Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Our Crisis in Democracy

It has been far too long since I published my last post.  I blame this on no one but myself of course.  The truth is that I have been struggling with depression for many years.  I know I am not alone in this and feel that perhaps this is the malaise that is most prevalent in Canada and our dear neighbour, the United States.

I don't believe that moving to Gabriola has contributed to my depression but I do know that being retired has.  I thought my retirement as an earned freedom.  After working for close to 50 years, paying taxes to a faceless, demanding government, I felt this freedom was well earned.   I still do.

However, freedom can be "just another word for nothing left to lose."  I thought that my photography and my writing would carry me for the rest of my days.  I still do.  But I no longer see it as a financial support, this island is small and as remote as I would care to be.  The mechanisms to establish and develop a web presence are certainly there but I have no interest or energy for working in the isolation that seems to go with web based marketing when what is really needed is a personal presence.

Having a small pension is a blessing to be sure, but trying to live on it has been a struggle and a losing proposition.   I have watched my overdraft climb and my opportunities diminish over the last three years.  Moving to an island like this, at this time of life, has become a one way trip.   Yes, I love it here and I love this community, but the truth is, I can never move back to the city.   I simply can't afford it.

But recently, I found a job working evenings, three nights a week, in a local liquor store, for minimum wage.  It has been an enormous gift.    The few dollars that I make every month is more than money.  It is hope.  I'm slowly taking care of the debts that I have accrued over these last few years and have a rough plan for the long term.

Frankly, I have no complaints, my life is what it is and there is plenty in it to sustain me.

However, I was startled when a young man walked into the store the other day, just before the US election.

"You've been around for a while." he said.   "Do you know how I can eliminate my name from the voter's list?"

In further conversation he confessed that he felt our electoral system was flawed, that his vote had no meaning, that the government was comprised of megalomaniacs who cared not a whit for the common man.   Therefore he wanted to opt out.

When it became obvious to him that I thought he was making a huge mistake, he walked out.

A few days later, the Republicans won a huge victory in the midterms with a record low turnout of 36%.

That means that 64% of the voters declined to show up at the polls.

I am convinced that each one of those no-shows is convinced that their vote has no value.

I refer you to this article on Bill Moyers' site in response to this terrible situation.

There is little doubt that our Prime Minister is in fact, a Republican.   He holds republican values and is operating as if parliament is nothing more than a serious inconvenience to his ideology.

Elizabeth May describes this more eloquently than I ever could in this article from the Huffington Post.

In short, I think that we are all suffering.  I think that we have lost hope for the future and feel helpless against the big money that is destroying our democracy.

But we must not fail.  If every single Canadian voter took responsibility and showed up at the polling station with an concerned and informed decision on who would do the best job for this nation, our collective depression would evaporate, our economy would turn around and our values would be reflected in the policies that govern the country.

Well, maybe not, but it sure would make our democracy meaningful.   I can't believe that the majority of Canadians support the actions of this government.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Back in the City Again

Well, it has been a while but I am now back in Vancouver.   Not surprisingly, there have been a number of changes to the city.   Translink appears to be updating/renovating the Skytrain Station at Main Street and not every train stops there any more.  After four and a half hours of travelling I finally arrived at the Burrard Skytrain Station and found myself vaulting off the train as the doors closed because of an announcement that it didn't stop at Main.  I waited for the next one, same thing.  Hmm.   Third time lucky but getting out of the Main Station was an interesting experience as well.  Not difficult fortunately but a surprise none the less.

I was waiting for the number 19 bus to Metrotown when a Main Street bus pulled up, loaded a bunch of weary people and rolled away just as a chap came running full tilt swearing at the top of his lungs at the departing bus driver.  I'm sure the driver heard him but I'm equally sure that he was convinced more than ever to keep going as he seemed to accelerate rather quickly as he pulled away.   The man on the street stormed, stamping his feet and treating us all to his vast vocabulary of expletive phrases and epithets.  I wondered if it was really worth it and just how long his tirade would last when he stopped mid phrase to help an older lady who I am sure now, was deaf to his vocalizations.

