Adventure: Toronto Santa Claus Parade

Photographing the Toronto Santa Claus Parade

It’s almost Christmas! So it’s time for a sort-of Christmas themed post!

A few weekends ago I went to my first Toronto Santa Claus Parade! It was actually the first one ever created. It started in 1905 and is still going strong! It was pretty cold and by the end my toes were numb but I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the marching bands and drumlines–I am a huge marching band/band/drumline dork so that was great! We were in a perfect spot, not too many people, and so I got to play around with my camera.

It’s so important as photographers to also shoot for yourself, and I like sharing these types of photos as well as the photoshoots; these are just another facet of my photography! Enjoy! 🙂 Remember to go out and take photos for fun too!

 

 


My Favourite Photographers: Fred Herzog

It’s been awhile since I managed to write about another of my photographic influences (like… 5 months). As I say in almost every blog post: school is crazy! Life is crazy!

Just to recap: I started these blog posts because all photographers have their influences. For me, it’s important to talk about and share those people throughout history who have inspired me. My first post about Vivian Maier explains my feelings in further detail!

 

Who is Fred Herzog? 

Fred Herzog was born in 1930 in Germany, but had to be evacuated as a child during WWII. His parents died during the war and he found work on ships until he emigrated to Canada in 1952. He moved first to Toronto, then Montreal, and finally Vancouver. He primarily took photographs of Vancouver, BC; this might be why I feel such a strong pull and connection with his photographs, since I lived in Vancouver for 6 years! He is a street photographer and I love his ability to capture remnants of Vancouver that are no longer around, particularly the infamous neon light signs on Granville Street.

Photography

Fred Herzog’s street photography focuses on working class people and their environment, primarily the city. He worked with slide film, in color, which somewhat limited him from exhibiting since most photographers were shooting in black and white. He hasn’t been recognized really until the 2000s, despite his prolific work since the 50s. Unlike Vivian Maier, who I talked about last time, he did not include himself in his photographs or take many self photographs.

His photos do not need people in them; he also takes photographs of buildings and streets, the echoes of humans and their movements in all of his photos.

A lot of his photographs are portrait, or vertically shot. I find this absolutely fascinating. It helps in numerous occasions: to define the height of the buildings and make the photographs feel like you’re walking down the street; to get most of the body of a person when he shoots; and captures most of posters, windows, etc. Going through his photographs you’ll definitely notice an affinity for vertical photographs. Just a little tidbit!

Why Herzog is a Favourite

I find that Herzog is an astute photographer, able to capture and see humanity no matter where he is or what he photographs. These shadows, these traces, these small glimpses, are what draws me in to Herzog’s photography. He also takes many photographs in Vancouver’s Chinatown, which is my favourite part of the city!

 

I love when he photographs people but just as much I enjoy his photographs of light, shadow, and color. The way he uses architecture to create photographs is something that I am fairly certain I’ve taken and run with in much of my street photography. There is nothing I love more than a good staircase or doorway that tells the story of a neighborhood or building. Herzog’s photography makes me see and feel just how important location is to a photograph. His work also makes me yearn for an older Vancouver I never knew, but feel like I do at the same time… somehow?

The colors are so rich (Kodachrome!) and I love how even when he takes photos of empty street corners it feels like someone has just turned the corner, their arm or leg disappearing just out of frame. Herzog has a natural ability to capture the bones of a city, the essence of a time. Going through his photographs is like going back through time. I can’t get enough of them! I even have some of them hanging up on my wall and they act as daily inspiration.

 

Who are some of your favourite photographers? Who do you find inspiration from to take photographs or to appreciate a good view? Let me know in the comments!

 

All photographs taken from the Equinox Gallery website.

More resources on Fred Herzog

Books:

Fred Herzog: Modern Color


Technique Tuesday: Setting up a Photo Exhibit

Earlier this month I got the chance to hang some of my photographs up at Mitzi’s Cafe in Parkdale in Toronto.

Please ignore my weird half-closed eye and look at the photos instead.

