I used my lunch break today to drop by the Drop-In Centre. I’ve decided to stop my Saturday shifts, at least until the fall, and I wanted to tell Alberta in person. I just feel like I’m not fulfilling any of my commitments very well, so something has to give. As much as it’s the right decision for me right now, I still feel very sad. I’ve been going for two and a half years now, and I really enjoy the people there. Rick is usually the first person I see when I walk in; he always sits in the same seat at the same table, right next to the back door. He was the first person I saw today, and I felt a lurch when I thought about not seeing him for a while. While I waited for a moment to talk to Alberta, Mike called hello and then Paul and I talked for a bit. I had rehearsed a little speech for Alberta, and I gave it to her then. She said they’ll struggle along without me and they’ll never forget me. I was still choked up when I got back to work.

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Timothy Archibald has finished his book of Echolilia and it’s now for sale. He’s got some of the contents posted and it looks absolutely beautiful. Time to start saving my pennies because I really, really want one. Philip Toledano’s Days with my father was also just published as a book, and I also want to get my hands on that too. I love seeing work in print that I’ve already enjoyed online.

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On a lighter note, we went to my parents’ cottage last weekend to hang out with my sister and her husband and two kids who are visiting from the Dominican Republic. I was a very, very bad auntie and didn’t take any pictures of the kids. But I did photograph my mom’s band-aid solution to a broken screen. Literally.


And the very old lawnmower that my dad used to mow the sparse whisps of green that sprouted in a patch in front of the cottage. As far as I know he gave up on that when I was a teenger.


And Wing’s, which has been in the nearest town for as long as I can remember. Sadly, the General Store across the street from it burned down in my early teens.


the Alec Soth fan club

Pretty soon I’m going to have to rename this place the Alec Soth Fan Club. But give me one more post at least.

Carlos Loret de Mola was another participant in my workshop, and I think he’d be willing to co-chair the fan club with me. He recently posted about his experiences there, although I can’t seem to make a permanent link to that post. But it’s second from the top post on his blog right now. He took some pictures of me with Alec Soth.

Here is me trying to look blasé, like I sit next to Alec Soth every day.

Here I am again, still trying to look blasé.

Here I am a little bit drunk, trying to look like I go out every night for beer with Alec Soth and other awesome people after a couple of nice exhibition receptions. (This picture was taken by Reza, not Carlos.)

I’m still thinking about all the conversations I had. After I got home, American Suburb X posted an interview with Alec Soth from November 2009. And then another interview appeared, more recent I’m pretty sure. Both of them have nuggets that he mentioned during the workshop or during his lecture, so they’re definitely worth a read.

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I was going to blog about all the synchronicity I experienced during the week I was in Toronto, and all the soul searching I’m doing, but it was boring me to try to write it, so I’m thinking it would be boring to read. Maybe another time…


Today was my first time back at the Drop-In Centre in pretty much a month. It was good to be back. At one point, a man farted really loudly when he walked by. “Oops,” he said. I tried to pretend I hadn’t noticed anything, but the man continued. “I can hear that asshole talkin’ shit behind my back again.”

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Completely unrelated, this week I went through a bunch of photos from a shot about a year ago. And I found this picture, which didn’t make the final edit, but did make a shortlist. Suddenly I love it.


Clearly I am dumb. Or a really bad editor. Probably both.

my brush with the divine part 2

On Friday morning, I met a woman named Maria. Here is the result:

(Fingers crossed it doesn’t break my blog.) It’s my first time editing audio and sequencing with images, so apologies for all the roughness. I used Audacity for the audio, and iMovie for putting it all together, and if you have any suggestions for how to do it better, I’m all ears (and eyes). And ultimately, I think I just had more audio than visual material, but I didn’t feel I could cut a major portion out. Maybe in time I will feel differently…

my brush with the divine

Before I went to this five-day workshop with Alec Soth, I thought the only reason someone would cry from a critique would be if the comments were completely unconstructive or if the person being critiqued had ego-based expectations of being told they’re wonderful. Even when I cried on Tuesday, I tried to blame other life-related stuff for the tears and emotion. But I was wrong. I don’t think I can put it into words, but it’s something about the fact that who we are feeds into our photography.

