Sunday, December 12, 2010


If there is a God, I'll bet he or she has a pretty good sense of humor. Actually, for the record, I do think God exists. As a matter of fact, I think the evidence is incontrovertible. I am not convinced however, that God has any interest in our lives. But if I'm wrong about that and He or She does have more than a passing interest, it must be quite a show, watching all these self-centered idiots making a hash of things.

I think that mankind has a single all pervasive challenge, the answer to which will provide a solution to all our problems. We must learn to honor, value, cherish and protect life. I know that sounds trite but I am convinced it's as simple as that. If we truly honored life in all its forms, our problems would soon be resolved because our priorities would completely sort themselves out.

This has been brought home to me by a rather small, innocent creature whose life has become central to mine, our dog Meesha.

OK, I understand that you might want to stop reading now and click off to some other place that is more interesting. Frankly, a few months ago, this would be exactly what I would have done as well. But, things have changed for me and I see things a lot more clearly because of this little dog.

Meesha is a rescue dog. She was brought to our door by Sasha, a woman from one of the rescue organizations that Gaetanne found on the Internet. It was obvious she had been abused in some way, she was extremely skittish and needed a lot of room to settle down. Sasha explained to us that Meesha had a difficult time with men and it seemed that whatever had happened to her was at the hands of a man. That much became very clear over the next few days as we began to get to know each other.

At first she would not come anywhere near me and it was a full three days before I even got to touch her. It was quite a while later that she became comfortable with us, and especially with me. She is quiet, loving, intense, respectful, compassionate, caring and of course, fun loving. She lives each minute intensely in the way that dogs seem to do. She has a sense of humor, she smiles a lot and loves to run. Meesha is very stubborn. She stops at times for reasons beyond our understanding and won't move. She loves to ride in the car and feels very secure there it seems.

Over time, we have discovered clues to her past. This included the day that a friend of ours came to visit. As he walked in the door, Meesha erupted, barking and showing her teeth. He was holding a rolled up newspaper.

Another time, we were playing together and instead of throwing the ball, I kicked it. She stopped dead in her tracks and looked at me like I had committed a crime. She realized pretty quickly that I meant no harm but it was a very intense moment.

But now we are pretty close, we hang out together and trust each other. She sits in my lap when I invite her and sometimes I watch her sleep. She dreams and I wonder what they are about. She yips and twitches and seems so vulnerable. I don't understand how anyone could ever have been cruel to her. She gives me peace and I am a better person for having her in my life.

As for God, well, that's the question isn't it? How could there not be a God when there are such beautiful creatures in the world?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gerry and Michael

A stroll on the beach at Jericho with Michael, my sister Gerry, Gaetanne and Mischa. Heavy skies and sprinkles of rain. Warm hearts and good feelings, a few quiet moments before the drive to YVR and a long flight.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Michael Kusugak - Author

Michael is dedicated to the preservation and proliferation of Inuit culture. His books are based upon the legends, stories, and personal histories, given to him in his youth by his parents and elders. He is the author of seven children's books, including; Northern Lights: The Soccer Trails, winner of the Ruth Schwartz Award; Hide and Seek; My Arctic 1, 2, 3; and Baseball Bats for Christmas; and was co-writer of A Promise Is a Promise (with Robert Munsch). He recently won The Vicky Metcalf Award for Children’s Literature. His most recent works are; Curse of the Shaman, A Marble Island Story and The Littlest Sled Dog.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Remembering the Olympics

A year ago, I never would have imagined that I would be saying this but I miss the Olympic spirit that we had in Vancouver last winter. It was amazing to see the change that took place in this city over those two weeks.
I admit, I was very skeptical of the whole thing. It seemed like an incredible waste of money. The cost of hosting those games was far more than anyone will ever admit to. How can we ever tabulate the cost of shutting down the Cambie bridge for over a year? The traffic jams themselves were beyond estimation. Thousand of cars, idling in traffic for all those hours, how can anyone estimate the impact of the closures? How much CO2 was expended in those lineups? I shudder to think of it.
But, when it finally all came together, I have to admit that the transformation was undeniable. I have never experienced anything like it before. Riding the bus to work was a pleasure! I met so many people. It seemed that everyone was feeling the joy and excitement that swept into the city with the games.
One night, I was on my way home from work. It was during the Canada/Russia hockey game, and this woman who must have been in her seventies reached across the aisle and touched me to ask if I knew what the score was. We wound up talking for the rest of the trip and she told me that she was a volunteer who had been assigned to security! Now this lady was not a large woman at all, as a matter of fact, she seemed a bit frail to me and I asked her what she was doing in security.
She proceeded to tell me that her job was to ask people to pour out their liquor on the street. She said she was very nervous about it initially but to date she had told almost 30 different persons that they had to dump their booze and she had never had a problem. As a matter of fact she said that most laughed as they did it!
Every day I met someone new who had a story. Every time I stepped out of the house, or walked into a bar or a restaurant, or stepped up onto a bus, I felt that unique feeling that I wish I felt every day. It was a great time and I miss it!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Robert Title

The Photographer.
Robert was shooting from inside the room which momentarily transformed to become the inside of a larger camera. The curtains became a shutter, the camera, a lens, and he became his own emulsion.


