I’m soooo behind on, well, pretty much everything. Especially posting a new blog post! The problem was I had these two ideas pinballing around in my head, and I wanted to work on both of them, and therefore couldn’t focus properly on either of them. So I finally forced myself to just pick. one. damn. topic. And sit down and write it. So here it is.
The title I’ve chosen for this post is in reference to the quote by Ansel Adams; “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” I’m not claiming to be on his level of geniosity (is that a word? I think not). All hail the King of black and white landscapes and all that. But every photographer should take heed of his words. Even when you’re in creative crisis. Especially when you’re in creative crisis. There is nothing that will get the creative juices flowing faster than being forced to think outside the box. Particularly if you’ve gotten quite comfy in your little box. Which is probably a good explanation for why my “style” of photography seems to be all over the map. Every time I find myself in search of my ever-elusive phojo (photo-mojo), I present myself with some new challenge to tackle. It’s not always fun, in fact, sometimes it’s a downright drag, but before you know it, I’m back in the groove and suddenly find myself with a shot that I’m immensely pleased with, and is completely out of my realm of “comfort”, as far as shooting goes.
This is why I’m (slowly) working on what I call my “52 Blocks Challenge” right now. Here’s how it works: I live in the (rather beautiful) city of Vancouver. I’m surrounded by amazing photo-ops – the North Shore mountains, the ocean, the highrises, Stanley Park, you can even see the yearly Celebration of Light fireworks in English Bay from my balcony. It gets pretty easy to get complacent about capturing a shot. But I don’t want to capture the usual “touristy” shots of Vancouver. I want to present it in a different light. Capture all the unique, little things that I see on a day to day basis that I think are beautiful, and amazing, and that the typical tourist either doesn’t have the chance to see, or wouldn’t necessarily notice if they did.
So, yeah, back to how it works. I went on another one of my tangents there, didn’t I? The premise of my 52 Blocks Challenge is this: I start the first block, the first week, within a block of my apartment. I have to find something within that first block, and, essentially, “make” a photograph of it. A piece of art, if you will. Sometimes you won’t, as art is all very subjective, isn’t it? The next week, I can move one block over, but it has to be connected to the previous week’s city block. The third week – same. And so on, and so on. Until I’ve reached 52 blocks. And you can’t backtrack and use the same block twice. No matter how photogenic one particular block may seem the week AFTER I’ve already shot it. Make sense? I hope so, because I can’t explain that again.
Already (I’m four blocks in now), I’ve grown frustrated with the boring scenes I’ve encountered in some of the blocks. I find myself taken in a direction, geographically speaking, that I didn’t want to go in. I was hoping this challenge would lead me down towards Gastown and East Van, where there are all sorts of interesting sights to capture. But, following my own rules, I seem to be headed in the completely opposite direction. This is where it becomes a challenge. Sometimes a whole block of high-rise apartment buildings doesn’t present much in the way of photographic opportunities. I find my best luck seems to be cruising the backalleys. In fact, some of my most popular images seem to be ones I’ve captured by happenstance in Vancouver’s oh-so-interesting backalleys. This morning I went out to shoot Block Four (seemed right to capitalize that) and came across a vintage travel trunk and took some shots of that, but got all distracted because halfway through shooting it I realized what a great toybox that would make for my little girl, and, as luck would have it, that was on my To Do list today – pick up a toybox for my daughter. So there I am, lugging home someone else’s trash, which has now become my treasure – shooting forgotten for the time being. So I went home, arranged all her toys just so in it, to surprise her upon her return home, and then realized I STILL hadn’t gotten my Block Four shot. Back out I go, in the evening this time. Ended up in the alleys again (no big surprise there) and came across a wonderful little “Teapot Garden” that some artistic soul had created outside their ground floor apartment window. Collecting little teapots and stringing them up along the chain link fence beside their building. They’d planted flowers in a few of them. How charming. How quaint. How very Vancouver.
These are the scenes I love to capture. To “make a photograph” of, so to speak. Not the picturesque white sails of Canada place, not the artistically contrived Granville Island scenes, and definitely not the oft-photographed steam clock in Gastown. Yes, those are all iconic symbols of my fair city. And they certainly speak of our culture, our heritage, and our history. But those little hidden gems, like the Tea Garden (as I’ve dubbed it) speak to the very essence of Vancouver. We’re all crammed into our teensy weensy little boxy apartments, living in what we like to call “The Best Place on Earth”, wearing our yoga pants, drinking our lattes, eating our quinoa, and swearing at the seemingly constant construction blocking the traffic outflow in every possible direction out of downtown Vancouver. But we’re creative souls at heart. And we take the tiny little space allotted to us, and make it our own. We put our own little stamp on it. And these are what I want to capture and show you. I hope I can do it the justice it deserves.
Sidenote: the shot I’ve included in this post is not part of my 52 Blocks Challenge, but it WAS another random Vancouver alley find. And it’s what I love about this freaking city. You find the most stunning beauty in the most unexpected places.