Just then a taxi pulled up with two more seniors who did a remarkable slow motion scramble to escape the car while a BMW behind it exploded with sound as the irate driver leaned on his horn, gesturing wildly as he pulled around the taxi to complete his right turn before the light changed.  I had forgotten how angry a place this is!

My bus arrived and I got on only to find that I didn't need a ticket as the fare machine was broken and covered with a bag.  It almost made me happy until I realized that I had already spent the fare anyway to get there.  Oh well, I guess there are other things to be happy about.   Getting back home will definitely be one of them.

On the other hand though I am sitting with my dear friend Robert while his computer chugs away.  He is reading his book while I post this.   I'm sure dinner will be another adventure.  We're both terrible flirts!

By the way, Heather.  I walked from the Gabe ferry terminal to Departure Bay.  I hope that counts as my exercise for the day…

Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Lighter Load - Looking Back

Without a doubt, the most significant thing that has influenced me was my father's death.  I was eighteen at the time and he was a force, not a big man but a very solid guy.  He was a good man, a musician, he  never drank to excess.  He was predictable, had a sense of humour, and a strong sense of right and wrong.  He was an only child and wanted a big family but I think he was overwhelmed with the life that he chose.   We were six kids and pretty average for the time, three girls and three boys.  I was the eldest.

When he died our lives came crashing down.  The family crumbled and I was struck by the fragility of our existence.  People told me that I shouldn't try to step into his shoes but then they seemed to disappear.   I felt alone and, in very short order, a failure.

I was fired from my first job for going home when I should have been working.   The fact was that my mother was in a very fragile state and needed me so that I was torn between the job I loved and the woman who meant so much to me.   It was a terrible blow.

I discovered photography shortly after his death.  The phone rang one day and it was  Bob Goodall of Goodall Photo asking when my dad was going to come in to pick up his camera.  It was like a message telling me what to do.  I went to the shop, where Bob refused to charge me and gave me two rolls of Tri X.

It was February in Winnipeg, minus 20 and I went out to do some pictures.  I took them back to Goodall and got my prints the next day.  (I wish I still had those prints.)   Anyway, I loved them and felt that I had found my calling so I called my girlfriend of the time and told her I was coming over to do her portrait.   Unfortunately, the pictures we did were terrible and we broke up in short order.  I decided that once again I was given proof of my lack of talent and stopped taking pictures for the next six years.

Later on, I came back to it and have been devoted to it ever since.

Fast forward 40 years and I along with many others have an inventory problem.   I've gone through my prints, negatives and transparencies so many times, trying to sort the good from the bad, which is not too hard.   But the real challenge is the emotional attachment.   I have photographed my life, from 1974 to the present.   I have done many, many projects and pursued many interests over that time.  I have been through several relationships and still love each person who has shared a bit of their life with me.   My photographs aren't just an attempt at artistic expression, they are a record of a life that is unique.

Reviewing photos from the last four decades is quite overwhelming.   My dreams, the people I loved, the experiences I had and the places I've been are all recorded on film.   My innocence, my naiveté, reveal themselves in unexpected ways sometimes jabbing me in the heart or the belly.

In retrospect, I wish I had trusted myself more, believed in myself and my ability to learn.   My father's death introduced me to worry and I held on like a life raft in the ocean.   I seldom felt comfortable.  I felt like a fraud.

Over the years,  I have learned to trust my feelings and to share them when appropriate.   I have embraced each day, often in frustration at being part of the machine, trying to balance my priorities with my responsibilities.

I have sought help when I could and suffered when I couldn't.  In many ways I am rich and in others I am poor.  I live in paradise but I'm uneasy.   Most of the time, I feel like I am floating on a log, trying to keep my balance. And you know, I really don't think I am that unusual.  In our industrialized society, meritocracy is a sham.   I was faced with being a player or living a life.   I chose the latter.

My pictures are precious to me because they allow me to revisit the life that I have lived, to see myself with the compassion of an aging soul.   I realize that digital is the way now but I hold my prints, my negatives and my slides dear.   I have always written but unfortunately, I have torn, burned and thrown away most of my notebooks.

