If you spend any time with me in a park, you'll know one of my favourite past-times is being around dogs. This week, it was a pleasure to hang out with the dear Gary Panter (yes, named after the famed artist). In between bouts of cuddling and ample walking adventures, we even managed to get a few quick photos before he left!
Google/Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs, in collaboration with Waterfront Toronto, is developing a major mixed-use innovation district through a smart-city lens along the eastern waterfront/Port Lands. Considering the vast extent of this undeveloped plot of land, right in downtown Toronto, expect BIG changes on the horizon, which will affect jobs, industry, transportation, accommodation, and infrastructure on a sweeping scale. To keep up to date on news and current developments, head to Sidewalk Toronto.
To sit down with Mary and Jen -- a retired Army nurse who served in the Vietnam War and a grief+bereavement therapist, respectively -- is a great reminder of the important things and much-needed inspiration on this Thanksgiving weekend.
As Mary aptly cheered when we clinked our wine glasses, "To everyone who loves us... and to those who don't: to hell with them!"
Happy holiday, Canadian pals.
Historically, the Jewish people have struggled through the centuries, suffering through an extended period of condemnation, crusades, and invasions, culminating in one of the worst human atrocities inflicted by Nazi Germany in Poland, during WWII. Since then, long after the war, being a Jew in Poland was still considered taboo, with survivors often concealing their religious and cultural identity, even from their own children.
In 1990, community members launched a festival of Jewish pride in Kraków; from this as a launching point, and with a fierce determination to tap into lost pride, the Polish Jews were finally granted social permission to take back the identity they'd hidden for so long.
Now, the festival with small beginnings has turned into a huge international event in Kraków, drawing tens of thousands of visitors in Kazimierz, the old Jewish quarter of the city, to celebrate the culture and diaspora through workshops, discussions, tours, dance, food, and contemporary music, building community, instilling self-dignity, and never forgetting the historical significance of this land and its people 70 years ago.
This is Overcome the Passive, my document of the Jewish Culture Festival.
I went from two weeks of meditative wanderings to getting off the plane and charging right back into rushed city life/shooting daily for TIFF. And though that's fun, I look back at this photo from Solsbury Hill, England, a couple weeks ago, and all I can think about now is getting far away from people and jammed streetcars and laptop-infested cafes and back to the slower pace again.
My teenage self would be aghast that I'm saying this, but... I'm actually missing small-town life!
I'm in Manchester, finally, and doing as the locals do -- hitting a cozy pub.
Coming to this particular drinking hole, solo, is particularly significant: if the rumours are true, this is the pub Deborah Curtis (wife of Joy Division's Ian) visited on her own in the '70s, but was denied service as it was unbecoming of a woman to be drinking alone.
We've come so far. This is for you, Deborah! ✊️🍻
PS. This shot involved my Fujifilm x100s, the timer, and me running frantically to the other side of the camera -- luckily, I nailed it the first time!
I call Pa today and he joyously tells me, "It's Canadian (sic) Day!"
My father happened to be born in a country where a brutal war occurred in his most formative years, where he lost both of his parents before the age of 6, and soon after suffered extreme child labour abuses and a cruel dictatorship in his adult years. There was no question that life in Canada was paradise -- a bounty of riches that a lot of us have... only by the sheer luck of having been born here.
My father was not legal when he landed in Quebec. Yes, there are rules. There are laws that protect and make a country function, prevent chaos. I'm, by nature, a rule-follower and often a stickler for adherence to these laws. But my father? He defied them all, and I wouldn't be here if he hadn't been such a bad-ass.
For newcomers, picking up and moving to a foreign land without friends, family ties, a guaranteed job, or knowledge of the language? It's tough. Yet somehow, they cobble things together, desperately trying to make things work, just to prove they can do it. And they do. My parents were some of the hardest-working people I've ever known. They didn't have the intellectual know-how to sit in an office and have a cushy life, but Canada, at the time, opened its arms to them, folks who may not have been desirable on paper, but who, through their own grit, could make a thriving, self-sufficient life and contribute to this country in their own unique way.
