Posts Tagged ‘rural’
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…
Haggerty, Kevin. “Ethics Creep: Governing Social Science Research in the Name of Ethics.” in Qualitative Sociology.
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
Greg Lock’s Journey into a Lost Nation
Jamie Lewis’s They Let Down Baskets
A few from a recent trip to Labrador City and Wabush. Also a chance to experiment with a few things including Blazinal developer – a version of Rodinal available in Canada. The film is an Ilford Delta 100, the conditions were awful, but I kind of like the results. The concentration was 1:25 at 9 minutes.
The tour of one of the iron ore mines in Labrador West. The scale is beyond description. Surprisingly clean operation, but I still could not help but think that that giant hole in the ground was once just trees and maybe lakes. The difficulty of balancing development and environmental concerns is probably nowhere more obvious than here because it is a well run operation that pays people decently and provides safe and decent working conditions. We need iron and, quite frankly, this is how you’d like an iron mine to be run – yet I can’t stop thinking about all those trees.
Colleagues boarding a plane on our way back to St. John’s. We are all still trying to figure out the reasoning behind the airport security arrangements, but than again, none of us are exactly experts on that kind of stuff…
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.
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.
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.
And 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.
“You have to be careful with the island. There is a trap here. If you prevent a young person from leaving, the island turns into a curse. They must go and get to know the world and it has to be their own decision to return and to love the island. If you tell them: “Don’t go there. That’s not for you,” then there is going to be resentment. It’s our job to push them out into the world. We have to give them the love for the island, we have to teach them about life here, but it has to be their decision. If you don’t do that, than they have no reason to come back. It’s only love that works… That is what happened to me. I had a grandma who passed that love on to me and I left to see the world, but I also felt that I can affirm myself the best here, that here, I am myself and that here I can make the greatest contribution. But if I didn’t learn that love, if I did not have that contact with the island, I would have left and would be contented somewhere else and I would not feel that I belong to this island. It’s all about where you belong.”
That is a quote from one of my interviews on Vis island, Croatia.
Also in the news today is the inclusion of a particular style of a cappella singing on Croatian coast into the list of the world’s intangible cultural heritage. The song bellow is performed by Klapa Otok (Island) and it’s called “Islanders’ Ballad.”
My not so great translation is below:
We live off sea, by nets and lines,
We count the blisters from oars, picks.
Red are our eyes from sleepless nights and tears,
Our blistered hands are hard as rocks.
And we are lashed by storms and rains,
And every day we are bent over a bit more,
And yet, more than anything and more than all other beauties
Our entire lives we love sea
Our blue sea, you know all our desires
You are strength, fortune – our life
We count the sails and white ships,
The days are passing with nor’easters and sou’westers.
Miserly land gives all it can,
Life on an island is a joy and sorrow.
“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.
I need to get to an island and make some photographs… It’s becoming a mental health issue…
A forgotten roll in the back of the fridge yielded these from last February…
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.
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.
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 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 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!
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
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…
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
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]