At 67 I am grateful to still be alive.  Many of my friends are gone, but they live with me still as pictures, slices from time.   I wonder what will become of them when I am gone.   I suppose the best place to store them is on the Internet as it is the only thing that I am sure will survive me.   But context is everything so I must write and continue to try to express the things I have learned, dreamed and experienced for anyone who might come after.

My hope is that we don't destroy the planet.  We seem bent on doing so at this point but I still have hope and faith that the generations to follow will cherish and guard this, our paradise, floating in space.

As we move to the post industrial age, I am reminded of a film which seemed prescient of our future.  Frankly, I hope not.   It is called "Silent Running" and should be on the list of required films for every human.  

The Oligarchy that is our world now, is based on the cold ruthlessness of wealth and power.   We have been sold a belief that consumption leads to happiness.   It does not.  Being in the moment, being the best that we can be, loving ourselves and our fellow creatures, developing compassion and generosity, these are the true paths to happiness.   The most joyful moments of my life all contain these truths and I offer them to you as the only real gift I have to offer.   Be well, dear reader, live your love and celebrate each day for it is a priceless gift.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Mini Folio

One of the best things about being a photographer is to occasionally look back through old work.   I have a wealth of it.  Sometimes it feels like a burden, at others it feels like hidden treasure.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Guerrilla Still at GIRO

Strange as it may seem, this is one of the things I used to love about doing weddings.  I called them guerrilla stills because I could only spend a minute setting them up and shooting them but I felt they were important.   I haven't done one for a while but it was really good fun...

Be An Artist!

Heather found this post card among her things the other day and, in the spirit of good humour, gave it to me.  Over the past few months especially, I have become excessively frustrated with my financial situation to the point that I found it difficult to do any art.  

My immediate reaction was to look for a job but Gabriola is not a flourishing economy right now and being 67, retired and occasionally grumpy hasn't helped either.  A year and many frustrations later I find myself trying to live in the present and not worry too much about the future.  Not an easy thing to do considering the state of the world, Canadian politics, the relentless corporate machines that seem to be dedicated to destroying the planet, and my aging body.

But I know now that the solution to my dilemma is in doing the work (see previous post.)   We must move forward with courage and faith, that whatever shreds of integrity we have left will be sufficient to carry us through.  

I say "we" because I know that I am not alone.  There are many many people who are in similar or much worse circumstances.   But I am always confronted with one question.  Is this what I have been working for my whole life?  I thought I was trying to accumulate enough  to survive over these remaining years so that I wouldn't have to worry.  You see worry is the one thing that I have lived with my whole life, that I have never learned to be without.   It is the weight on my back that makes each day a trial.  It is the greatest source of frustration to me.

Recently, I have been considering moving off-island.   I watch my bank balance slip into the negatives every month and I think that moving to a community with a more vibrant local economy is the answer to my woes.  But the more I look the more I am confronted with the realization that a geographical cure is no resolution.  The real answer is to do what I've always wanted to do.  Live within my means.

CPP and OAS provide enough to eat, to rent a room, to walk to the places I need to go.   But no more.  There is no room for the unexpected, no room for dental care, no room for eye exams and new eyeglass prescriptions.   A car is a luxury and possessions are too.  My savings, such as they were, are long gone.

So it's hard not to feel judgemental and self critical.  If only I had done this, if only I had done that.  Why did I decide to dedicate myself to something no sane person would ever choose?   What ever possessed me to move to an island?   On and on, and on and on it goes.

I have always been a rather introspective person and in the process of asking so many questions I sought the help of a therapist.   This was in 1988 I believe.  Anyway, she suggested that I write a description of myself the way I want to be but to write it in the present tense as if I had already achieved it.   Hmmm, I thought about it long and hard, decided several times that it was too difficult, at times I thought it was too dangerous to limit my ideas of myself to paper.  

But one day, on the bus it came to me, and I jotted it down in my notebook on the rather bumpy ride home.