There isn't a Canada Day that goes by where I'm not constantly scanning my environment, recognizing that most people in my circle are direct children of immigrants or newcomers themselves. And then I recognize, well, that's silly of me: aside from the original keepers of this land, we're all immigrants, some of us with just longer history in this country than others. Does that make someone more Canadian than me or my father? HELL NO.
So today, I'm supremely thankful to my parents and for my friends' parents and grandparents, etc., for choosing this sprawling land as their settling point. And to Canada, for letting us contribute to the different shades that make this country what it is: because that's what this is about/aboat/aboot, right?
HAPPY CANADA DAY, ALL.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Kathleen Wynne, and Mayor of Toronto John Tory joined Waterfront Toronto's President + CEO Will Fleissig on Polson Street today to announce joint funding for a flood protection and revitalization program in downtown Toronto. With a combined amount of $1.25 billion from all orders of government, the project will "transform the Port Lands from a contaminated and underused industrial area to a revitalized downtown neighbourhood". See Waterfront Toronto for detailed info.
I didn't attend my own convocation, which I've been wearing as a badge of pride, much like the satisfaction I have of never having gone to prom. I was (and possibly still am) quite stubborn, and after four tiring years at my institution, jumped on a plane, hollered peace out, and got as far away as physically possible from both the event and my classmates.
It's odd, then, that I'm now an official photographer at the University of Toronto, shooting someone else's convocation, interacting with new grads, their family and friends. And from this, a surprising revelation: admittedly, I get a little verklempt, and there's a part of me that wonders if my parents needed to see it all happen, hear my name called to stage, just as a symbol of closure. On a selfish level, Lorne Michaels received his Honourary Doctorate that year, which, at the time, would've been a super big deal. And it would've prevented my smug ex-boyfriend from thinking I didn't graduate when I bumped into him the next year.
But no regrets: knowing me and any moment that requires dressing up and possibly wearing borrowed heels, I probably would've tripped and smashed my face on stage. I like to think I've lived a longer life because of avoiding it?
Yesterday was one of those super pleasant days, start to finish. Most credit goes to the beginnings in Regent Park, where I had the pleasure of chatting and working with the inspiring young shooters of Project Kids & Cameras, a children's photography workshop in the neighbourhood. Being the last class of the season, I was surprised how attentive they were through my chat. Also, their zest, curiosity, and joy of snacks was immensely contagious.
Had you asked me five years ago about doing something like this, I think the only response would've been a blank stare and head-shake, but as I continue to learn more about the photo world and editing, chugging online tutorials and using friends as practice subjects, I'm finding this new avenue of guest speaking at schools and programs over the last year is something I've valued immensely, and I can't wait dive in more, working with more classes over the upcoming year. ❤️📷
My father ordered har gow/siu mai at dimsum today... which was slightly shocking, as they aren't typically in his order repertoire. "I thought that food was just for me and gwai los (white people). When did you learn to eat that?"
His response? A simple, "Sometimes you change."
I laughed, but then, when the dishes arrived, he delicately poked his chopsticks into the har gow basket and sighed. "We used to buy these for Ma when she was sick."
I nodded. "Yeah."
And just like that, it all made sense.
That moment when you're posting old photos and realize that one of them includes Spike Lee in camo. I was giving myself a hard time about not noticing him at first, but as a contact on Facebook remarked, "I still don't see him. Must be the really effective camo."
The folks behind Girls Rock Camp Toronto launched their inaugural Rock Camp for Grownups at the Tranzac last month. Kudos to all of these amazing ladies for going with the flow and being absolute naturals in front of the camera!
