BOJAN'S BLOG

Photographs, words and sounds
Posts Tagged ‘Colour’

Exhibit in Bonavista

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Remember I said I had more announcements? If you are in Newfoundland and Labrador and are planning a trip to Boavista, stop at the Ryan Premises National Historic Site. Some of the prints from the Small Islands series are on display there together with amazing work by Michael Pittman, Robert McNair, Cynthia Kremerer and several others. The show is a part of the 2016 Bonavista ArtWalk. The show is up until September 5.

Beautiful Bonavista and an iPhone 5s photo.

A conversation about local knowledge

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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.

Rural Routes

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A bit of an announcement post. For the past few months I have been quietly working on a project that is now ready to be made public. As many of you know, my day job is very much focused on rural Newfoundland and Labrador and through that job I get to work with a lot (you should probably read that most) of rural researchers in this country and some from further abroad. After a while, it became obvious that most of the research I was aware of never makes it into the public domain. So, as part of my job, I decided to start a podcast. A colleague with a particular flair for copy writing named it Rural Routes. Over the coming weeks you will be able to hear interviews with rural researchers, writers, entrepreneurs, artists, fishers and farmers. We are hoping to get some funding in place that would allow us to do a little bit more down the road. For now, go to www.ruralroutespodcasts.com and hear what we have on air.

The photo was made sometime last year with my phone in Port Rexton, NL.

Saying random things is not a good idea

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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.

For your Sunday amusement

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The photo above was made on the streets of Dublin, right next to Trinity College. Funny place, Dublin.

When I see work of people such as Bulgarian Penko Gelev, I wish I had a fraction of their talent. If I did, I think I would do nothing but draw. Here is a lovely and occasionally humorous set of illustrations called “Village.”

The final versions of Nathan Walsh’s urban landscapes are a bit over the top for my taste, but you got to admire the technique and the skill.

Calvin Seibert’s amazing sandcastles are not exactly your typical royal abodes.

Stefan Kuhnigk’s coffee stain monsters are adorable.

There are only 12 Master Penmen (what about women?) in the world. Meet the youngest of them: Jake Weidmann.

Photo links from Cuba to neighbourhood shops

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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.

Silently cool

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We passed this skateboarder on Vis island in Croatia whose board had lit wheels and we all commented on how cool that was. In fact, Ms. M. said she wished she had a cool husband like that. Little Miss F., without missing a beat, looked at her and said with absolute conviction: “Dad is cool in a silent way.”

Take that world.

Photo: Vis island, Croatia.

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.

Summer and Change Island ponies

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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.

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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.

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

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.

Library as a place

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On October 15, I had a chance to speak to provincial library technicians during their annual  conference. There was a bit of dithering on my part about what was that I was going to say, but at the end, with the help of one of the organizers, I settled on Library as a Place, which worked reasonably well, I think. Here is the presentation with a script (or something close enough to one).

131014-LTAIG.001Good afternoon. My name is Bojan Fürst and I am a photographer and a geographer an I love libraries. Some of you may also know me as the manager of knowledge mobilization with the Harris Centre, which is what I do for a living, but that has nothing to do with what I want to talk about today.

131014-LTAIG.002Originally I was going to photograph library technicians and librarians as they work and then speak about that experience and how it relates to another project I am working on. For mostly unpleasant reasons, that did not quite happen. However, I was a bit dubious about that project from the beginning. I’ll tell you why. In 1999, I was flying back home to Croatia from Calgary. I was on a direct flight from Calgary to Frankfurt. Sitting next to me was a very pleasant old lady in her 80s. She was traveling to Venice where her grand-niece, I believe, was getting married.  She asked me if I’d like to see a photograph of her niece. I was a polite young man and she was a very nice old lady so I said yes. She, and I am not exaggerating, pulled out some 300 family photos of people I never met and never will and she went through all of them with me. Twice. By the time we landed in Frankfurt, and it is a VERY long flight, I knew two things: 1. I knew a lot about her family; and 2. I knew I am never going to be the old man that makes a complete stranger look at 300 of my photos. Making you sit here and look at photos of some of your colleagues as they go about their work felt a little bit like I was about to break that rule.