It was a bit of a whirlwind and definitely a learning curve for me, as I haven’t done this before and it was all done in the span of 4-5 days! This includes choosing photographs, buying frames, and getting practice prints and real prints done on time.

However, it all worked out in the end (with a few obstacles that were overcome). It was so exciting to take my visiting parents there this weekend and see my photographs surrounded by bustling crowds in the cafe! I felt really proud of what I had done, and more than anything it made me realize that I would love the chance to show more work.

I thought it would be interesting to make a blog post showing some of the process (I documented it all with my phone so that I would remember!) as well as some of the issues.

1. If things go wrong, that’s okay

The afternoon of I realized that three of my frames were broken, probably from earlier in the day when I had had to carry all 8 onto the subway and someone pushed me into the garbage cans–cool, thanks person. However, I didn’t realize until only a few hours before I was to put them up; PANIC. Luckily, I had time to race to Michael’s and grab new ones, however… there were only 2 stores in Toronto that had the ones I wanted, and they were both a bit of a ways away from the cafe.

2. If your plans have to change, that’s okay too
3. If it’s your first time exhibiting, make sure it is a relaxed place! 

I was infinitely lucky to have Sasha, the owner of the cafe, be the chillest man I have ever met. He was very kind and totally okay with many of the problems I had to attempt to deal with.

4. Bring a friend to help

Without the aid of my friend Erin, I would have had to somehow measure, level, and creatively decide how to hang 8 16 x 20 frames having never done it before. Luckily she was there to help me plan what would go where, hand me the tape measure, the level, etc. A lifesaver! It also helps so you know your idea is looking okay (or not).

5. Be prepared… like too prepared

I was naive and a bit cheap when I purchased the adhesives that I used to stick the frames on the wall. The frames are light! I only need one per frame! Easy peasy! Until the next day when a message from the cafe told me some had fallen off the wall. They were okay, but I decided to go in at 7 AM the next day and fix it.

Not only that, the morning I came in prepared, even more had fallen! I felt miserable and embarrassed. My hands kept shaking (!).

Then again, it’s all a learning experience. And now I am SO PREPARED for the next one! Tools are not enough. Overthink every step and be overprepared. You will not regret thinking of everything that could go wrong. I didn’t, and then everything DID go wrong (some other obstacles not mentioned for the sake of brevity).

However, I am so proud of the end result!

This set features 8 photographs from my time in Peru in 2012. I hope that these shots can share some of the experiences I had on the streets of Arequipa, Cusco, and in the north near Trujillo. They will be up until July 30th!

The Process

The first thing you have to do is see the space (or at least get rough measurements), envision your work, and think about how you can make it happen. Remember to plan it in stages, as all at once can be overwhelming… particularly when you have to do it on a short timeline! Breaking it up into small doable steps is possible though, and things mostly work out. 😉

Before I had frames or prints chosen, I went to the location and did rough measurements (like with my eyes only since it was a cafe that was open and had customers) of the space and took photos. Then I jotted out ideas of different framing and layouts. I ended up with the more classic exhibit layout, only because of the space, my budget, and symmetry.

Once I knew I wanted them all to be the same size, I had to decide which size with the wall only a memory and a photo on my phone. I made my own versions (with totally accurately sized images of course) and hung them up on my own wall to try and judge which I liked best. I went for 11 x 14 prints so that you could see them when you walked into the place.

So when I knew the print size and the idea of the layout in my mind, I went frame hunting. I ended up getting a simple frame with only one matte, because I liked the space it gave the photo to speak for itself. However it was time consuming to try and decide and figure out which worked with what. Then I had to traverse to the faraway stores that actually had the frames. Here is my dining room where I laid them out playing around with them. Guest starring my Swiffer!

This took awhile, only to gather the frames. In all of Toronto there were only two Michaels that had them. Again, with the help of my dear friend Erin, she accompanied me to the Michaels way out in Scarborough to pick up the originals (not including my detour to the Michaels up in York to get the replacements the day of…). This probably took up the most time/stress. Plus, 8 of these in one bag is SO HEAVY. The bag was ripped to shreds by the end and I was just hugging them desperately on the streetcar to keep them from falling all over the place.

