Culture + Society

Ghanafest in Malta, Part 1: Flamenco Fusion

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (1)

We really enjoyed ourselves in Malta, thanks to many people I need to thank — so many, in fact, that I must do it in stages. On our second day in Malta, we were driven around in the evening by a local academic named Robert. We’d made contact with him via the Couchsurfing website, and he’d already planned to bring us to a folk festival in Floriana (next to Valletta) called Għanafest.

Excerpts from the Visit Malta website:

Għanafest is a three-day manifestation of Maltese folk singing (known as Għana in Maltese) which takes place every year in June…. a unique opportunity to experience the different styles of għana. Besides Maltese folk music, the festival presents a programme of local musicians and ensembles.

Maltese folk singing has various genres e.g.‘Għana tal-Fatt’, whereby the singer recounts a story in verses that relate to a tragic past event. Another genre is ‘Għana spirtu pront’: two singers hit out at each other with sharp and witty retorts as one sings out and the other responds with spontaneously thought out lyrics; and ‘Għana fl-għoli’ wherein the stanzas are sung in an extremely high note /pitch remotely similar to a flamenco folk song – this singing is also known as ala Bormliħa.

A variety of foreign folk singers and musicians hailing from various countries in the Mediterranean also participate in this festival. Throughout the three days of the festival, there will also be a series of crafts demonstrations on various stands.

We spent the evening at the folk festival, where I shot a large volume of photos of the performers, mostly of the flamenco dancers who are part of a local dance group. On our way out, Robert introduced us to the organizer of the folk festival, who explained that the dancers brought the idea to him, since flamenco isn’t native to Malta but it could be performed to Maltese folk music. (There are a few short video clips of it at the bottom).

I wanted to devote an entire post to the ladies of the flamenco group, because they danced with such passion through several outfits and numbers. I love shooting dance, because performers become lost in the music and the movement of their bodies. It makes the photography much more about timing than anything else (I never use the burst mode), and freezing moments of movement which show how fully engaged the dancers are. It’s the expressions of rapture I aim for every time.

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (2)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (3)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (4)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (5)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (6)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (7)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (8)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (9)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (10)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (11)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (12)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (13)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (14)

flamenco fusion at Ghanafest in Malta (15)

June 14, 2015
Album: Malta 2015

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (photos)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (1)

This is a pictorial continuation of yesterday’s post of video clips from Porto, Granito e Sonho, a series of theatre performances between São Bento Railway Station and balconies above Rua das Flores depicting the history of Porto and brought to life by Locomotiva, a six-month arts project by the City of Porto. It was a production on a rather grand scale, with five directors and around 400 theatre performers (professionals and students) from ACE Escola de Artes / Teatro do Bolhão and other performing groups such as Alunos da ESAP, Coral Amigos da Música de Espinho, Coral de Letras da UP, UATIP, and more. Although the video clips do a better job of showing theatre than photography, these performances yesterday were very physical and musical — you wouldn’t need to know Portuguese to enjoy them.

Locomotiva’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/portolocomotiva

What I also find interesting is how well Rua das Flores is set up for this kind of theatre, with balconies on most floors. It made me wonder how easy it was to arrange access to the balconies, since the street is now flourishing with businesses and some of them are short-term rental apartments. It’s mostly a pedestrian street, and the crowd watching the performances from below weren’t given notice where the performers would be next, it only later became apparent that the action flowed from the train station down the street towards the river.

Rua das Flores has seen tremendous growth over the past few years, with extensive renovations turning the street into a hive of commercial activity. When I first arrived, Rua das Flores was fairly empty, but now it’s one of the busiest streets in the city, buzzing with tourists and trade. I hope no matter how busy the street gets, that it keeps the balconies open for street theatre.

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (2)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (3)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (4)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (5)

I have always made a point to focus on the arts in this web space wherever I’ve lived, but I do so especially here in Portugal. Why? Because there is this tendency for governments to cut arts funding in time of economic hardship and Canada is guilty of this, but that is not the case here in Portugal, a country where you’d expect the governments to cut all funding indefinitely. Instead, there are cultural events happening all the time, and the municipalities and regions in Portugal continue to promote the arts to a degree I’ve never seen in Canada, where event producers must turn to the private sector and beg corporations for sponsorship. Of course, arts stories like this don’t ever make it to the news, so readers outside of Portugal who rely on news never get the full story of what it’s truly like to be here. Little blogs like mine exist, in part, to fill in the gaps.