The truth is that I have known from my childhood that I have always wanted to be an artist.  Art is my wealth and it is the wealth of this planet.  Good art survives, sometimes it dies, misfortune is everywhere.  But art is alive and well.  All the artists of the past are there to inspire every day and I admit that every day, inspiration is available in the form of art.  Art is why I can look forward to every day.   Coming to terms with that was a revelation.   This is what I wrote.

A well known and respected fine art photographer appreciated for his sensitivity and the uncompromising excellence of his work whose imagery has been widely published and is in great demand.

A compassionate and sensitive individual with strength and self confidence who expresses his feelings, ideas and love with clarity, purity and generosity.  A warm and sensitive lover who virtually glows with health and vitality.

A competent personal manager who lives a remarkably creative life, full of humour, comfort, love and passion.  He easily lives within his means.

A man whose contact with God provides him with a limitless source of energy, wisdom, truth, morality and ethics.

Well, as you can see, I have my work cut out for me.    I don't find anything easy.   But I do know what I want.   That revelation has served as a touchstone and enabled me to carry on over the years.  I am not particularly well known but there are those that respect me.   My work is not in great demand but I have not produced the kind of work that is a commodity either.  It seems I don't want to.  I don't care about trends, I only work on what moves me and I must be content with that.

I just had a glorious salad from a neighbour's garden.  (Thank you Rosemary!)   I live in a place that truly is a paradise.   I'm not comfortable yet but I have only been here for a couple of years and things take time.   Sooner or later, I will achieve a balance with Gabriola or die trying.  It doesn't matter because this is where I live; this is where I'm doing my work.  I'm not selling my precious time to some megalomaniac (yes, I have worked for them) and I am still breathing clean air.  I can walk and I am with a marvelous woman, two wonderful animals, surrounded by trees, and ideas galore.   What more could I want?

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Gift in Doing the Work

The last few days have been especially wonderful for me.   The preparation for yesterday's exhibition was demanding.   As usual, I procrastinated, hoping for inspiration, direction, a vision of how I might present this work that is so important to me.

As time grew shorter and my sense of urgency increased, I chose the simplest task and started to work.   As I worked, things came to me, solutions to the problems I was facing seemed to come from nowhere. The more I worked the more focussed I became.  When I encountered things that I was unsure about I would go downstairs to talk with Heather on how I might best approach them and she would stop whatever she was doing to listen and offer her ideas.   When I made mistakes, she came to help and her skills once again shone like the morning sun.

The fact is I never sold anything yesterday.  We had 134 visitors to the exhibition and relatively few showed much interest.  But I learned something.  It's about doing the work.  It is the work that is important.   I was happier over the last few days than I have been for a long time.  My worries, oh those worries, faded into the background as I grappled with each challenge.  I felt a sense of satisfaction as each of the projects reached its completion.   I felt the potential of doing work that has value to me, not for the money, for the integrity of doing the work.

Many things came up yesterday that I found especially challenging.  I dropped my prices.  It seemed that everyone there was undervaluing their work.  Many were charging at a rate that barely covered their costs.   But I honestly believe that price isn't important.   I don't think I will ever put a price on my work again.   The real benefit, the joy, came when the few who really got what I was doing, responded to it with their own enthusiasm.   That was the gift.   It didn't happen a lot, but when it did, I felt very fulfilled.

I think that putting price tags on the work (mine was the most expensive work there) creates a barrier between the meaning of the piece and the joy of relating to something that speaks to us.

Heather helped me set up and did a couple of shots that I would like to share with you as evidence of my joy.   (See, I'm almost smiling!)

In closing, I would like to thank Diane and Dirk whose seemingly boundless energy and professionalism made this show possible.   True Gabriolans those two!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Our tiny printing company's first folios.

In 1962 I had a dream where I had founded my own printing company.  At that time I was in high school and was the editor of our yearbook.   I loved it and felt that publishing was the world for me.   Several years later I went to work for the Winnipeg Tribune selling advertising.   It was quite a learning experience and I loved every minute of it.

52 years later and I have returned to my roots doing fine art publishing.

