely have time to breathe. The tearsheets are from the latest Newfoundland Quarterly  magazine. This is a tiny, little bit of my thesis in a magazine opinion piece form. You can read the whole thing here.


Dreaming of islands…

I need to get to an island and make some photographs… It’s becoming a mental health issue…


I need to make some photographs and write something. Don’t need to go anywhere far, but having a few days to work on something photographic would be heaven. Not going to happen for months…

Change Islands.



Caring for your introvert

I was going to write a long, whiny, self-pitying post about feeling stretched thin and in desperate need of quiet time; and just how hard it is to be on all the time because this is a really crazy time at work compounded by some needless craziness in my academic life, but, instead, I would just like to ask you to read Caring for Your Introvert by Jonathan Rauch. It explains everything. Just read it – quietly, please.

A fence on Change Islands.

Croatian word of the day: ograda fence




On ferryboats

I wrote this recently and I don’t feel like shopping it around. If you like it, consider contributing a couple of bucks to the Islands Landscapes campaign.

No journey to an island begins until the ribbed, rusty, steel-plate ramp scrapes along a concrete ferry dock.

Ferryboats are strange beasts. Unloved, but necessary. Step on one and there is nothing like casting off lines to make you feel you are truly abandoning familiar shores. But, you are not quite there yet – wherever there might be. That slight apprehension you feel comes from being in a limbo, a non-place. Maybe that’s why ancient poets depicted poor Charon as a bad tempered, old grouch day in and day out ferrying frightened souls across the river separating us from the Underworld. Unlike his passengers, who have a whole new world to explore, the old man is stuck on his little piece of the river, immortal, but without a destination. What could be worse?

In the old world tales, greed was punished by the eternity of ferrying duties. In the Brothers Grimm version, it is the greedy king who gets an oar handed to him, but in the story collected by Russia’s folklorist Aleksandr Afanasyev it is the rich merchant Marco who is condemned to row travellers across a river until the end of time. It’s the Russian version that resonates here in Newfoundland where rich fish merchants kept a tight grip on small outport communities and where large boat owners threaten the livelihoods of small inshore fishermen to this day.

Ask islanders what is one change that would make the most difference in their lives and ferry service will inevitably be the first thing they mention. Those from away will sagely nod their heads in sympathy and understanding, but they understand only a half of it. To them, a ferryboat is a symbol of isolation. It’s the only way to get to this place that sits in the middle of unpredictable, capricious, ever-changing sea. Of course one would want a better, faster, more frequent crossing of those treacherous waters that can shimmer invitingly one moment only to rise and swallow a man, snatch a child or wash away a home a heartbeat later. And it’s true that when your loved one is ill, when island families gather from afar for funerals, births or reunions, a faster, better, more frequent crossing is desirable. What those not of the islands don’t know – cannot know – is that to an islander the sea is not only a barrier to be crossed, but an open field to be savoured. The ferryboat is not just a lifeline, a beast of burden to carry the ill, the old, and the newborn, but also a guardian of their islandness who allows only so many and not one more to come onto their shores.

And those who come, usually when the weather is fair, are driven by curiosity or nostalgia, by a sense of mission or just dragged along to a godforsaken rock sticking out in the middle of the ocean.

Teenagers, feigning indifference, refuse to leave the deck as the summer storm gathers clouds and pours rain amid flashes of lightning and rumbling thunder. They sit on the deck, hair sticking to their wet faces, inadequately dressed, texting their friends and complaining about boredom while their eyes betray a mix of fear and awe for they just glimpsed their own insignificance.

An elderly couple stares out the window, hungrily. The first glimpse of the island of their youth will ease the pain in their swollen joints. It will make everything bearable again for a little while.

There is that other couple, middle aged and sophisticated. Instead of a red convertible, they have a saltbox house on the island and know exactly how that place should be run. They, like Bosnian folk hero Đerzelez Alija who hated ferryboats and boatmen, would prefer to skip this old rusty boat altogether and, in the absence of Alija’s winged steed, they might settle for a bridge to leap across the water. But a ferry is all they have – it’s the only thing we all have.

On a ferryboat we are all in it together. The three young men who, in preparation for a wild night out, drank a bottle of hard liquor and six litres of beer in two hours it took to cross the sea between their island and a city on the mainland throwing a party to celebrate its patron saint. The older couple whose arthritic fingers contort once more in pain of departure. The bored teenagers. Toddlers bouncing up and down still high on sugar that their grandparents secretly fed them before the ferryboat snatched them away once again. The writer talking to his wife about a story on ferries he’d like to write. “Faeries,” she says surprised. “That’s different for you,” she says while imagining lighter than air creatures full of magic. “Ferries,” he says feeling under his feet the grumpy rumble of this hulking, rusting beast of burden with its crew stuck in limbo, but dutifully taking them all to the other shore.



Root Cellars project

This is another root cellar on Change Islands. I don’t like this photograph one bit, but that’s not the point. The point is that Dale Jarvis, provincial intangible cultural heritage officer, has initiated a very cool collaborative project attempting to map and describe all of the root cellars in the province. The project is a google map open to everybody’s contribution. The rules are simple:

  • Root cellars only
  • Don’t move other people’s pins
  • Don’t be a jerk

If you know of a root cellar location and you’d like to contribute, that would be fantastic. You can also upload your photos to a Flickr group featuring provincial root cellars.

Dale has also provided a very useful typology of root cellars in Newfoundland and Labrador that is quite fascinating.

Change Islands, Newfoundland

Croatian word of the day: trap root cellar

Support Island Landscapes exhibit



Photo links

I should be preparing my presentation for tomorrow’s workshop in Gander, but I have no inspiration, therefore, here is a post full of photo links…

Check out Sebastião Salgado’s new work. Monumental, as always. Here is an interview with Salgado in New York Magazine.