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (6)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (7)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (8)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (9)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (10)

Porto, Granito e Sonho: Street Theatre On Rua Das Flores (11)

June 27, 2015
Album: Portugal [Summer 2015]

Viagem Medieval 2014: The Album

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (1)

18th annual Medieval Fair / Viagem Medieval
Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal
July 31-August 10, 2014
Official site: www.viagemmedieval.com
All photos and videos shot August 3, 2014.

It’s a holiday in Portugal tomorrow, and we’re heading off to the family’s home village in Penela da Beira for the festivities. I wanted to post the album before we leave, because we will be unplugged over the weekend and I know I will have another boatload of photos when we return.

This album is BIG, so I’m posting a cross section and I invite you to check out the rest of the album via Flickr:

[thumbnails]
[view as a full-screen slideshow] – includes videoclips

Viagem Medieval 2014: Food & Drink
Viagem Medieval 2014: Videoclips

Bom Fim de Semana!

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (2)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (3)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (4)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (5)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (6)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (7)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (8)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (9)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (10)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (11)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (12)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (13)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (14)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (15)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (16)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (17)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (18)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (19)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (20)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (21)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (22)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (23)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (24)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (25)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (26)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (27)

Viagem Medieval 2014 (Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal) (28)

August 3, 2014
Album: Viagem Medieval 2014

Summer In Porto: Festas de Sant’ Ana e XIV Festarte

summer in Porto, Portugal

Filed under: “Only In Portugal”

Last night I had to top up my phone’s SIM card but had to go to a Multibanco (bank machine) to do it because I forgot my login code for online banking. And strangely, I also had a craving for a fartura, the Portuguese version of a doughnut.

Paulo was sceptical, since farturas are found at food trucks at festas (fairs), not from restaurants. We went to the beach looking for a food truck (none), then I spotted a light display in a roundabout that looked like one from a fair. The closest place was Leça da Palmeira, and there we found not only a farturas truck, but a Multibanco located conveniently across the street, and — what turned out to be the best part — ranchos (folk performers) on stage for Festas de Sant´Ana e XIV Festarte!

Success x3!

[video link]

Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me, because my phone’s videocam is very low on detail and you can’t see the outfits properly. But at least you can see some dancing! I uploaded the longest videoclip (4 mins) to YouTube (above), and the rest are shorter (1-2 mins) and uploaded to Flickr (below). In some of the videos you can see very young children dancing — a few boys between 2-4 and a girl of about 5 — and they were absolutely adorable.

But man, I don’t know how they can dance and wear all those clothes! The daytime temperatures have been over 30C and while recording these videos I was roasting just sitting on the sidelines with my beer in one hand and the phone in the other!


[video link]


[video link]


[video link]


[video link]


[video link]


[video link]

International Chocolate Festival, Óbidos: Chocolate Sculpture Competition

International Chocolate Festival, Óbidos: Chocolate Sculpture Competition

The 12th annual International Festival of Chocolate is in full swing in the historic town of Óbidos, celebrating on weekends (Friday to Sunday) from March 14-April 6 this year. We attended last Saturday, doing our best to curb our appetites for chocolate by filling our bellies with a big lunch before going in. Note: this only works for a few hours!

The entrance fee to the festival is 7 euros (5 euros, ages 6-11), but if chocolate is not your thing, Óbidos has plenty of festivities, art, food and beverages outside the castle walls to keep people entertained.

While we were there, the TV show Aqui Portugal had set up in the main church square — a perfect people-watching opportunity. For a newcomer to Portugal, I find this show very informative as it’s a bit of a travelogue — a mix of entertainment, local commerce, and national pride, travelling around the entire country following festivals and events. Food, drinks, traditions, history, music, religion, and whatever local colour can be found in the villages and cities they set up in for that day are featured on the show. Watching video footage of the scenery — especially from the aerial drones — is for me what sparked curiosity for places like Nazaré, which we visited the next day. It’s easy to spot the show as they always have a stage set up with full lighting rig (I work on the production side of events so I notice these things first), performers, and several hosts taking turns interviewing the local businesses to talk about their products or services. The hosts also mingle with the crowd, which gives people a chance to say hello to their relatives overseas (RTP broadcasts internationally).