131014-LTAIG.003One thing most people don’t know about photojournalism, is that there is a lot of waiting that happens between actually making photographs. And that, more than anything else, is the reason why photojournalists often seem to notice things that everybody else misses. It is also why we often muck around with weird ways of taking photographs. We are also like lemmings, always ready to follow the latest trend – even if it kills us at the end. So in 2001 or so, David Brunette, one of the living legends of photojournalism, got himself a cheap, plastic, Chinese made, holga camera. It is as rudimentary a photo tool as you can get. In the hands of David Brunett, however, it became a superb photographic tool. He used it to photograph Al Gore during his presidential campaign. Next thing you know, every photojournalist is rocking one of these plastic and pretty much useless things. As a good little lemming, I got one, too. Now, to my eternal credit, I did realized that as good as David Brunett is, photographing Al Gore with a plastic camera probably had more to do with the fact that the photo ended up on the front pages of some of the world’s largest newspapers than the camera itself. Since Al Gore was not available, I carried that camera around with me without actually making any photographs – until the day I had some time to kill between assignments in Fredericton. Those of you who know Fredericton, know that it is not the most exciting place on the planet. It was a summer day, it was hot, and I was pointlessly driving around.

131014-LTAIG.004And than I saw this sign in front of a little corner store. Before I got an ice-cream, I pulled out my plastic holga and I made this photograph. For me, this was a beginning of a fascination with place making. Let’s look at a few more corner stores, but only a few. And let’s play “spot it” while we at it.

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131014-LTAIG.006Lottery sign

131014-LTAIG.007ATM inside

131014-LTAIG.008Coca-Cola

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131014-LTAIG.010Pepsi

131014-LTAIG.011Word “Convenience”

131014-LTAIG.012What is fascinating to me about these photographs is the perfect blend of the familiar and the unique. Each of these stores advertises the familiar. Smart move because it lets us immediately feel safe. We know exactly what is that we are going to find inside. What is wonderful about them is that they are also very much unique places reflecting the personalities of their owners, but also the larger community they are situated in.

131014-LTAIG.013So a corner store on Grand Manan is unlike any other.

131014-LTAIG.014And a corner store on Change Islands, or The Store, does not look like a corner store at all.

131014-LTAIG.015It was photographing corner stores that started to turn me into a geographer. Geographers think about space and place a lot. In fact, some would argue that the “most enduring legacy of humanistic geography is [its] theoretical engagements with notions of space and place.” And if you look at some of the definitions of place and space we came up with, you could be excused if you thought we think about it way too much. We talk about mobility, about time-space compression, about commodifcation of space and place. We talk about the destruction of the vernacular and the leisuring of rural landscapes. We talk about place as “a qualitative, total phenomenon, which we cannot reduce to any of its parts or properties without losing its concrete character.” We, as geographers, try so hard to be impartial, objective, scientific, clever and complex, that the best advice I can give you is to stop talking to geographers about place and instead ask architects. I am kidding, but only just so… I envy architects. They are the only people I know of who comfortably straddle the world of art, science and spirituality and, the really good ones anyway, can talk about it in a rational and engaging way without sounding flaky. So for our purposes today, I think Christian Norberg-Schulz’s definition of place will do nicely. He says that “the spaces where life occurs are places… A place is a space which has a distinct character.” Just like those corner stores have distinct characters.

131014-LTAIG.016And if you are interested in things like place and space and distinct characters, than islands are among the best places to explore all those things. Being a Croatian, my encounter with islands started in childhood. We have over a thousand of them and sooner or later you will end up visiting one of them. But my true involvement with the islands started in a resettled community of Wood Island just off the coast of Grand Manan in New Brunswick. I was working on a story for CBC radio about the reunion that takes place on the island every year. It was August of 2008. It was windy and overcast with light rain. But there was not enough wind or enough rain to prevent the islanders from making their customary annual visit to their ancestral home.

131014-LTAIG.017It takes about 10 minutes on a small boat to cross from Seal Cove on Grand Manan Island to Wood Island. There is not much left there: a church gleaming white among the island greenery, an old schoolhouse, a cemetery, and three houses scattered around the island that serve as summer residences. What there is left is a strong sense of attachment and identity among those who moved away from their homes in 1950s as the provincial government refused to provide any services to the island community. Hence, every year, the former islanders and their descendants board a small boat and get together for a church service and a reunion. It is a story only too familiar to most Newfoundlanders. It was towards the end of my stay on Wood Island that I managed to talk to one of the last teachers who had taught at the island school. She tried to explain to me just what the island meant to her. This is what she said. “In the winter, I might feel down and my husband knows – he’ll drive me to Seal Cove just to look over and get a fix. It’s awesome.”

