looking forward to a winter of shooting

The departure of summer always brings a new season of shooting abandoned buildings et -al. I always manage to shoot more as the temperature plummets. My heightened activity could also be a result of easier access, lax/no security/no one is going to be paying attention to photographers trooping through the snow first thing in the morning in the dead of winter…

I also love to re-shoot locations. One of my favourites, because it was close to home, accessible, vast, always changing and always under threat of pending demolition were the houses of High Park spanning Bloor St from Pacific Avenue to Oakmount Road. There were 13 houses in all and they were full of mystery and surprises. Some of the houses were empty and had been left pristine by the departing tenants, others appeared as though all but one or two tenants had actually moved out before the houses were boarded up with all their valuable inside and a few had basements filled with tools, business supplies and burst water pipes. The interiors of the houses were always changing as the seasons came and went, the window boards were nailed on and pried off and vandals, transients and squatters passed through, painted walls sweat and peeled to revel wallpaper, walls were defaced again and again, the abandoned items in the houses were ransacked for value and slowly destroyed…  Fires ate  two of the homes in 2011 and in the early spring of 2012, the Daniels Corporation finally got to tear the remaining houses down to begin development of another (*gasp*) condo.

I moved further West in the city and hadn’t been back to the site for a few years when I happened to be walking by during the initial stages of the demolition and I was curiously emotional about the fact that I hadn’t been back to snoop around and take more photos. I had though, taken exterior photos of the houses, (something I rarely do) most likely because I was trying out a panoramic camera. A quick stitch of the houses in winter are below.

Put the Needle to the Record

Wellington Destructor August, 2012.

I am in love with my new Rolleiflex E2. Not just because it’s a Rollei, my other TLR is a Minolta Autocord and it is an equally amazing photo machine that has taken many, many terrific, and sharp photos for me. Perhaps it’s because it’s new or that my E2 allows me to shoot without a handheld light meter, (it has a fitted light meter) or because I went a  little wild and accessorized the camera with a prism finder, filters (polarizer, UV, cloud, IR) and the like and it is just so easy to play with!

Although I was seriously disappointed with my regular labs developing of my film from the Wellington Destructor due to inadequate action of the bleach or bleach-fix that caused a muddy grey appearance on all my slides, (I am toying with the idea of dusting off my darkroom and doing it myself), with a little help from Photoshop, I was able to rescue a couple of the images like the one above. And although I know the slide itself isn’t perfect (i am hoping to repair my film), the image in my mind still delivers as I composed it.

Fisher Price was once a producer of well designed and built children’s objects and this turntable is a perfect example. It rolled off the assembly line in in the late 1970’s and besides some dirt it is still in near mint condition. Fisher Price could never match this product today. Instead we are left with quasi computer games for the TV that generally suck.  maybe I’m bitter and nostalgic, but a light weight, “portable” 1970’s turntable for ages 4 and up beats making photo albums with a giant 3 button console on the TV.


Revisiting: Abominations – The All Burma Students’ Democratic Front catalogue


Between 1997  & 1998 I lived in South East Asia, spending most of my time living in the jungle/border area between Thailand and Burma with the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF). I took hundreds, if not a few thousand photos all on 35mm film. I was a young female photographer living with a “guerrilla army”, extremely naive about global politics (I tried the internet to research Burma before going, it was pretty empty back then!) and on a self-funded trip with no press connections or the faintest idea of how to make any.

I returned to Canada in 1998, exhibited some of the images with Amnesty International at The University of Toronto, won a Young People’s Press writing contest about my trip that was published in Young Street (a syndicated section in the The Toronto Star) and then as time passed a few of the images became pieces in my portfolio and the rest part of the archive.

In 2006 I created these faux catalogue tear sheets for: Abominations, an exhibition curated by Ron John George Nelson at the VMAC Gallery. When I took these images of ABSDF soldiers in the frontlines, the boys and men in the photographs composed themselves as serious soldiers, the men of Burma’s future. They are some of my favourite photographs of my time with the ABSDF. When I took these photos I struggled with the idea that I was exploiting The ABSDF, their struggle and their existence for my own personal gain. Isn’t that what photographers do? The darker the image, the more suffering I could capture, the more important the image – right? I took them anyways. I’m glad i did.

These tearsheets were never and are not intended to mock the struggle of the ABSDF. The texts are a lampoon of the fashions of war, the end product an abomination.

Art made.

This is the text that accompanied the work in 2006.

The All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, (ABSDF) is a Burmese Students organization formed in 1988 with Burmese students who fled the country following the 1988 nationwide pro-democracy uprising after thousands of their unarmed comrades and friends were gunned down by Burmese soldiers while peacefully demonstrating on the streets. After the bloody military coup on 18 September 1988, the army started to crackdown on the demonstrators by arresting and torturing them.

Tens of thousands of students, high school pupils and even monks fled into the jungles situated near the neighbouring countries such as Thailand, China and India. On 1 November 1988, with the help of the Karen National Union (KNU), student leaders were able to form an armed group at one of the KNU’s Head Quarters Kawmoora (Wankha), situated on the Thai-Burma border. Their main purpose was to fight the ruling military junta alongside other armed ethnic groups for the emergence of democracy and freedom in Burma.

 Today, the ABSDF focus is on the dissemination of information and the delivery of food and medical aid to Burma’s displaced populations in the border regions and the hope for democracy and human rights in Burma.

The photos satirized in this series were taken between 1997 & 1998.