I then got some test prints done to make sure they looked okay at the size. For these I went to Walmart as it was only overnight, cheap, and if they ended up looking awful it wasn’t a huge loss. Here I just taped it overtop the still wrapped frame to get an idea of what it would look like.

Once I was pleased I sent my photos to be printed at Downtown Camera, who–with a phone call from me sort of begging–managed to get them printed the afternoon I needed them, which was a day earlier than originally scheduled for the prints. What a great company!

Be sure to put up a label that has all of your contact info on it! I opted out of signing and dating my prints/mattes, as I wanted the photographs to simply be. This was my sneaky alternative in case anyone was interested in my work. Notice my lovely hand drawn logos…..

The setting up process is always a bit messy. Make sure to have pencils, a tape measure, a level, and your hanging devices. There will be lots of math, calculations, and re-measuring. It is a bit time consuming and your arms feel like jelly after but it is so exciting to be there and see your prints up on the wall, one by one!

So there’s my little blog post on how my Mitzi’s Cafe Peru photo set went up for the month of July, 2017; one of the most exciting/stressful/fun things I’ve done this summer!


Adventure: Canada’s Wonderland

Last weekend I visited Canada’s Wonderland for the first time with some friends. Although roller coasters and scary rides terrify me, it was still fun! I went to the water park, got a sunburn, and enjoyed the amusement park atmosphere. Best of all, I brought my camera with me and got to explore while my friends rode said scary rides. A bonus of living in Toronto is going to this place!


Technique Tuesday: What to Look For on the Streets

 

 

What is Street Photography?

Street photography–or what I also like to call documentary photography–does not necessarily have to take place on the street. It’s sort of a colloquialism that has grown out of the early 20th century when photographers traversed their cities and took discrete photographs of people living their lives in the city. It’s a way of capturing the candid world around you; people, buildings, relationships, quirkiness, sadness, humanity, and so on. I find that what many would call street photography also fits into other categories: documentary, candid, photojournalistic, etc. These are all along the same line and I use the term street photography to generally talk about photographs of the world around us. However, there is some debate that street photography can be more artistic than documentary-style… go with whatever works for you!

Despite not really marketing myself as a street photographer, it is one of my favorite things to do and I absolutely love it. It’s a passion project, for now. 🙂

PSA

HOWEVER.

There is a debate about the merits of street photography. It is seen as voyeuristic, preying upon the obliviousness of people on the street to snap a photograph you then use for your own reasons: in a show, in your home, to sell for commercial gain, etc. This is actually a concern and something photographers need to think about. The days of no ethics are gone; one must try to be as responsible as possible. I find that asking people for permission for a photograph does not necessarily take away from the ‘candidness’ of a moment; you can still get a great photo, a laugh, a dour look, etc. It does feel a bit weird though. I also know that I don’t like even my friends and family to notice my camera; you can instantly tell a shift in how they are holding themselves and acting. Unfortunately, this is a battle I cannot answer. Every photographer just has to try and do what makes them (and their subjects!) comfortable.

 

 

My Street Photography Woes; and Yours Too?

I have a crippling fear of being called out in public. I try to discreetly lift up my big ol’ camera and snap photographs from the shadows. Then I will try to look away inconspicuously, shuffle around, fiddle around with my camera. It is scary stuff, and I’m still learning. That’s why I wanted to make this post: what do YOU do to take successful street photography photographs? I would love to hear more tips!

So how do we get over this hump? My first suggestion would be that if you are interested in pursuing street photography ONLY, to grab a smaller point and shoot camera: such as a Ricoh, a Canon G-series, or Fuji. It’s still a goal of mine to grab one of these little babies. I am jealous of the Brownie era, when one could walk around with a camera box discreetly hanging from your side and take great street photographs. I mean, some of my favorites have been on my iphone!