Lest I start looking like a PR person for Aqui Portugal, the reason why I’m mentioning them is because of the cultural value — they spotlight villages and cities equally. Of course, there are more festivals in the cities, but the villages don’t get left out. Coming from an enormous country like Canada where the population is very divided between the large cities which get lots of media exposure and everywhere else which gets minimal exposure or nothing at all, a show like this would be of great benefit. The closest thing I can think of to compare with Aqui Portugal is the CBC’s Rick Mercer roaming around the country, but he’s a one-man show who travels to the action and there’s more of a focus on him, whereas Aqui Portugal has several hosts — four? — and the show becomes part of the event.

Anyway, back to the CHOCOLATE. This videoclip (2:42) will give you an idea of what the event looks like:

Official site: http://www.festivalchocolate.cm-obidos.pt/
http://www.obidos.pt (also in English)

Esculturas em Chocolate

Theme for 2014: “Animal Kingdom” — inspired by animals at the Lisbon Zoo

The chocolate sculptures are works of art, created by the food crafters at the Centro de Formação Profissional para o Sector Alimentar da Pontinha and kept in a climate-controlled tent. The competition invites visitors to the display to cast their vote for best group, with ballot boxes at the end of the queue. I took as many photos as I had time for, which wasn’t much since everyone was trying to do the same thing while keeping the line moving through the tent. It was hard to decide between them all — the crocodile was impressive but I was also taken by the amount of detail on the primates. How does one choose??? In the end, Paulo and I voted for two different groups, and I’m assuming we won’t know who the winner is until the very end of the festival on April 6, or maybe afterwards.

Here’s the group list with credits; I’ve put the sculpture photos in no particular order.

O EXTREMO DO PLANETA TERRA / END OF THE PLANET EARTH
Chefes // Conceição Moura, Luís Carriço, Renzo de Marco

PARA ALÉM DO DESERTO / BEYOND THE DESERT
Chefes // Carlos Videira, Daniel Sousa, Rui Alves

O OÁSIS DE ÁFRICA / The OASIS OF AFRICA
Chefes // Carina Gomes, Elsa Costa, Rafael Gomes

A BAÍA DOS GOLFINHOS / DOLPHIN BAY
Chefes // Céu Carvalho, Ricardo Batista, João Ferreira

A SAVANA AFRICANA / THE AFRICAN SAVANNAH
Chefes // João Mateus, Ana Santos, Isadora Pereira

MUNDO DOS PRIMATAS / WORLD OF PRIMATES
Chefes // André Figueiras, Henrique Leitão, Inês Azevedo e Silva

OS ANIMAIS DA OCEÂNIA / ANIMALS OF OCEANIA
Chefes // José Cobra, Sara Martins, Rui Pinheiro

Coordenador // Chefe Vítor Nunes
Coordenador adjunto // Chefe Manuel Gomes

gailatlarge-GEA_7166

gailatlarge-GEA_7193

gailatlarge-GEA_7188

gailatlarge-GEA_7183

gailatlarge-GEA_7179

gailatlarge-GEA_7175

gailatlarge-GEA_7169

gailatlarge-GEA_7167

gailatlarge-GEA_7164

gailatlarge-GEA_7162

gailatlarge-GEA_7160

gailatlarge-GEA_7158

gailatlarge-GEA_7154

gailatlarge-GEA_7153

gailatlarge-GEA_7152

gailatlarge-GEA_7142

March 15, 2014
Album: Portugal’s Central Coast

Portugal’s Caretos Tradition: Mischief and Mayhem Before Lent

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

I posted a few videoclips yesterday of the caretos, these loudly-dressed masked characters that run up and down the streets of Podence ‘terrorizing’ the townsfolk. This street entertainment is a tradition from Celtic days called Entrudo Chocalheiro (carnival rattling?) that takes place in the days before Lent — not to the scale of Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival atmosphere, but for a tiny village in the mountains of northeastern Portugal it’s a shake-up. The streets of Podence come alive with the sounds of cowbells and shrieking, drums and bagpipes. The population multiplies during this time, busloads of visitors arrive and the local fields are littered with vehicles, all to see the caretos in their devilish glory.

