Fogo Island « BOJAN'S BLOG


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Posts Tagged ‘Fogo Island’

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.

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.


On The Go


I am a bit surprised, in a good way, about the attention my presentation to to the Newfoundland and Labrador Library Association has been getting. There are even some interesting projects that might come out of it. Somehow, CBC has learned about my talk and I had a chance to speak with On The Go host Ted Blades (also a photographer and a former rangefinder user.) Here is a link to that conversation.

The photo was made on Fogo Island.

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

A year older…

A year older… As a colleague of mine pointed out, considering the alternative, not too shabby at all.
The photograph was made this summer on Fogo Island.


“No scientific law, no sociological model can predict when or exactly where the sea will turn a small island into a civilization.”

Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Civilizations


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.


Three from foggy Fogo Island

A few from Fogo Island

A forgotten roll in the back of the fridge yielded these from last February…

Island tax…

The price of a roll of HP5+ at the local store? Glad you asked. Almost $3 more than if ordered from Toronto. Losers. Unfortunately for me, I am leaving in two days and Vistek and Henry’s are out of stock so the local guys just made a tidy profit off me.

Near Tilting on Fogo Island in late February.

Fogo Dog

Former town of Fogo on Fogo Island (with the communities now amalgamated I am not quite sure how to refer to different parts of the island).

Off to St. Anthony…

Off to St. Anthony on the Great Northern Peninsula… slightly tired of travelling this month. The photo is of Little Miss F. on Fogo Island last October.

On Fogo Island

On Fogo Island for next few days with Laurie Brinklow, a fellow islander, publisher, writer, poet and a PhD student at the University of Tasmania. Check out her island adventures!

A fisherman

It looks like I might be going to Fogo Islands in February and to Change Islands in March. Hopefully, this is going to be a chance to make some photographs.

In the meantime, check out Joachim Ladefoget’s work on Newfoundland cod fishery as published in iPad-only magazine Once Magazine.

The photo was made last March in Joe Batt’s Arm on Fogo Island.

Croatian word of the day: ribar fisherman


Road trip

Off on a road trip to Change Islands and Fogo Island. In the photo is the old Irish cemetery in Tilting this past April.

Croatian word of the day: križ cross  [kr ee zh]



Exhibit announcements

Developed first few rolls from Croatia. Pretty excited to see what’s on them. While they are drying, you get a photo from Fogo Island.

A couple of announcements. I have an exhibit scheduled for October in St. John’s, NL during the North Atlantic Forum conference and possibly another one in Saint John, NB in February. I will also be presenting a paper at the October conference. All of that, of course, providing that I find the money to make prints and frame them.

Joe Batt’s Arm fishing harbour on Fogo Island.

Croatian word of the day: luka harbour



Department of crazy government decisions…

Imagine you are a minister in charge of safety of some 11,000 fishermen working in one of the most dangerous marine environments in the world. You are also in charge of safety of hundreds of people working in offshore oil and gas industry- again, located in one of the most inhospitable marine environments in the world. Let’s put it this way, there is a reason why Titanic hit that iceberg 500km from where I am writing this.

So, as a minister, you are told you need to save $56 million in your entire department of which Coast Guard is only a part. You look at the map and you think to yourself: “I have this dispatch centre in St. John’s. They have the highest number of responses to marine emergencies in the country and are in charge of 30,000 kilometers of shoreline and 900,000 square kilometers of ocean. They have been doing a superb job with, quite frankly, inadequate resources. These are financially difficult times, but these folks have enormous amount of very specific local knowledge. Maybe we could beef that centre up and give them a training role as well. If you need to learn how to respond to an emergency this is the best place in the world to learn that. We might even be able to actually make money here…”

Whoa! Not so fast my friend… This is not some airy-fairy fantasy land, but a world of hard choices and cruel realities. In that world, we need to save $56 million and if an important aspect of marine safety needs to be sacrificed  at the altar of financial responsibility, so be it. It’s just a glorified call centre anyway. Fishermen and offshore workers be damned…

The Globe story is here. Pure incompetence (and some would suggest vindictiveness).

The photograph was made last April as an icebreaker was making a path for Fogo Island ferry on its way to Farewell.

Croatian word of the day: obala coast



MA classes officially finished


It’s official. I am done with all of my MA classes and I have passed all of it, too. Miraculously, I even have a half decent average and I might end up with a few academic publications as well – those two things do keep doors opened if I suddenly go insane and decide to continue on to a PhD.

I still have a bit of research to finish and a thesis to write, but that is something I am actually looking forward to. I also have over a year to do that so it’s not exactly that I am feeling a huge pressure or anything.

Even though I am not finished yet, I feel like dispensing a piece of advice. If you are thinking of completing a graduate degree with a young family while working full time and without adequate funding – just don’t. It’s not worth the stress and in the current climate, I am not even sure it’s worth anything in terms of your employability afterwards. Having said that, it IS a fun thing to do and it will make you, almost certainly, better at whatever you do. For example, my MA in geography made me into a better photographer and a better writer. Keep in mind there were other, just as effective ways to do that. I am not regretting the experience, quite the opposite, but I would certainly preferred if the circumstances were a bit different.

As an aside, academic publishing is the biggest racket in publishing industry. No wonder there is a trillion journals out there. They get people who spend years developing particular expertise write unique content for free and than deliver that content and carefully targeted advertising to a perfectly segmented audience- you would need to be a total moron to run an operation like that into the ground.

Ice pans around Fogo Island. The photos was made in late March or early April this year.

Croatian word of the day: izdavaštvo publishing [iz da va sht vo]



Website renewal…

So we are back from Croatia and I feel like changing things around a bit. Since a true spring cleanup is too much work, I decided to change my website. I like it a lot and there will be several more changes and additions to it over the next few weeks. I also have some 40 rolls of film to develop from Croatia, Malta, Austria and Canada. It’s all good…

Tilting, Fogo Island.

Croatian word of the day: obnova renewal



Croatia bound

So, I promised an exciting announcement and here it is:

Miss F. and I are on our way to Croatia where she is going to get spoiled by grandma and grandpa and I am going to finish my graduate research. In fact, I am writing this in Montreal Airport. I will also be making a stop on Malta where I will be giving a presentation on the Canadian portion of my research. We will be back in Canada on May 16.

There, I don’t think it gets more exciting than this.

Tilting, Fogo Island, Newfoundland.

Croatian word of the day: baka i deda grandma and grandpa



Tilting, Fogo Island, Newfoundland

Watch this place for exciting announcements.

Tilting, Fogo Island, Newfoundland.

Croatian word of the day: priopćenje announcement [pre op che nye]