Another is to just take photographs CONSTANTLY. Get used to taking your camera out in public. People may look at you and wonder what you’re looking at. They may avoid you. That’s fine. Just keep doing it! Take photographs of everything. I have usually 1 photograph I actually really like to every 150 photographs I throw out. That’s the magic of the digital era. Take them all of the time! Soon you will get comfortable and have no problem whipping out your camera when you see a great shadow falling across a group of people.

 

 

Another suggestion is to use an old film camera. I am blessed that my dad gave me his old SLR Nikon. These cameras are very discreet (well, more than the new DSLRs) and with a 50mm attached they take beautiful film photographs. Go out and try! I am a huge fan of film. Something about knowing there is a set number of exposures makes you really think about the positioning, angles, shapes, and expressions in your photographs. Nothing helps you perfect what you are looking for like film (sorry, interjected personal opinion).

 

 

 

 

What to Look For

So what do I look for on the street? Here are just some ideas to get you going!

a) light and lack thereof: shadows and shadow shapes make great photographs. Look up Henry Callahan for some beautiful examples of light and space in street photography.

 

 

 

b) angles. Building corners, leading lines, symmetry, poetry in shapes.

 

 

 

c) people. This is sometimes the hardest one to do. The thing is, many think you have to take photographs of people doing something interesting. That’s not the case. Many of the best street photographers of the early 20th century took photographs of people walking across the street, turning a corner, or talking to others. The ones with people looking directly into the camera are a bit of a different story: in the past, when people had brownies and other similar camera, they would often take a photo just at the moment the person looked at them and noticed the camera. We never see the moment after, which may include people getting angry, or asking questions, or leaving. It’s that second of realization. Again, today, it has to be a bit different. So how do we as photographers take street photographs of people without stepping on the toes of privacy? Questions, questions…

 

 

 

 

d) composition. Composition is SO important. Street photography is not just random snapshots of the street. Well, it kind of is! But out of the 200 photos you take, not all of them will work. The best ones are the ones that have a composition you like, whether it’s quirky, different, or the standard rule of thirds. Composition matters and the best way to get better at it is to just keep practicing! But I really do think composition and taste is so subjective. What I may see as a lovely stark shot someone else might see as boring… it really all depends, so just go with your gut!

 

 

 

 

e) action. I know I just said they don’t have to be doing anything, but sometimes they are. Try to capture those moments.

 

 

f) on that note, emotions of one kind or another. This delves more into the photojournalistic/documentary style of photography. However, I see them as two halves of one whole. They are different words and frames for telling stories of the candid world around us.

Those are just some of the things I look for. Try them out or try taking photos of what catches your attention: a used candy wrapper on a sidewalk, two people chatting on a park bench, the architecture of a particular street… Try to come at it from a photographer’s eye and just go for it! I am definitely still learning, so let’s all go get better together. 🙂

Summary

I love street photography: I love looking at it, studying it, learning about it, and taking it. The reason I love it, even with all of its problems, is that it’s a second snapshot of the world around the photographer. It can show viewers glimpses of cities, shadowed back alleys or graceful highway lines. It can show the dusty streets of prairie towns or the eclectic pile-on of urban streets to people that might not know it’s out there. We see people wearing clothes or expression we might not see elsewhere. I love just witnessing the world. When I walk or travel I am always staring, trying to absorb everything around me. Street photography is way to capture the world in a certain time period that wouldn’t exist otherwise. I can envision American cities in the 40s and 50s because some of my favorite street photographers are from that era. That’s the gift they’ve given us photographers today. I find that the more I do street photography, the more I start to see the world around me as possible photographs; a weird byproduct!

 

 

 

So go out, try to be a little sneaky (but not in an evil way), and take some photos of your city, your town, your community, your world! The first step to understanding photography is to take as many photographs as possible. And many of my favourite street photographs have not been the picture-perfect photograph. That’s the best part about street photograhy; everything is something.

 

Now go out and explore!

 


My Favourite Photographers: Vivian Maier

Welcome back to the blog!