Official website for the Caretos de Podence (PT): http://caretosdepodence.no.sapo.pt/
Visit Portugal (EN): The Caretos of Podence
Azibo.org (EN): Caretos Tradition

High-quality video from the local TV station’s Facebook page (you can actually see us in the video at 0:50 and 1:49):

[video link]

This is definitely the most bizarre thing I’ve seen in Portugal yet. (Remember, it’s not São João for another few months, when Porto goes crazy.) If I hadn’t read up on Entrudo Chocalheiro the day before we left, I wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on. If you’re an uninitiated English speaker like me, I’ll direct you to Julie Dawn Fox’s website where she explains the events in greater detail.

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Basically, on the Sunday before Lent, these caretos unleash pranksterish behaviour on the public for about an hour. During this time a group of males of all ages — from little caretos-in-training (called Facanitos, or “little knives”) to veterans — wear what looks like a colourful head-to-toe fringed rug, some with long hats (all the better to clobber with), some with long sticks (all the better to poke with), and each with belts from which cowbells hang and make a racket when they walk and run. You would think the cowbells make it harder for them to sneak up on the unsuspecting, but caretos move pretty fast and I witnessed a lot of stealth attacks in the crowds.

Traditionally the targets of their attention are supposed to be young women (this is a tradition related to fertility, after all), but these days the caretos are easier on their victims and will chase after pretty much everyone who is looking the other way. They will grab you, rattle their hips against you, try and frighten with loud noises, knock their cowbells against you, that sort of thing. The idea is to keep on your toes and watch out for them, especially if you’re anywhere near the middle of the street. Unlike the Celtic days, however, the Portuguese witness this display with cameras and video recorders, and the caretos actually spend more time posing for pictures than practicing mischief.

For more pictures, check out the full-screen slideshow [Caretos de Pondence] (opens in new window).

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

Caretos of Podence, Portugal (Entrudo Chocalheiro)

March 2, 2014
Album: Carnaval 2014 Portugal
Full-screen slideshow: Carnaval 2014 Portugal (slideshow)

Carnaval 2014: A Preview

Desfile de Carnaval Noturno (Carnival Night Parade) - Macedo de Cavaleiros, Portugal

Desfile de Carnaval Noturno (Carnival Night Parade) – Macedo de Cavaleiros

We’re back from our carnival weekend in the region around Macedo de Cavaleiros, near Braganza and the border with Spain. We stayed in a convent, watched a parade at Macedo de Cavaleiros on Saturday night and took in the traditional Careto festivities in Podence on Sunday afternoon. Just a few pics from the parade for now, until I whittle down the huge pile (~1,500!) of files.

Desfile de Carnaval Noturno (Carnival Night Parade) - Macedo de Cavaleiros, Portugal

Desfile de Carnaval Noturno (Carnival Night Parade) – Macedo de Cavaleiros

Desfile de Carnaval Noturno (Carnival Night Parade) - Macedo de Cavaleiros, Portugal

Desfile de Carnaval Noturno (Carnival Night Parade) – Macedo de Cavaleiros

Some short videoclips (shot by Paulo) of what happens during Carnaval in Podence, a tiny village near Macedo de Cavaleiros with a tradition of Caretos — costumed pranksters.

Read more about it here: http://www.azibo.org/eng/caretosorigemeng.html


[video link]


[video link]


[video link]

Album: Carnaval 2014 Portugal

Published! (Atlas Of The Great Irish Famine)

my photos in "Atlas of the Great Irish Famine" published by Cork University Press (September 4, 2012)

It’s here! Hot off the press — Cork University Press, published September 4, 2012. My copy arrived today, and at over 700 pages, it is HEFTY.

http://www.greatirishfamine.ie

my photos in "Atlas of the Great Irish Famine" published by Cork University Press (September 4, 2012)

my photos in "Atlas of the Great Irish Famine" published by Cork University Press (September 4, 2012)

I was surprised to know I’d receive a copy since I’d fully expected my photos to be tiny and hard to find amongst all the others in the section, but was I ever wrong! Here’s a full spread with one of my Toronto photos, taken in bitter cold on January 4, 2009.

my photos in "Atlas of the Great Irish Famine" published by Cork University Press (September 4, 2012)

my photos in "Atlas of the Great Irish Famine" published by Cork University Press (September 4, 2012)