131014-LTAIG.018Islands are funny places. Geographers can’t really figure out how to define them and so we don’t really know how many islands are there in the world. You think it would be easy. Tim Robinson, writing about his time on Aran islands off the coast of Ireland recounts the anecdote from his first day on the island: “On the day of our arrival we met an old man who explained the basic geography: “The ocean,” he told us, “goes all around the island.”” What Edmond and Smith call “obstinate separateness” of islands has been drawing people to those specks of land in the sea for centuries. Islands are mysterious, romantic, sites of paradises and prisons. They are difficult to get to and appear stubbornly unique in a world that has “institutionalize placelessness.” The  islanders manage to hang on to the authenticity of their island communities and we all want to figure out how they do it. How do they hold on to a life as Ann Buttimer writes “which is attuned to the rhythms of nature, … anchored in human history and directed toward a future?” How do they “build a home which is the everyday symbol of a dialogue with one’s ecological and social milieu.”

131014-LTAIG.019It’s not easy and it requires generations. There is an art to living on an island and it is a complicated one to master. Talk to islanders and they will tell you that the best thing about an island is that you know everybody. They will also tell you that, after a lousy ferry service, the worst thing about living on an island is that you know everybody. But knowing everybody is exactly one of those things that makes islands such unique places. It takes human interaction – unplanned, unavoidable and sustained random human interaction – for a space to become a place. Another architect, Canadian Avi Friedman, said that sense of place is an outcome of the physical features that surround us, the space between them and the interactions that happen among those for whom the places are built for. It so happens that small islands seem to naturally encourage those meaningful interactions in ways that it is becoming difficult for most of us living in urban and especially suburban environments to experience.

131014-LTAIG.020And when I say difficult, I mean difficult. In urban environments we all live in, and I swear I will be talking about the libraries soon, we have worked really hard to remove even a chance of a random meeting in a public space. Among my photographic interests is street photography. It is a branch of photographic expression with a long history that has created some of the best loved photographs we all know. Cynics would say that street photography appeals to me because I am an introvert who needs a reason to leave his house and an opportunity to hide behind the camera, but that is not true. I love street photography because it is unpretentious, honest, and it requires engagement and involvement with the world outside of our doorstep in precisely the ways that are conducive to place making. Except, it is really, really difficult to do street photography in St. John’s.

131014-LTAIG.021There are no natural public spaces here. Our streets, even in the heart of downtown are mostly empty. I call this photograph “The Optimist.” What else could he be playing to the empty streets? And while we can build our urban environments to encourage place making and development of a shared identity, the fact remains that we don’t. However, I do believe that a quest for a sense of place and a sense of identity is so strong in us that we will find ways to engage in its creation no matter what.