Some exciting news. Along with my Technique Tuesday posts, I will also be starting up two new columns: My Favourite Photographer, where I go over some of the influences and inspirations I carry around with me, and Exhibit Visits, where I will be visiting photography shows throughout Toronto and writing about them. Since I now live in such a vibrant arts city I thought it was about time! I will be posting at least once of each per month, so expect to read a lot more of me! I am also mulling over a third, but it’ll be a surprise…

Along with these, I will also continue my standard blog posts about shoots, travels, and so on.

So let’s get started!

Why Favourite Photographers?

So why would I want to start something like this? Well, all photographers find inspiration in others’ work. When I lived in England about four years ago I took a class on American Photography, which encompassed many of the greats. I was amazed at the history of photography and how influential some of these photographers were without me even realizing it. It was sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly, sometimes tragic, sometimes hopeful, but all of the photographs told me one thing: that photography, at its core, is inspiring. And even to this day I frequently look back at old photography to try and really feel it. My copy of The Americans by Robert Frank is one of my most prized possessions. THUS, I thought it would be fun to write up about and share the work of some of those I love the most. Maybe it will encourage all of my fellow photographers to think about their influences and the type of photography that truly captures them!

Who is Vivian Maier

I heard about Vivian Maier probably five years ago or so when I saw a giant book of her photos on display at the bookstore I used to work at. Once I heard about her life and gazed at her photos for hours, I knew I was hooked. I frequently look through her photos just because it is such a treat. The main thing was: no one saw her photographs until close to her death, when rolls of film were found hidden away in a storage unit and sold to several buyers; however, none really evoked reactions. Only after her passing in 2009 did she reach popularity as one of the great 20th century street photographers.

Since her death, her photographs have reached international acclaim.

Vivian Maier was born in 1926. She worked most of her life as a nanny, which is evident in some of the photographs she would take of children and on walks with them.

Most of her life is a mystery. She moved back and forth between the USA and France. When she was in her 30s she took a world tour on her own and photographed the journey. Not only did she collect the rolls of film and photographs she produced but also piles of newspapers (some precariously high) and audio recordings of conversations with people she had photographed; a journalist if there ever was one!

 

 

 

 

Her Photographs

Maier had a sense of architecture, light, people, and the relationship between these three characters. Her photographs are some of the earliest that show what could be seen as the “woman’s world”, a world that–at the time–was not well-acknowledged. Her most well-known photographs depict the streets of Chicago in the 50s and 60s. I also like to think she developed some of the best first selfies. She played with the idea of people and the built environment, and also seemed to be interested in those who were down-trodden: many of her photos depict people begging or the working class.

 

Her work has been compared to the likes of Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, or Harry Callahan (some more of my favorites!).

If anyone is interested in learning more about the mystery that was her life, watch the 2013 documentary Finding Vivian Maier, which also helped generate buzz about her talents.

Why Vivian Maier is a Favourite

There is something absolutely timeless yet completely caught in time in Maier’s photography. What draws me in is her gaze, wondering what she saw and how she saw it. Knowing about her mysterious life and the sad slow decline it reached in the 90s and 2000s, it makes a person even more curious about her. She had such an eye for detail, such a natural ability to capture people and places, and yet to never publish or even make it known to people is such a heartbreaking detail in her life, especially as she grew poorer and poorer as she got older. Why not? Why not share these photographs?

Perhaps that wasn’t what was important to Maier. Perhaps just the act of photographing was enough. The people she stopped to photograph and talk to stay in your mind long after looking at the photograph. They all somehow manage to look suspicious, bemused, at ease, and bored all at once. Maier captures the humanity of her subjects, and the children she cared for make frequent appearances. In these instances we get to see familiarity and comfort. The streets of Chicago have their own personality, and I absolutely adore her use of light and shapes. Maier is a constant source of inspiration I keep going back to. I admire her for her bravery, her creativity, and also her ability to keep this quiet. No one needed it but her. And that makes them all the more magical and real to me.

Camera of choice used by Maier:

First: Kodak Brownie box camera with 1 shutter speed, no aperture

1952: Rolleiflex (throughout 3.5T, 3.5F, 2.8C, Automat, etc.)

