BOJAN'S BLOG

Photographs, words and sounds
Posts Tagged ‘heritage’

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.

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.

Public phones collection

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I once wrote that photographers tend to be collectors. I have that corner store collection and recently a friend pointed out that I should start a public phone photos collection as well. To be honest, I didn’t even realize I had one until I started going through some of my photographs. Apparently I do have one. Weird.

This is a public phone in Dublin, Ireland.

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.

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.

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.

 

Mummers II

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

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Mummers

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

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

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Memorial Day 2013

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These are the photographs from this year’s Memorial Day ceremony. While most Canadians spend the the morning of July 1 preparing for a day of celebration of all things Canadian, Newfoundlanders spend some time remembering hundreds of their compatriots who lost their lives at the battlefields of Europe during the World War I. Today, the remembrance is extended to other veterans as well. This year’s crowd seemed smaller than usual, but I might be confusing this with the Remembrance Day crowds which always number in thousands.

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Photographers, researchers, and librarians: A love story

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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

Beard for sale

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Memorial University knitting masters had a small display in the Landing of the University Centre last Friday. As you can see, awesome stuff…

Photography rant… and photos from Fair Island

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

EDITED FOR TYPOS AND CLARITY.

Memorial Day 2012

After more than four years in St. John’s, there is a pattern to some of the events I tend to photograph every year. The Regatta and the Mummers Parade, Remembrance Day and Memorial Day and, as of this year, we can probably add the Zombie Walk to it for sheer bizarreness value.

However, Memorial Day always feels slightly different. On July 1, while the rest of Canada celebrates Canada Day, Newfoundlanders spend the morning in a more reflective and sombre mood. The day has been observed since 1917 as a commemoration of the Newfoundland lives lost in time of war, especially during the First World War when most of the members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment were killed during the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916. Out of almost 800 men, only 68 were on the roll call the next morning.

The events of that July 1 are truly a defining moment in history for many Newfoundlanders and that can be felt during the service at the National War Memorial in St. John’s.

These photographs were made during this year’s ceremonies.

Zombies vs. Mummers

I had no idea, no idea that this whole zombie thing is as big as it is. Oddly enough, I had two pop-culture eye-opening moments in the previous 24 hours.

On the way back from a meeting just outside the town, my two colleagues proved to be quite knowledgable about possible zombie apocalypse scenarios and somewhat familiar with basic zombie invasion defences. It made for an amusing, if surprising conversation. Then, I came home to find in my facebook feed several people discussing the 3rd annual Zombie Walk. Third!!! What kind of a rock do I live under?

As I was taking in elaborate costumes, remarkable range of grotesque faces, jerky body movements and quite disturbing sound effects some of the participants were capable off, I quipped to a friend that we need a Zombies vs. Mummers stand off. Her take on it was that mummers would win hands down. Why? “You don’t mess with a drunk man in a dress,” she said.

The photographs were made during 2012 Zombie Walk and 2011 Mummers’ Parade.

Dreaming of islands…

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

Last year’s regatta…

Royal St. John’s Regatta is the oldest running annual sporting event in North America. Some say it has been running since late 18th century, but the earliest documented one dates back to 1816. While races are fun, that’s not why majority of 20-30,000 people who visit the Regatta grounds every year actually go there. It’s about everything else that goes on at the time and about supporting your favourite community groups.

Our girls adore the Regatta and we take them every year. I usually make a few photos. These are from last year’s event and I might develop the film from this year on the weekend…

Why the heck not… Mummers!

A few from Fogo Island

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

What if…

Hmmm… this project I have in mind may not actually be a 6×7 project or just a holga project but an infrared film holga project…

That idea is thoroughly inspired by remarkable work of Wolfgang Moersch.

The photograph is from Split, Croatia.

A few from Shetland Islands…

Off to Shetland Island

It feels a bit like a fool’s errand for some reason, but here I am just about to leave for the airport.

Last year’s mummer’s parade…

CBC Dispatches

In 2007, I did two documentaries for CBC’s Dispatches. One was on Croatian elections at the time and the other on the aftermath of the conflict in the Croatian city of Vukovar, which was completely destroyed in the war during the early 1990s. That documentary, with a selection of photographs that were never really meant to be published, is below.

Today, due to recent government cuts, CBC has cancelled Dispatches. This was, without exaggeration, one of the top current international affairs programs in English language anywhere. What made it great was the team that put it together. I learned more about journalism and radio from Alan Guettel, Alison Masemann and Naheed Mustafa during our brief conversations while putting those documentaries together than in four years of university. And that is the real loss to Canadians. CBC and its flagship programs, like Dispatches, don’t just provide news and entertainment programming, but also provide mentoring and teaching opportunities for journalists, especially freelancers. I will miss the voice of Rick MacInnes-Rae and I will always be grateful to Alan, Alison and Naheed.

The last show will air in June. After that, in this increasingly interconnected world, we are going to be slightly poorer, slightly more parochial, slightly more ignorant, and slightly less Canadian- not by much in the grand scheme of things, but I am afraid that it is starting to add up.

In the photo is a door on a stage in a resettled community of Fair Island.

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!

Street photography and merry-go-round

I am slowly making my way through fabulous Street Photography Now. Hands down one of the best books on street photography out there. Here are some photographers I really like:

Jens Olof Lashein is a Swede doing pretty darn interesting work all over eastern and southeastern Europe. Check his Moments in Between series as well as White Sea Black Sea.

Arif Asci is a Turkish photographer working on the streets of Istanbul and all over the world.

Cristóbal Hara is a Spanish photographer working in rural Spain and presenting his work almost exclusively in books.

Also check out Steidl’s website and awfully tempting collection of photography books.

The photograph above is from Split, Croatia, during the Saint Domnius celebrations this past spring. I love that old-fashioned merry-go-round. Made me think of Cliffhanger, Susan’s fabulous photo blog about carnies.

Croatian word of the day: vrtuljak merry-go-round