131014-LTAIG.022Let me tell you one more kind of a funny photojournalism story. In 2006, I went to cover a story in Bosnia for a Canadian magazine about Canadian efforts to rebuild Bosnian health care system. It was a very successful program carried out by Queen’s University department of family medicine and funded by CIDA. In the old socialist system in former Yugoslavia, we did not have family doctors in a Canadian sense. You had a GP that was attached to your place of work or to your school. So my mom had her doctor, my dad had his doctor, my brother had a paediatrician as did all other elementary school kids and I had a doctor that took care of my high school classmates. It was a bit of a mess. If you need to see your doctor you would take your health card and you would go in early in the morning to your doctor’s office and you would wait as long as it took to be called in. The Canadians came in, introduce the concept of a family doctor, and, crucially, the idea that you can make an appointment to see your doctor at a prearranged time therefore eliminating hours of waiting time. It worked like a charm and everybody loved it, except the retired people who just would not accept the new system. Canadians and Bosnians got frustrated and decided to conduct a thorough survey and figure out why did these old-timers insist on showing up before the office even opened and then waited until the doctor could see them. It turned out that for the elderly patients, a doctor’s waiting room was a social place. They talked with their peers there, they played chess and backgammon, knitted sweaters and hats for their grandkids. In most cases, they did not even really need to see a doctor at all. So now, some community health centres simply have a community room, where anybody can come and have a cup of tea or coffee and do all those things they did while waiting for a doctor and sometimes there is even a nurse or a student measuring their blood pressure and providing advice about their medication or nutrition. Family doctors’ waiting rooms were places and yet nobody understood that.131014-LTAIG.023There are other such places that we create for very specific purposes, but that perform a dual role. For example, architect Avi Friedman lists farmers’ markets as one of those places. He says that markets “not only provide basic amenities and contribute to economic vitality, but they act as social magnets. They are scenes of trade, as well as places for communal interaction and gathering spots where one can watch the theatre of life.” I would argue that libraries are also such places. And we are enormously attached to them. We have all heard about the cellist of Sarajevo and Sarajevo market where people died in mortar and sniper fire, but one story that we don’t hear very often is the story of National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was a repository of knowledge and identity and in 1992 it was mercilessly shelled by Serbian forces in a campaign designed to erase any evidence of just how complex the identity of Sarajevans and Bosnians really was. I wish I had a better photograph of it. During the shelling, majority of the books and manuscripts did not survive the fire, but nonetheless, citizens and librarians worked under fire to save as many of the books as possible. At least one person died. True places, like libraries and markets, and public squares, matter immensely to us –  enough that we are willing to protest against their destruction, fight to save them, and, as in Bosnian example, even die for them.

131014-LTAIG.024I believe that libraries are vital when it comes to place and place making. American feminist and social activist bell hooks once said that “One of the most subversive institutions in the United States is the public library.” Some 18 years ago, in my first year of college I discovered that I am a photographer in Calgary Public Library. Also there, I attended a lecture, and I can’t even remember who it was that was speaking, but that person was introduced by the director of the Calgary Public Library who said that every single one of us in the audience should be able to find at least one book in his library that would offend us. And if we couldn’t find such a book, than he failed as a librarian. I never forgot that.

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Good libraries are much more than repositories for books and periodicals. They are not about buildings, or comfortable chairs. The good ones are true places. That means that they bring together people who would otherwise have no need to meet or interact with each other. They are truly subversive in a sense that, while making us perfectly comfortable, they also make us expand our worlds, confront our ignorance and make us better people whether we want it or not. Every good library is at the heart of its community. That is certainly the case of the Memorial University Library System and places like the Resource Library at the Faculty of Education.

131014-LTAIG.026You as library technicians, archivists, and librarians have enormous responsibility. Avi Friedman, at the end of his book “A Place in Mind” writes that today “The number of meeting places and their quality has diminished. Neighbourhoods, built for seclusion, have fewer people, fewer or no sidewalks, walking or bike paths, benches or civic squares. We have fewer public markets or corner stores.” But we still have libraries and you are the custodians of those places. Neil Gaiman said that the “Rule number one is: Don’t fuck with librarians.” And he couldn’t be more right. We need libraries that are at the heart of their community, the way our library is here at the university. We need libraries that are easy to access and libraries that challenge us to be better when we leave them than we were when we came in; libraries that are true places where communal life is lived to its fullest. I did not photograph library technicians at work, because I am not sure I know how to photograph people whose work is not to catalogue books, answer questions and mend broken spines, but to create places that make the heart of who we are. So instead of giving you photographs, I just want to say thank you.

MUN Botanical Garden

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We really wanted to go for a walk this weekend and we asked Little Miss F. to pick a destination. She picked, to our surprise and delight, MUN Botanical Garden. The colours were spectacular. I suspect we missed the full glory of the autumn in the garden, but it was still pretty special.

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Feeding the ducks was, of course, the highlight of the walk, although the pumpkin patch was close with its appropriately freaky Halloween display.

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If you haven’t been there in a while it’s really worth a visit. Seriously folks. I think we may have run into maybe six other people. This is one of those St. John’s hidden gems. We try to go at least once in every season and every time we have such great time walking the trails that we always promise ourselves to do it again soon and then it’s spring, or winter or whatever and we are back to once-a-season schedule.

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There is still time left to enjoy the autumn colours in the garden even if all the time you have is a half hour lunchtime walk.