On Sunday, May 18, I will be previewing the first set of fine art folios published by our tiny printing house.  It has been one of the most exciting things I have ever done.   The box above contains the original prints that I used to do the layout of my first book.

There are 37 of them I think, (I forgot to count  :) and they are so delicate and beautiful.   I am offering them as a boxed set for the discerning collector.   

I will also be offering several other folios of work containing 8 to 10 pictures each of which I am very proud.   

In addition, I will have a number of framed prints ready to be taken home and hung on your wall.   Please come to the Rollo Center on Sunday afternoon and have a look.   I'd love to hear what you think and would be honoured if you decided to purchase a folio, a box set or a framed print.   

As an introduction, (and because I need more equipment and materials desperately)  I have set my prices to be considerably lower than usual.  

In any event, I would be so pleased if you would be kind enough to drop by and say hello.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Trickster's Hat

One of the great things about living on Gabriola is our library.  I confess I never used the library much while I was living in Vancouver but between tight finances and a ravenous appetite for books the VIRL has been an obvious choice.

Heather uses the library extensively and is much faster at reading and comprehension than I am.  So she brings home as many as ten books a week, which I usually get to browse through before she returns them.  The book that is the title of this blog arrived at the house a few weeks ago and I have been captivated by it.  Written and illustrated by Nick Bantock, author of Griffin and Sabine, this book contains a series of ideas to help stimulate the creative juices.

I admit that I occasionally lose my sense of enthusiasm for my own work (doesn't seem to happen for other people's work) and slip into a depressive place that I find somewhat difficult to escape.  I know the answer to my depression, it is work.  All I need to do is get down to it and I feel much better pretty quickly.

So I have started various projects as ways to launch myself into a mode that is creative and fulfilling.

There are times though, when the forces of inertia hold me in place and this book is filled with ideas and projects to feed the need to grow and expand without falling back to my tired old patterns.

I think we've pretty much established that my drawing skills are somewhat lacking and despite that, I draw.  But Bantock's approach seems to ignore the need for skill development and concentrates on creativity coupled with a philosophy that is uplifting.

What's more, at 5 1/2 by 8 inches, it fits easily into my camera bag and makes me look forward to those alone times in the coffee shop.

I'm going to have to get my own copy of this terrific book!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Portrait Workshop at Isle of the Arts Festival

Yesterday was a happy day for me.  In the afternoon I led a Portrait Workshop at the Hope Centre on North Road for a wonderful group of people.  They were a diverse group including teens and seniors.  We had four sets going all afternoon and did some pretty good pictures.  I really love doing portraits, seeing what is best in people and bringing it out with pictures.

Unfortunately, we only had 4 hours.   We had a lot of material to cover and it was pretty rushed.  We had a window light set, two tungsten sets and a flash set and frankly, I think I tried to cover too much ground.   Fortunately, the group was forgiving and fun.   I think they enjoyed the diversity.

Lately I have been using an Olympus 4/3 camera with a standard viewing screen on the back.   The Olympus is a great walking camera but for effective studio portraits it feels like a tiny view camera and requires a tripod.  I confess I found it awkward to work with in studio, particularly shooting jpg, a format that I never shoot.   Having to hold the camera away from my body made it more unstable and I have to say that I found it very difficult to compose with accuracy.

Fortunately, I had occasion to do demonstrations with some of the students' slr cameras, mostly Canons which I know pretty well.  It was a treat to look through a viewfinder again, it felt familiar and I admit, was so much easier to work with.  In previous times, I used Large Format and enjoyed standing next to the camera as I worked, but I had forgotten how comfortable it is to have the flexibility and stability that the slr provides.

The next time I do a workshop like this I'll make it much more focussed though.  I'll create several sets of course but will concentrate on window light, flash fill, studio flash or tungsten.   If we keep it simple, I think we'll get better results and have time for processing the raw files.

My thanks to everyone who participated though, you were a wonderful group and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

When All Else Fails, a Walk at Drumbeg

The idea behind this picture came to me when I realized that I have never openly acknowledged the cleansing and healing power of walking.  Walking has been central to my life over the years, often as a part of my desire to understand something or to give myself the chance to feel the freedom of movement.