Tofino, Canada's west coast and a chance to get away for a while, a time to focus on making pictures and listening to the ocean. This is Robert Title on the beach, our third photo expedition together.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Henry Nolla - Sculptor

Gaetanne and I met Henry on a trip to Tofino. She was walking on the beach and saw this rather strange looking hippyish guy walking on the beach. His hair and beard were blowing in the wind and he was quite a sight. She approached him and asked if she could take his picture. He asked if she really was a photographer and then invited her to come over to his studio. When she asked where it was, he pointed to the Wickaninish Inn! Upon further query she discovered that his studio was actually next to the Inn, just off the beach. Apparently he is their resident artist and much of the wood carvings, poles etc around the Inn are actually his. While we were there, I asked if I could do his portrait on my Hasselblad, he seemed nervous but agreed to let me photograph while he worked. This was the only frame where he actually looked up at me.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Maurice Leduc - WW2 Canadian Army Veteran

Bon Papa, as he likes to be called, is a hero. He fought in Europe during the Second World War after landing on the Normandy beachhead in June of 1944. His outfit drove trucks carrying food and supplies to the front lines in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. He carried survivors from the concentration camps back to what remained of civilization.

Maurice met the love of his life, Adrienne, in Belgium in 1944. It was love at first sight for Maurice who often tells the story of the first time he Adrienne when she was decorating a Christmas tree. Apparently he whistled at her and without turning around she said "Oh, that must be one of those Canadians!" They were married on December 27, 1945, as soon as the army would allow it. After the war, many tragedies and much adversity, Maurice and Adrienne returned to Canada where they built a life for themselves. They recently celebrated their sixty-fourth wedding anniversary. Adrienne and Maurice have five children, seven grand children, and three great grand children. Bon Papa walks several kilometers every day, he always has a project of some kind and always does his best at whatever he chooses to work at. He's returned to Normandy every year since I have known him, to honor the men who landed on the beaches in 1944.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Adrienne Leduc - Author

Adrienne Bruynings was born in Baarle-Nassau on the Holland Belgium border in 1924. When war broke out in Europe, the Bruynings family was living in Herentals in Belgium. In December of 1944, she met the young Canadian soldier Maurice Leduc whom she married on 27 December 1945. She moved to Canada with Maurice in 1956 and now lives in North Vancouver where they recently celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary.
Adrienne wrote Antione - Coureur de Bois (Septentrion, 2008) over a fifteen year period characterized by intensive research into the genealogy of the Leduc family and early Canadian history. Originally published in English in 1992, the book has now been translated into French. Mme. Leduc has also written articles for Reader’s Digest, The Beaver and in Le Viquet and Nouvelles Racines in France.
Adrienne is also Gaetanne's mom. She is one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I have ever met.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Toni Onley - Artist 2003

I met Mr. Onley at the Delta Airpark on a warm July afternoon. The Delta Airpark is a unique airfield. It is a grass strip with roots in the early days of aviation. You can walk out onto the field and talk with the pilots as they work on their aircraft.

When I arrived Toni had just rolled his beloved Buccaneer out of the hangar and was planning to fly to Painter's Lodge for the weekend. I think he liked that I was using a 4x5 Speed Graphic. We had very lttle time as it turned out, he struck this pose and seemed content to chat for a moment as I set up.

The following year Toni died from a heart attack while he was doing touch and go landings on the Fraser River. He was an exceptional individual who lived his life to the fullest. I was honored to meet him. His paintings for me, have a spiritual quality that speaks of the unique perspective one gets from flying above the great Canadian landscape.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Vince Fairleigh at The Hollywood

The Hollywood Theater is without doubt one of my favorite places in Vancouver and I must say that Vince Fairleigh is one of my favorite people. Vince's family has owned the Hollywood for over 70 years and to celebrate their 74th anniversary we did Vince's portrait outside the theater. Normally, I would have shot this on 4x5 but I was very commited to this idea and just don't have a lens that is wide enough. So we shot it digital on the 5Dmk2, a wonderful camera in it's own right.

Vince is also a very talented Nisga'a artist whose work can be seen at the Anthropology Museum at UBC. Last summer he was thrilled to meet the Emperor and Empress of Japan during their visit here and his always smiling face was more radiant than ever. And I have just learned that he is going to be the artist in residence during the Olympics.

I always think of merchants as the face of the city, Vince is one of the best...