The print is obscured by the snow, but my name is there:

my photos in "Atlas of the Great Irish Famine" published by Cork University Press (September 4, 2012)

And then there is a large landscape photo of the Toronto Irish Famine Memorial, taken more than a year later on February 21, 2010, which takes up more than half a page:

my photos in "Atlas of the Great Irish Famine" published by Cork University Press (September 4, 2012)

I’m also surprised they used this photo of the Irish Famine Memorial in New York City instead of this one taken last Christmas, but I suppose it’s meant to show the quotations, which most people probably don’t photograph.

my photos in "Atlas of the Great Irish Famine" published by Cork University Press (September 4, 2012)

In any case, I’m chuffed the photographs are larger than I’d expected and I’m especially chuffed they sent me a copy of this comprehensive atlas. It’s large format hardcover and weighs a tonne (OK, maybe five kilos or so) — definitely not transit reading material, but if you enjoy geography and/or history you will enjoy browsing this tome. I shot some of these earlier photos nearly four years ago, but I’m pleased with how they look in print. Also, I take pride in my stubbornness to brave the icy winter winds off the lake to make these photographs in a season that turned out to be most fitting for the atlas.

Toronto Pride Parade & Canada Day 2012

Toronto Pride Parade 2012

It’s quite fitting that the 32nd Pride Parade in Toronto happens to fall on Canada Day, because when I think of Canada I think of diversity, people of all stripes. The parade, like the country, is a rainbow of people with differing ideologies, ethnicities, ages, religions, politics, lifestyles, body types, professions, supported causes, handicaps, and genders. For people who are part of the visible majority a parade may not be a big deal, but for those who identify with the minority — visible or invisible — this is YOUR day.

Toronto Pride Parade 2012

Toronto Pride Parade 2012

Last week when I was Vancouver I was explaining my reasons for the Turning 40 Series to my friends. I said that part of my motivation is that I imagine what kind of society I want to live in, and this is my contribution towards a society where people accept each other (differences and all), are kind to each other, support and help each other. I do not personally know of anyone who has done what I’m doing, and I want to change that… (if that isn’t a big clue, I don’t know what is!) I don’t know if this act will become commonplace in society during my lifetime, but at least I am doing my part. The last thing I want to be is one of those people who complains about society and does nothing about it.

Toronto Pride Parade 2012

But widescale change does not happen overnight. Canada is 145 years old today, which is very young by world standards. We have a long way to go before we get rid of bigotry, prejudices, and fear. You might be wondering what good a parade can possibly do for a city, let alone an entire country, besides boost the local economy a little by bringing in spectators and corporate floats.

Toronto Pride Parade 2012

Toronto Pride Parade 2012

I’ll tell you, I shot hundreds of photos of people this afternoon who were standing together, smiling and laughing and representing all walks of life. Without the gathering, without the parade banners, how would you know who they are and who they represent? Many of these people are the visible and invisible minority in this country. Further, minorities within minorities — eg., Ontario Rainbow Alliance For The Deaf, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (sparking controversy), Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity (yes, I’ve got photos of them, too).

Toronto Pride Parade 2012

I’m proud to live in a country where its citizens have a right to live freely, and those rights are protected. People come to Canada to escape from persecution*, and we must uphold these values, as a nation. The Pride Parade is a way to remind us of our values — that we need to be accepting, that we shouldn’t live in fear of each other.

Happy Canada Day!

Toronto Pride Parade 2012

*the current federal government’s recently passed cuts to refugee health care notwithstanding

There are 196 photos in the Pride Parade set! There are six shots which are definitely NSFW, so I’m skipping the auto slideshow as they will all show up in an RSS Reader. Here’s the link to the full-screen slideshow if you aren’t at work or this isn’t an issue, and the link to the thumbnails if you prefer to preview the set and selectively view larger.

CIBC Run For The Cure 2011

Team Brides' Project at CIBC Run For The Cure 2011

Team Brides' Project at the Finish Line

We did it! And we did it through rain and wind and layers upon layers of clothing — including veils and crinolines! As always, we drew lots of curious attention with our outfits, but there were plenty of others who dressed up, too.

Front:

Team Full Support

Team Full Support

Back:

Team Full Support

Team Full Support

Masked Crusaders

Masked Crusaders

It was great to see so many people out on a Sunday morning (after Nuit Blanche, where people were up all night long) showing their community spirit and support.