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Let’s go fly a kite…

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And this glorious summer is over. The nights and mornings are cold. We turned on the heater in our living room yesterday for a couple of hours in the morning. The photographs here are from a few days ago. We were flying kites on Signal Hill with some friends and eating apple strudel. It was a lovely way to spend the last of this summer.

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Crazy EKTAR colours

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A few family photos with crazy EKTAR colours.

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Meet Spangles

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This is Spangles, the friendliest and the most playful cat you can imagine.

 

Rick Hansen relay

Today, I spent a day doing something I used to spend a lot of time doing – working as a photojournalist. I photographed the first day of the Rick Hansen 25th anniversary relay across Canada for the National Post and Postmedia News. It turned out to be a strangely introspective assignment and, once I sort out through some of those thoughts, I’ll write a blog post about it. For now here is the cutline to go with the photo:

CAPE SPEAR, NL: AUGUST 24, 2011 — Rick Hansen talks with Jacob Manning, 13, the first bearer of the medal that will travel across Canada around the necks of 7,000 Canadians raising awareness about spinal cord injury. The 25th anniversary relay started today at Cape Spear, NL. (Bojan Fürst for Postmedia News)

Croatian word of the day: štafeta relay [shta feta]

 

Support Island Landscapes exhibit

 

 

Public servants

Work related post today, mostly because I like the photograph.

Andrew Treusch (middle), associate deputy minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada is discussing the changing role of public servant in Canada while Robert Thompson (right), the Secretary to Cabinet and the Clerk of the Executive Council of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ron Penney (left) the recently retired city manager for the City of St. John’s and an adjunct professor of political science at Memorial University pay close attention.

I don’t often post work related photographs because they mostly consist of talking heads, but today’s setup landed itself nicely to a different kind of a photo.

Croatian word of the day: javni službenik public servant [yavni  slu zh be nik]

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Tearsheets

Tearsheets time…

Got my copy of Canadian Art today. If you want to see more photos from that day you can do so here.

Croatian word of the day: umjetnik artist [oom yet nik]

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Organic farm

Tearsheets time.

Sometime in August I had a chance to photograph Mike and Melba Rabinowitz’s organic farm just outside of St. John’s. Growing anything in Newfoundland is a bit of a challenge because the nature is working against you most of the time. Poor soil conditions and short growing season are the rule and it takes a lot of work and stubbornness to build a successful farm. Melba and Mike certainly have both of those qualities.

They grow a wide variety of vegetables and herbs and supply some of St. John’s restaurants, farmers’ market and grocery stores with local and organic produce.

You can read the whole story in the latest issue of Saltscape magazine.

Croatian word of the day: povrće vegetables [po vr che]

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Corner store

Off to Clarenville today… Leonard’s on Cabot Street.

Croatian word of the day: kiša rain [kisha]

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Canadian Art and William Gill

New issue of Canadian Art magazine is out. It promises to be a great photography issue featuring Ed Burtynsky’s and Donald Weber’s work. Lisa Moore wrote an essay on the work of Will Gill, local visual artist, and I had the pleasure of photographing Will for the story.

I am not sure which photo they ran or what they did with it. If the tearsheets are worth posting, I will post them once I get my hands on a copy of the magazine. In the meantime, this is a set of shots from that day. Most of them are digital, except the square one which I shot on film just because I can.

You can see some of Will’s work on his website.

Croatian word of the day: umjetnik artist [um ye tnik]

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Corner store…

Now that was a productive day…

Corner store nearby.

Croatian word of the day: dan day

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A corner store saved…

This corner store on Prescott and Bond has seen better days. Today, it’s boarded up and for sale so if anybody knows any stories about it, feel free to share in the comments.

I do want to share with you an NPR story about an English village that refused to let go of their corner store. Enjoy.

Croatian word of the day: selo village

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A corner store and links…

A bunch of links today and a corner store.

A strange collection of murderous cooks, waiters and bartenders.

Two websites that allow you to create “to do” lists. Teux Deux is actually quite useful for my purposes (h/t swissmiss) and NowDoThis is not so useful, but certainly more fun (h/t Minimalissimo).

Dalton Ghetti creates the most amazing sculptures from pencil stubs you’ll ever see.

And one of my favourite website, Quipsologies, went through a massive redesign.

Croatian word of the day: kuhar cook

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