It’s been a very interesting journey for me over the past 3 to 4 years being involved with my book project “This Life Unseen” – photographs of everyday life in a small town. The book was released in September of 2015 and the exhibit for the project was an enormous success seeing hundreds and hundreds of people stopping by to have a peak at some of the images on display. The exhibit just closed on July 30th, 2016.
My personal feelings about the whole thing are as follows:
I am extremely pleased to see so many people in this small community take an interest in photography. I think this project has contributed to spawning a curiosity in what it is I may have been taking pictures of.
The feedback I have received thus far has been overwhelmingly positive not just from photographers, but also from people who just enjoy looking at images. People who have purchased the book seem to be very very pleased with it and are proud to have a copy in their collection. From my standpoint, I am very happy with the book, especially the sequencing of the images. It was quite difficult to choose which images would make the final cut, keeping in mind that they had to contribute to the overall feeling and help to record the story. I’m also pleased to have been able to include so many images while keeping the cost reasonable at 74 dollars for a book of this quality and content. And now that it’s done, I can reflect back on the effort that was involved both physically and mentally to capture the images and persist for 3 years with a difficult project. I know the images contained in the book will only be more valuable over time.
The only negative comments I’ve received have have been from about 3 people. These comments were all the same flavour saying that they were expecting prettier images or happier images. And one person even wished I had included a photo of the Kitimat snowflake monument located along highway 37. To that I say, “Well perhaps you could do a book that contains nothing but beautiful images and happy groups of people having fun for promoting tourism to the area.” The point was completely missed it seemed. The book was about the reality of everyday life as it could be witnessed by a visitor who spent a few days walking around. I wasn’t photographing events, or getting sponsored from the chamber of commerce, but rather just observing and recording what I saw. I found it interesting how some people’s versions of reality can be so different to what’s right before their eyes.
The exhibit at the museum and archives went extremely well. It was a good experience for me and a considerable cost outlay with little monetary return. However as I said earlier, I think it did a great deal to inject an interest in photography in the community. And I think it really opened the eyes of a few who weren’t expecting to see reality. I think for years, people of the community have been conditioned to have only paintings and landscape photographs that promote the beauty of the area on display. One of the functions of art is to stimulate thought…to provoke…and to leave the viewer somehow changed after they have seen the work. Indeed there were some in this little community who were not familiar with this genre of street/documentary photography.
This community needs an art gallery that is properly set up for displaying both analog artwork and digital media! The staff at the Kitimat museum and archives did an exceptional job working in a confined space with the limited resources they have been provided with. Seriously folks, Kitimat needs to start the ball rolling to replace the museum with a building that has more floor space, proper equipment, no stairs, storage facilities and modern digital archives.
The book will still be available for a little while longer, however I suggest that anyone who would like to purchase a copy, please do so sooner than later. At this point I’m running 2 websites at a considerable cost, and I’m not sure how much longer the book’s website will be up.
For more information, reviews, or to get your own copy of the book, please visit http:/thislifeunseen.com
Thanks to all for your help and support of the project.
For quite some time now, I’ve made a real effort to look inward…not just for inspiration, but for truth, for quiet, for clarity. I used to label myself as a landscape photographer and a wildlife photographer. But things have changed. I still get a tremendous satisfaction from doing wildlife and landscape photography, and yes, I will absolutely partake whenever the opportunity presents itself. But what I mean mostly, is that I think I’ve had to step away from myself in order to get closer.
I began to study the masters of photography. I even forced myself to try photographing the street, so I started a book project which I will finish in December of this year. Initially, I can remember not being able to see any value in it. But I kept going. I researched everything I could find out about well-known and well-respected photographers and to my amazement, many of them turned out to shoot in this documentary/photojournalist and street “style” of photography. I amassed a rather large collection of photography books and did my best to learn more about the history of photography. I wanted to learn from these masters. I spent many hours gazing at the photographs of Vivian Meier, Garry Winogrand, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Saul Leiter, Eugene Atget, and more contemporary photographers like Peter Turnley and Trent Parke. I suppose in one sense, I was looking for a different way of seeing the world. I no longer wanted to be trapped in a mindset of “pretty” images that were ripe to share on social media.
It was shortly after I began working on my project when I realized that I needed to change. And the change had to take place not in my situation or the setting of my small town, but in me. I needed to declutter. I needed to reprogram the way I interpreted the world. I needed to stop looking for amazing, pretty scenes with vivid colour, and find interest in the ordinary. In fact, I needed to de-program. I kept on, wanting to see this thing through.
What I’ve learned is that there is a beauty in all things. There are possibilities all around us including our own backyards. There is a truth in the mundane. There is a voice in the mute. There is colour in the dull, wisdom in the young, spark in the aged, and joy in the smallest of gestures.
I have learned to trust myself…to believe in what my eyes and my heart are seeing rather than what an extrinsic force wants to see. No longer is my motivation in any way dependent on building a social media platform. It’s a liberation of sorts to realize that the value of my photography is first and foremost for me! I wasn’t put on this earth to entertain anyone. And as an artist I certainly didn’t owe anybody any explanation or slideshow of instant gratification.
I have become a seeker of meaning in the mundane. And thanks to photographers like Harry Callahan and all the others who have come before me who dared to brave a new vision, I now think of myself as an artist. I listen to jazz like I’ve always done since I can remember. I enjoy cinema. I daydream. I enjoy the pause in a conversation. I even sleep in occasionally, and I continue to embrace my natural curiosity for all things. I look for poetry in the prose. But more than that, I think of myself as “just a photographer”.
Part of what makes photography so interesting is the stories behind the images. And sadly, we quite often post images without any real description or detail about the circumstances that led up to the acquisition. So I thought it would be good for me to share a few of my images from yesterday’s photography adventures.
There seems to be a very select group of photographers who enjoy taking images of birds. I think just about everyone has tried it at one time or another, but not very many stick with it. There’s probably a few reasons for that. Perhaps they don’t have a lens with enough reach, maybe they’re just not interested, or maybe they just don’t have the patience required. But there’s another very important quality that bird photographers must possess: a curiosity and willingness to observe their behavior.
I was off work yesterday so I had a little time to grab a few images. I always keep a sharp eye out for what birds seem to be around, and I had spotted these two in particular for a few weeks but just had not had the opportunity to photograph them. At this time of year here, there are only a few hours during the day in which the light is nice. And that’s if it’s not pouring rain. So I got my gear ready, did my homework on identification and sounds, and quietly observed what was going on in the woods.
As usual, there were lots of chickadees, juncos, and I even saw one appearance of a tiny warbler. I heard stellar’s jays squawking in the distance, Canada geese flying overhead, and the odd flap of a raven’s wings. I observed the quick Red-breasted nuthatch only a few times as he darted back and forth. And what I estimate to be about 100 meters distant, I could hear the woodpecker about once per hour.
Trying to predict where a bird will light can be quite difficult, so I had picked out a few spots and throughout the afternoon adjusted my exposure for each as the sun came in and out of the clouds and varied in intensity.
During 4 hours of photography, I only had one opportunity to photograph each of these birds as most of the time, they were either too far away, or in the case of the nuthatch, just wouldn’t stay still. And when I say opportunity, I mean a few short seconds.
Just like in landscape photography, sometimes things work out, and sometimes they don’t. But with birds, a little knowledge, lots of luck, and even more patience is the name of the game.
Bird photography may not be for everyone, because it’s not easy. But the rewards make it worth it 🙂