I shot some video, but it’s pretty shaky!

More pics at the album, or view as a full-screen slideshow, or watch the set scroll by below.

Read More»

Danish Wedding

Danish wedding cake

I shot a Danish wedding tonight — my first. How Danish was it? I won’t really know unless I shoot a wedding in Denmark (pssst! any Danish people out there who want to fly me out for a wedding?), but I would say this cake looks very Danish, by the decorative bits. I would’ve guessed Scandinavian, at least — it reminds me of things I’ve seen in Norway (and Iceland, except Iceland is not actually part of Scandinavia).

Most of the wedding guests flew in from somewhere — Australia, all over Canada, as well as Denmark — but the whole room was filled with Danish and Canadian flags to represent the couple. Part of the evening was filled with flag-waving and singing a song with Danish lyrics.

There is also a Danish wedding tradition of taking the shoes off the groom and cutting the toes off his socks or cutting a piece off his tie, but we finished shooting before any of that happened!

Danish-Canadian wedding

Denmark joins with Canada

Wedding Pride

GEF_9675

I had the pleasure of shooting my first lesbian wedding today, with the Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes presiding. (Canadians may find his name familiar — he officiated Jack Layton’s state funeral.)

A decade ago, on January 14, 2001, Rev. Hawkes officiated the first double wedding ceremony that led to the legalization of gay marriage in Canada, one of the first countries in the world to do so. He wore a bullet-proof vest and there was heavy security because of death threats.

Today there was no bullet-proof vest or death threats, just friends and family (including their adorable dog in a tuxedo) and lots of love.

And that’s the way it should be.

The Forgotten

GEF_1578

I shot over 400 images in Montreal and Ottawa last weekend, but I’ve been waylaid by a compromised immune system that has buckled under the strain of overdoing it work-wise and not getting enough rest while being overexposed to sick people. Thus, I am at home today convalescing instead of at the office-work or editing-work. The lesson here is that if you don’t listen to your body, your body will take its revenge upon you! And mine certainly has, although I’ll leave out the details in case you have just eaten.

Of all the hundreds of images, this one is probably the one that resonates with me the most:

GEF_1452

It was the hardest one to take, even though I am a fair distance away. Not hardest in the technical sense, because there is enough light and he isn’t moving, but there weren’t many people around and he would’ve spotted me with my camera instantly if he turned his gaze only a hair to the right. Perhaps he did, and chose to ignore me, I will never know. I have said before that my personality isn’t suited to street-shooting, and it’s not getting any easier with the passing of time. I have already had to give up one street-shooting project partly because of my discomfort (and lack of time). I am too sensitive to make a living as a photojournalist, that is for certain.

So where does the discomfort come from? That they don’t know I’m taking their picture and posting it on the internet? I don’t think it’s just that — I’ve taken street photos of random strangers before without guilt. The inner conflict goes something like: “Is this showing more compassion for them, or less?” Or, “Do they care to be seen this way, or no?” Or, “Is it better to walk on by, or take notice?”

When I was 19 years old, I had a brief stay at a shelter for homeless youth in Melbourne, Australia, where I met people in situations much worse than mine. We lived together, ate together, hung out together. If there was a profile for homeless youth, it didn’t matter whether I fit it or not, I was there. It’s not a situation I wanted to be in, but I got out as soon as I could. For some it lasts longer than a stint here and there. Maybe it’s drug addiction, a lack of parental support, a troubled childhood, an eviction from the home, the influence of others, or simply nowhere else to turn. We all know a criminal record will hurt your chances of finding a job, or making friends. Mental illness will surely have the same effect. What happens to people who are forgotten? They end up in places they don’t want to be…

…and then comes along a person with a camera. That’s where I truly hesitate. Tim Horton’s is a far cry from the street, but I took this picture below at 2 o’clock in the morning when most people his age are in bed. Heck, ANY age! We were there to warm up after a lot of walking, so I can imagine he was there to get warm, too.

GEF_1754

If I refer to these people as “The Forgotten”, then these pictures are to remember: that they probably haven’t been living this way their whole lives, that they may have family who — for whatever reason — may not know where they are, and their situations can turn for the better.