As many of you know, until recently I have been a city person, I prefer sidewalks, shops and cafes to trees and nature and the adjustment to island living has been a rather large challenge.   It has also been a source of frustration for my partners as my typical response, often unarticulated, to an invitation to walk one of the many trails that we have on Gabriola, is "what for?"

I do try to appreciate nature and I respect this place very much.  I would fight to protect this island and this way of life but I have to confess that overall, I just don't find nature that interesting.

I am sure that many of you are on the verge of scoffing right now.  How can anyone not be moved by the magnificence and beauty of our surroundings?   How can one not appreciate the wonder and the interconnectedness of living things?     This guy must be quite a bozo.

Please let me hasten to add that I do not litter.  I drive as little as possible and while I was living in the city, I walked or used transit most of the time.  I recycle and I try to reduce my carbon footprint wherever possible.   This also includes my physical footprint.  I try to live small and am learning to let go of my possessions and embrace a life of voluntary simplicity.   I try to embrace minimal living in whatever I do.

So I don't feel that I need to apologize for reticence around being in the great outdoors.  The fact is, I'm a little clumsy, especially on uneven ground.   I trip over roots, rocks, stones or branches.   I tend to look around and don't want to have to look down all the time.   When I am out on a trail,  I want to look ahead, to the side, I want to look at the light and the way it reveals my surroundings.  It's a sure fire way it seems, to end up with my face in the mud.

There are exceptions though, and Drumbeg is one of them.  For Drumbeg, I'll risk a faceplant!   I walk carefully so I don't fall on the trail, on the rocks, off the cliffs and find myself stopping to examine things that I know will be there.   This magnificent park has so much to look at, to be inspired by, to think about and yes, to photograph.

I think of Edward Weston and his continuing love for Point Lobos, his willingness to walk around with his 8x10 view camera.   I feel healed by the light, the water, the grasses and the trees that make this such a great place.   I feel blessed.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Our Democracy In Danger

Over the last few months I have been involved in protesting the ferry cuts to the coastal communities and now I'm going to have to get involved in another cause, the giant incinerator project that is planned for Duke Point.  Prevailing winds being what they are, Gabriola is going to suffer from the airborne effluents from the project.  They will be burning Vancouver's garbage and that means Toxins everywhere!  Damn!   I didn't come here for this.

But democracy is not something to be taken for granted.  This morning I saw Rick Mercer's rant on the attacks launched by the Harper Government on Canada's Democracy.

Yesterday, Heather and I watched Elizabeth May's talk on the decline of democracy in Canada given at McGill University.  (I have included the link, it is about 50 minutes long and is a clear and cogent discussion of the attacks on our environment and our democracy by the Harper Government.   You might want to skip first 18 minutes as her talk doesn't start 'til then.)

This is serious my friends and it is just the fine edge of the wedge that these guys are planning to drive into this country.  Everything is at risk, resources, healthcare and the right to vote to name a few.  Even if this government is defeated, the job of rebuilding is monumental.   These are not small issues or levels of destruction that have been laid at our feet, just because we don't hear about them doesn't mean that they aren't happening.   This government operates in secrecy and that is because they have a lot to hide.

It is time for us to stand up and say enough!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Words of Wisdom - Duane Michals

Heather, Quilting

"The history of photography has not been written, you will write it.  No one has photographed a nude until you have.  No one has photographed a sequence or a green pepper till you have.   Nothing has been done until you do it."
- Duane Michals from Real Dreams 

I met Duane Michals at a gallery on 4th Avenue way back in the 70's.   I confess I was initially disappointed in his prints.  i guess I was expecting immaculate 11x14s but of course, as I looked at the work and realized his intent, it made perfect sense.   Looking at his book today, I am as intrigued with it as I was when I first became aware of him.  What struck me was his generosity, his willingness to empower people he had never met.   I carry this thought.  It sustains me and I have repeated it to many, many students over the years.   It has been a great gift.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The End of the Civilzation and The Meaning of Life

Yesterday I read an article written by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center that predicts the end of civilization within a few decades.