TIFF's interactive digiPlaySpace returns this weekend with tons to keep the little ones (and their guardians) occupied, just in time for Family Day! As a young kid at heart, I was kind of jealous that I couldn't put the camera down myself and join in. Get in on the lights, movement, and sounds from February 18-April 23 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Around the world, the rural poor flock to big cities, seeking riches and opportunities of the raved paradise. In Peru, the city of dreams is Lima, an international capital boasting neighbourhoods like Miraflores and San Isidro, both twinkling with up-market sushi joints and pure west coast glitz. As with most promised lands, it's not the most welcoming place for the country immigrant, who, here, can only afford makeshift mountainside shelters in districts high in poverty and low on infrastructure and quality education, Pamplona and San Juan de Miraflores.
The cost of living in these cities demand that families find work... fast. For women and children, this is often as domestic workers, an industry known for sub-par compensation, sexual abuse, and excessive working hours that allow for almost no time off for family or even school.
In 2004, Casa de Panchita implemented a support network for domestic workers. Through workshops and an agency, they helped build a community, boosted self-respect, and assisted women in finding suitable jobs and employers. It was evident, however, that the more pressing need was addressing the universal disregard for child labour laws, and now the organization funnels a large percentage of resources identifying at-risk children, and working with them, their families, and the schools to educate, boost dignity, and provide opportunities for a better future. Through weekend education-and-play programs and newly built community libraries with popular after-school clubs, Casa de Panchita is working hard to support these children, in hopes of eliminating underage employment and abuse completely.
Finally got a chance to see Blind Date, the long-running improvisational stage show by Spontaneous Theatre. Pairing a trained improviser who plucks a volunteer from the audience as his or her "blind date", the 90-minute adventure dives deep into dating, relationships, and intimacy, and takes both the participant and audience on a charming and hilarious rollercoaster ride.
Originally catering to the heterosexual crowd, the show recently underwent a queer makeover, making its debut at Toronto's Buddies In Bad Times Theatre this autumn. Verdict? Absolutely wonderful and overdue. Kudos to creator Rebecca Northan and actors Julie Orton and David Benjamin Tomlinson for pulling this off!
Blind Date returns to the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto in June 2017.
You know those middle-aged women who see babies and immediately turn into Jell-O, mouths spouting an endless stream of infantile jibberish, phones filled with selfies with other people's children? That's me. But not with kids. I'm all about the dogs.
The great thing for someone like me is, thanks to my circle of dog-owning friends, I've entered a new world of fellow dog lovers, which has fortuitously landed me in an emerging career as a pet portrait photographer. I've been doing this for years and never once considered this "a thing". But it is "a thing".
It's only been a couple months since my first fundraiser shoot for Coveted Canines Rescue, which I'll admit I felt so unqualified for, but since then I've done some work with both Park 9 Liberty Village and Mars Pet Care, and I LOVE IT. Though it seems like fun and games, these subjects are adorable but absolutely challenging -- but despite having to keep their attention, getting them to stay still, or preventing pee or poop on the seamless and/or devouring all of my props, I can't think of a sweeter species to work with.
Dream job? Pretty much. And frankly, I can't get enough: if you're looking to get some private images of your pooch or your organization wants to hold a pet photo day, get in touch. COME ON, MAKE MY DAY: firstname.lastname@example.org
Norway's Royal Couple, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit are in Canada this week, here to strengthen relations between our two countries. Their stop at MaRS Discovery District yesterday, where they met with both Canadian and Norwegian medical start-ups, promoted discussion on start-up culture and investment in the innovation sphere.
Four years ago, I spent time with the Toronto chapter of Democrats Abroad, watching nervous American expats teetering on the edge of their seats, ultimately witnessing President Obama earn his second term in office.
Interesting what can happen in four years -- a woman has finally worked her way to the top Democrat ticket, albeit with administrative scandals and a sexist backlash in tow, challenged by a self-proclaimed Republican and entrepreneurial misogynist, who lacks not only political experience but the maturity and diplomacy required for the role of President, alienating people in his own party and substantiating and promoting close-minded, backward, inhumane behaviour.
Though elections are generally nail-biting affairs anyway, the campaigns leading to Tuesday's big event have unfurled a disturbing battleground, exposing the worst sides of modern society. Antagonism reigns, tempers and nerves on fire.
Dear friends in the USA: Good luck. The world is watching.