Random Thoughts In Editing Mode

GEF_2118_bw

After hours and hours of staring at photos I begin to memorise people’s faces. One of the other peculiar things about what I do, but may prove to be useful at some point in the future. After staring at people’s faces, I think of my own and how long it took me to reach the conclusion that perfection is totally overrated.

I feel qualified to say this as someone who was not just a wallflower in school, but dreaded school photos like the plague. Someone whose face has somehow caught up with her teeth (or rather, the size of her teeth) and whose nose doesn’t look as awkwardly flat as it did once, or maybe her face just grown into it. I had buck teeth as a child and my parents didn’t have money for braces or the dentist, so absolutely nothing had been done to correct my teeth since getting fillings around 10 years old. I’ve had dental coverage for over a year, and I haven’t used it yet. I still have the same fillings, the same buck to my teeth, the same everything that I had when I was 10. But strangely, my face changed enough so nobody notices my teeth anymore, not even me. How did that happen? Or rather, not happen?

Same thing with my nose: when I was in high school one day and my class was heading outside to witness an eclipse, I remember one classmate making a joke about my face colliding with a dog house. Seriously. I still have the same flat, bridgeless Filipino nose that I had when I was 14, but I don’t even think about it anymore. It took a long time to ignore it — it’s smack in the middle of my face! — but I finally did.

Maybe I’m thinking about all this because I’m participating in a research study about body perceptions at the University of Toronto (my interview is on Tuesday). It got me thinking, and while I’m looking at faces and bodies all the time editing portraits, I think about it further. Women are particularly hard on ourselves, dwelling on things that ultimately do not matter. Maybe if we had nothing better to occupy our time than the business of attracting a mate, it would merit a greater amount of attention. But this is 2010, and for many of us it may not even be a consideration. While women in the developing world still struggle with equality in the workforce and in other areas in life, for the rest of us in the developed nations who experience struggle to a much lesser degree there should be less time and money spent on the pursuit of beauty and more on general health — especially mental health.

When I edit portraits, I never alter bodies. I only ever touch up faces and even then my rule is I don’t remove anything that’s a permanent part of the face; I usually just end up applying digital makeup: clearing up skin, brightening eyes, reducing reflections on glasses, that sort of thing. Once in a while I’ll get a specific request for Photoshopping from a client, but thankfully this has been rare. Perhaps it’s easier because I’m on the other side of the lens, but I do study people’s attitudes and reactions to photos and have an idea of what angles are more flattering to people. I also consider my own experience with self-portraits and I try to do the work in-camera than in post-production.

One thing I do know, though, is that I have a more global idea of beauty than a Western-centric or Eurocentric idea of beauty. I see beauty in skin of all shades, in eyes of hues both light and dark, in hair of all types, and I value the diversity of people. I hope this shows in my work as much as it exists in my mind.

Back to editing….

GEF_2118_b

GEF_2118_c

Vicky + Mike Are Married!

GEF_2067

Yesterday’s wedding was one of the most fun events I’ve ever shot, and much of the credit goes to the bridal party who were all from New Zealand. The Canadian groomsmen were no slouches, but special mention goes out to the Kiwis. This bunch were stellar!

I’m still going through the photos, there are around 1,800 of them…! Major shout-out to Jan, who was my hardworking second shooter yesterday.

++++++++++

There should Be T-Shirts: “I Survived G20 Saturday”

Who would be wearing these t-shirts?

  • The police whose cruisers were set on fire;
  • Peaceful protesters who shouldn’t be lumped in with the minority of those who resorted to vandalism and wanton destruction and drowned out everyone with legitimate causes;
  • All the brides and grooms (including mine) who were married yesterday in downtown Toronto amidst the colossal inconvenience of the G20;
  • All the vendors who had to work through it, just like any other Saturday, but with 10x more hassle;
  • The baby of the Maid of Honour, who fell off the church pew during the ceremony…

… but especially the baby — she didn’t even wail!

Carassauga 2009: May 22 Preview

I’m posting this on the run to event #2 (Wings & Wheels – aviation show), wishing I could clone myself to cover the three events I’m trying to attend this weekend:

Carassauga
Wings & Wheels
Doors Open

I shot 2.3GBs of photos last night at three pavilions — Philippines, India, and Egypt (the stage lighting requires major editing, so no photos yet) — and here’s a small preview before I head out the door:

GEF_8915_edit

GEF_8951_edit

GEF_9067_edit

GEF_9149_edit

GEF_9125_edit

(Got lots of video, too, but haven’t had time to download those yet. So much fantastic dancing! Can’t wait to show you!)