Thanks to for a link to this fascinating set of historical photographs featuring well known figures in interesting and, occasionally, unusual places or company.

Goethe Institut has an exhibit of new German photography – not my cup of tea, but some of you might find it interesting.

And here is Part 1 of an older documentary about Sebastião Salgado and his work on workers. (Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6)

A fisherman and a researcher on Change Islands.

Croatian word of the day: ribar fisherman [ri bar]



Writing again

After a long time, probably two and half years or so, I wrote something that was not school or work related and it felt amazingly good. Somehow, through all these years of communications jobs, academic and business writing and similarly contrived BS, I completely forgot how much I enjoy writing. I even pitched that short little text. It would be nice if it actually saw the light of day.

Ferry terminal for Fogo Island and Change Islands in Farewell, NL.

Croatian word of the day: trajekt ferry [tr ye kt]




So, Canadians may find themselves heading to the polling stations this spring. Good. That is as it should be. I am sick and tired of people claiming that somehow elections are a bad thing. Elections are ALWAYS a good thing. People give their lives for the right to vote and here we are complaining that, oh the horror, we need to vote for our government. Get out, inform yourself, and vote for the candidate you think will represent your views the best. And, for heaven’s sake, stop complaining about the fact that you can vote without fear for your life.

Waiting for Change Islands ferry.

Croatian word of the day: glasanje voting [gla sa ny e]



Today on the menu are a couple of completely unrelated links about two things I care about: small islands and photography.

While doing some research for my thesis, I stumbled upon this story on Fogo Island and its changing fortunes in Investment Executive. The story is positive and talks about significant investment and some innovative development practices on the island, which are largely driven by Zita Cobb, a local multimillionaire and entrepreneur. However, the opening two paragraphs below hit on just about every stereotype that most none-islanders have about small islands – especially those without resident multimillionaires:

According to the laws of nature — or the uncompromising realities of business (because those are the same, right?)— Fogo Island should be an uninhabited, wind-swept footnote in Canadian history, an example of rurality retreating in an era of relentless urban centralization.

The island is, after all, reachable only by ferry (Umm… yeah — it’s an ISLAND)— a 50-minute voyage from the village of Farewell on the “mainland” of Newfoundland. The ferry ride is just the final stage in a lengthy journey to this isolated corner of Newfoundland’s northeast coast; only the truly dedicated would voluntarily travel the moose-infested highway (really, moose-infested, really?) to reach Fogo’s granite shores.

What bothers me about stories like this is that they play up those stereotypes of small island communities and islanders without actually seeing enormous potential that these relatively closed systems offer in terms of developing alternative approaches to food security, energy, education and training and cultural and heritage industries. They never acknowledge complex skill sets that islanders posses.

On a happier note, here is an interesting video featuring Matt Stuart (h/t to Peter Power), a contemporary British street photographer with a great visual sense of humour.

In the photograph are Newfoundland ponies on Change Islands.

Croatian word of the day: otočani islanders [oto cha ni]


A ruined roll

Once in a while, there is a roll you fuck up and on that roll is a frame you really, really want, but it’s ruined. This is that roll and this is that frame.

Croatian word of the day: pas dog


Researching funding and a place of geography

GEOG 6000
Bojan Fürst
Reflection III: Lost among sciences

Patricia Gober’s address at the annual general meeting of the Association of America Geographers is probably the most sensible thing we have read so far on the discipline of geography as it tries to find its place among various scientific disciplines. I find it curious that geography has such difficulty in defining itself as well as finding acceptance among other sciences. Gober’s call for unity and synthesis is precisely why I am interested in geography in the first place. The ability to draw on various aspects of physical as well as social sciences is a remarkable asset, at least in my eyes. And no other discipline is so aware of physical space as geography is – that is a unique and very valuable insight geographers bring to the table that other sciences, especially social sciences, often don’t understand. It’s not surprising, then, that Gober, Barnes, and Herbert and Matthews all see the future of the discipline in acknowledging, at least in some way, that geography could provide a bridge between the worlds of social and physical aspects of science since it does contain both.

The development of Canadian geography (according to Barnes, anyway (PDF)) is interesting because it reflects Canada’s own historic, economic, cultural and political developments. The lack of communications between the anglophone and francophone geographers and a focus on mapping of natural resources are very much Canadian pursuits in my mind. The latest focus on GIS technology can be seen in that vein too as can current efforts in mapping the Arctic with its objectives of ensuring Canadian sovereignty over the area as well as, once again, map the potential natural resources.

Another sobering aspect that Barnes brings up is the role and involvement of the government in the shaping of the discipline. Given the size of the country, it is not surprising in the least that the government had to step in and fund major geographic studies. I think that too often we forget that the various levels of government through their funding agencies and programs have always been funding most of the research at Canadian universities. In that light, Gober’s assertion that the status quo of scientists being able to do whatever they want will change because the public and the policy makers will demand results they deem important rings a bit hollow (although it might be more true in the US. I really don’t know.). I don’t think that we ever had a time when scientists were able to pursue the whims of their own curiosity. I do think she is correct in a sense that the current policy framework surrounding research, especially in Canada, is creating a situation where the government has much stronger say in what kind of research gets funded than before. Probably the most striking example is recent shift in SSHRC funding that is more heavily weighted towards research in business.

As a rule, I don’t have anything against research solving practical problems (I spend at least eight hours every day trying to do just that), but research agenda dictated by bureaucratic edict rather than scientific curiosity and imagination can hardly be called research at all.


This is a poster featuring some of my own research results that I recently made for a meeting of the Atlantic chapter of the Canadian Association of Geographers.

Croatian word of the day: poster poster