Anyways, this week was a breakthrough for me on many fronts, not just photographically. It’s the first time I’ve left my family for more than a day and been completely by myself. I did go to Nova Scotia without them in 2008 but I travelled with a friend to get there, and stayed with friends I already knew while I was there. This was also the first time I felt truly comfortable in Toronto. In the past I’ve felt anxious or overstimulated or just out of place there, but a lot of what I experienced of the city this week just felt really good. It was such a treat to spend time without a big To Do list, just going wherever the day took me. I don’t think I’ve had a day without a To Do list in possibly years.

And I haven’t even mentioned the photographic breakthroughs. I think I’ve been feeling a bit blocked and dissatisfied with my work lately, and I’ve barely shot anything since we got home from South Africa. Now I have a new approach… it was an approach I’d thought of doing before but it was never the right time to try it. And let’s face it: learning new tools can feel pretty destabilizing and decidedly unfun. Anyways, Alec forced me to try out two new tools, and I’m pretty excited. I’m hoping to put together a little multimedia thing to post here, but first I need to learn how to edit audio.

Alec Soth is a really great teacher. It seemed to me that he very quickly understood something of what each of us is trying for, and he helped us each along our own path. And he’s also just so charming and open and generous and seriously funny. A few of us hung out with him all Tuesday afternoon, having lunch and then going out to Ward Island, which I’d never been to before.

Here he is having a moment on the island. I didn’t want to disturb him.

On Friday afternoon, a few of us also tagged along with Alec to check out The Mechanical Bride at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, which had some of Alec’s work. It was the first time I’d seen his prints on the wall, and they are SO beautiful. Bonnie Rubinstein, Director and Editor of the Contact Festival, took us through the whole exhibition, and it was great to hear how she pulled it together. I learned so much in that tour. Soth is having a huge show at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in September, and I’m seriously considering making a pilgrimage to see it. He’ll also be back in Toronto in October to give a lecture called “The Democratic Jungle,” which I won’t dare miss.

As human and down-to-earth as Alec Soth is, I really wish he’d smacked his lips or breathed through his mouth while eating or something; anything to temper my hero worship with some kind of irritation. But there was nothing. Even when we were all a little drunk on Friday night he was just lovely. Well — and funny, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy on all that.

He even signed my book with a sweet message.

This has been a once in a lifetime experience, maybe even life-changing. For me, it will certainly be photography-changing. If you’d asked me early Friday morning how the workshop was, I’d have said it was good but hard. I was still feeling ragged and confused, about photography and life, and I was a little disappointed to still feel such confusion. By 5 pm, everything had come together, and my answer had changed to the week being amazing. So what changed? It kinda feels like divine intervention. But I’ll leave the rest of that story for the multimedia piece… stay tuned.

Contact 2010

I finally had a chance to explore the CONTACT Festival website, and I’ve got a list of exhibitions I want to see. I have no idea whether I’ll actually have any time and/or energy outside of the workshop activities next week to see them, but I figure it’s good to try. One of the first exhibitions I want to see is at Gallery 44 with contemporary African photography.  (Huh. It appears Gallery 44 has a Flash-based site, so I can’t link directly to their description of the exhibition. So instead I’m linking to the page on CONTACT’s website.)

Right around the corner from Gallery 44, Jodi Bieber’s new work, Real Beauty, is being exhibited alongside Lauren Greenfield and Zed Nelson at the CONTACT Gallery. I think Jodi Bieber was one of the first South African photographers I discovered online, shortly after starting this space.

I’m also looking forward to Meera Margaret Singh’s show at the Gladstone. I think the Gladstone has a whole bunch of exhibitions on several floors, so it’s definitely worth a trip.

If I can, I’d also like to check out Finbarr O’Reilly’s work, and group shows, Subjective, In Her Presence, and REWind if I can.

So that’s pretty much it. I have to work today, then tomorrow I go off to the Big Smoke, sans family. I’m alternating between fantasies of luxurious evenings of solitude in my hotel room and fears of total loneliness without my fam. Wish me luck!