The Photographer’s Right


Gail at work by AviatorDave

Yep, that’s me. I was taking photos of the St. Patrick’s Day parade last Saturday, and David was up one floor in a parking garage, sniper-like. (As if I would add to the paranoia of the American public! He did get some good shots of the parade, until an attendant told him he couldn’t take photos up there, but gave no real reason why not.)

Which brings me to my next question — what are our rights to photograph? Here in the U.S., I’m in a minority camp as far as I can tell. I participate and read discussions in Flickr about the right to photograph something or somebody — accidents, people, situations — and whether an image in the public eye is within one’s rights to capture. Compared to the rest, I’m not aggressive enough. Maybe I’m too shy, maybe I don’t think the need to photograph exceeds general courtesy where people are concerned. I commented in a forum about a photograph someone took of an accident. There was nothing particularly artistic about this photo, and he said both drivers looked fine — it was just a fender bender. I said there didn’t seem to be any purpose served in posting such a photograph, since it was just a picture of two bunged-up cars. I suggested that he might take it to the local police station to see if it would prove useful in an accident report, then David informed me that photographs are not admissible as evidence in court any more. (Later in that thread someone dug up a report stating NO recorded image or data is admissible, including audio.)

Counter to my idea of intent determining the action of taking and posting a photograph, the other arguments in this discussion centre around the idea that you can take photographs of whatever is public. It’s all fair game. There are many instances of people harrassed by authorities for taking photographs of such things as bridges after 9/11, and for that I agree we’ve given up too much freedom for the sake of H*meland Security bureaucratic measures that amount to bugger-all. No, I’m talking about people hiding in the bushes near the homes of famous people, or taking photographs of death and destruction when a person could be helping in an emergency situation. Rubbernecking, basically. I would make a terrible photojournalist, because photography just isn’t THAT important to me. It would take nerves of steel, and I just don’t have them. If someone doesn’t want me to take his or her photograph, I won’t even ask twice. When I look at tabloid magazines, I can’t help but think, “Who’s buying this rubbish?” or “Do unflattering photos of total strangers make people feel better about themselves?”

I realise there’s a huge grey area for photography in terms of privacy, responsibility, and what constitutes the public domain. But I don’t know sometimes if I’m concerned with respecting people’s privacy or inadvertently acknowledging a level of paranoia heightened by media. (What makes the news? Shootings, sex crimes, stalkings, voyeurism, break-ins… it’s a wonder people get the nerve to leave the house after watching the news. We are BOMBARDED with negative imagery every single day!)

I will admit I have taken photos of people covertly, such as people looking at art at MoMA in New York, usually with their backs are turned, but I don’t make a practice of it. I’m very reluctant to take candid photographs of children unless I get their parents’ attention first and get some sort of confirmation that it’s OK for me to photograph them. I’m not posting to Flickr photographs of my own nieces and nephews in the bath, and I’m thinking of even pulling all the kids’ photos off Flickr and this website, or making them available to family only in Flickr, just to cover myself. Is this extreme? I don’t know — I find this country rather extreme at times, so maybe I’m just acclimatising.

In a couple of the threads I mentioned, someone posted a URL to a guide called “The Photographer’s Right”, by Bert P. Krages II, Attorney at Law.

Your Rights When Stopped or Confronted for Photography

On the page is a link to a downloadable guide in PDF format that is loosely based on the ACLU’s Bust Card and the Know Your Rights flyer, which is worth having a look at and printing for future reference. I don’t know what the equivalent would be for Canada, but there’s a link to a UK guide on that site.

As far as the guide’s pertinence to me, I’m less of a street photographer than a still life photographer, but I imagine my inclinations will change over time, and involve more people than inanimate objects. I’ve been reading about bans on public transit such as the New York subway with much interest. I perhaps don’t exercise my rights to the fullest extent of the law — if someone tells me not to photograph, I don’t even question it. My ambivalence towards the weight and balance of rights versus personal ethics will no doubt codify the more photos I take of people in broader contexts.