 

 

 

 

 

All photographs are taken from the Vivian Maier website: vivanmaier.com

More resources on Vivian Maier:

-documentary Finding Vivian Maier (2013)

Books:

Vivian Maier: Street Photographer

Vivan Maier: A Photographer Found

Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits 

 

 


Engagement: Sarah and Mark

Grande Prairie Engagement

Well 2016 ended (literally, the last day of the year!) with an engagement session for Sarah and Mark in my hometown of Grande Prairie, Alberta. It’s a bit of a neat story. Sarah and I have known each other since we were probably 3 years old through play school and our older sisters being Kindergarten pals in school. We grew up making elementary art projects together, gallivanting around school playgrounds, and swimming in the pool (Sarah, being an actual pro swimmer, made her lap around the deep end much easier than me, flailing and bobbing like I did).

As time passed, we went our separate ways and haven’t really spoken for many many many years. So what a pleasant surprise to hear from her about photographing their wedding in 2017! I was so touched and excited and managed to meet up with them over the holiday, which was great! Sarah and Mark are so cute and lovely and were game for anything I suggested, even being jacketless in crazy falling snow and jumping on the spot to stay warm, sitting in the snow and wandering around in the forest. They bounce off of each other so well and are both so sarcastic which is honestly the funniest. They had me laughing like crazy! Hearing them tell me their stories was the best because I could really see and feel their love for each other and did my best to capture that in their photos. Here are some shots from their December 31st engagement session.


 

 


Adventure: Toronto Islands

Several weeks ago I managed to get a day off to take a few hours to go to Toronto Islands! Toronto Islands are a chain of islands just off of the shores of Toronto itself! You have to take a ferry to get out there. It has an airport, summer amusements, beaches, yacht clubs, and get this, some pretty cute old squashed houses! I wasn’t expecting them, for some reason.

I decided to go on one of the chilliest days in late October. I took a ferry across at 3:30. Despite the cold I made sure to stand outside and watch the wake of the boat and the giant city behind me getting a bit smaller as we got closer to the island. Because it’s the off-season, there isn’t much shelter there. So after 3 hours of wandering a bit (I only got through half of the eastern islands because I was taking so many photographs!) I was so cold it was time to hop on a ferry back! I wanted to make sure I got the sunset, and I definitely did. The Toronto skyline is a gorgeous site, I took too many photos! I will definitely be back to the Toronto Islands to check out all the sites I didn’t get to see.

The best part: walking around the back of the island and seeing Lake Ontario look like the ocean, a peaceful still mirror of the sky with giant maple trees dropping their leaves gently into the water.

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Adventure: Kensington Market in Toronto

This past weekend I decided to go outside with my friend Tamara and take a break from schoolwork to take photographs, explore, and learn new things about my neighborhood. I live not too from Kensington Market, which is this crazy neighborhood in Toronto. It originally started as a Jewish neighborhood where small shops started out of the houses; an influx of Caribbean and Chinese presence occurred after WWII and  it has now grown and evolved into a mish mash of great dining, cool little shops, vintage clothing, and intriguing bohemian Rastafarian-inspired places of enterprise. It can get crazy packed but it’s so fun to wander and just stare at people and stores and eat food! For example, I had the most delicious takoyaki (octopus balls) I’ve ever had, just from a little temporary stand in an alley. We also wandered down alleys, found cool graffiti, and all sorts of stuff! I’m excited to get to know this city better. 🙂 Any recommendations for places to go take photographs in Toronto, feel free to let me know!

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Adventure: Scarborough Bluffs

Well I recently moved to Toronto to complete my masters degree, and after taking a few weeks to settle in and get used to this new hectic pace I have (hint: I’m still not used to it) I decided I needed a day off! So I transited for 2 hours to the Scarborough Bluffs, which is part of a series of cliffs that run along the edge of Lake Ontario. I went to two parks: Cathedral Bluff Park, which is the high view, and the Bluffers Park Beach, below it (but it took an hour to get to!).

I discovered several things:

a) It’s beautiful!

b) There are still like four parks over there I want to explore

c) Life without a car is weird to get used to again. I ended up walking for about 4 hours altogether! Phew!

I hope you enjoy!

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