As if the mere prediction isn't alarming enough, the report states that one of the primary causes of the impending collapse is the uneven distribution of wealth and the separation of the elite from the commoners.   It also predicts that the wealthy elite will survive longer than the impoverished commoners unless sufficient action is taken to more evenly distribute the wealth of the planet and dramatically reduce the demand for our diminishing resources.  A not encouraging outlook.

What's more, writes Nafeez Ahmed at The Guardian:

"Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies — by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance — have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a 'perfect storm' within about fifteen years."

So, fifteen years, I'll be 82 if I'm still alive as I intend to be, and living on this island if I am really lucky.    I know it's a crap shoot, given that I have lost so many friends over the last few years but dammit, I'm stubborn.

It's sad to think that this catastrophe will unlikely be avoided as precursors to other collapses were ignored by our fore bearers, the Romans, and the Mayans to name a couple.

Having decided that there are so few years left, I thought I might share with my few dear readers the conclusions I have come to regarding the meaning of life and the purpose of our existence in this universe.

I am a pretty simple guy, I am not terribly interested in nor capable of academic discourse so don't expect a detailed dissertation.   I'd also like to say that I do not believe that this planet is the only host for life in our universe, let alone the others that probably exist.   So I do not think that the extinction of the life forms that populate Earth will mean the complete destruction of life generally.   Nor do I fear that all other life forms share the greed, arrogance, and lack of compassion that seems to characterize human beings.  But I do regret the loss of so many beautiful creatures.   I also recognize that there are some wonderful people on planet Earth who live authentic and generous lives.  So please excuse my rather cynical rant.

My thought is that life was created to extend the dimensions of the universe in an experiential sense.  Giving life to the creatures that inhabit this planet provides another dimension to creation in that, as self contained consciousness containing organisms, we create relationships, reproduce and have experiences of discovery and creation ourselves.  Being sensory holons (as imagined by Koestler) we therefore provide sensory and emotional input to this multi levelled universe.

So I think that is our purpose, to extend the dimensions of the universe into the emotional and experiential planes, to reproduce so the extension can continue and to provide the organic compost for our future generations.

My sense of wonder is based on the notion that we form relationships with others, we collect experiences based on our relationships to other living things, to the planet and ourselves, and we create structures to support our civilization.   This information, this experience, is accumulated and becomes part of the life of universe as a whole, a part of the entity we identify as God.

Unfortunately, we seem to be a selfish and self destructive form of life.  Perhaps this is not unique but it is lamentable.

Perhaps God is sitting back, watching and wondering what we will do, evolve to a higher plane of consciousness or destroy ourselves and everything we touch.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Derek Youngs

I was on Facebook this morning and found that Carolyn, Derek's wife had posted a video dedicated to this wonderful man,  Derek passed away suddenly, three years ago.  I still miss him and feel the loss in my heart.

I knew Derek for 30 years.  He was the kind of guy who filled the room, not in a boisterous way but with love and gentility.  When he spoke to me, I knew I had his complete attention.   Above all, Derek was authentic, thoughtful, and loving.  He saw the humour in life and seemed to live each moment to its fullest potential.  

He claimed that he had been born during the Blitz in a London Subway Station.  He called himself Derek "Walker" Youngs and walk he did,   His mission in life was to bring a message of peace and wherever he went, he walked.   He walked across Canada twice I believe, he walked from California to Washington DC.  When he met people, he would tell them he was walking from Canada to Japan.   Derek was a man who lived within his means somehow, he certainly wasn't wealthy, not in the financial sense anyway.  He would set out on a journey with a return ticket and a few dollars in his pocket, land somewhere and just set out.   He walked the length of New Zealand with little more than a backpack.   He walked all over Europe, often accompanied by people that he met along the way.  

He taught me a lot about life.   I lived in my own conflict for many years and Derek helped me to see that there was another way to be.   It took me a long time to gather the courage, to step out and be just me.   I still struggle with it, but when I get really stuck, I try to remember to ask myself what Derek would say.   Sometimes it works.

Carolyn's slide show is much more eloquent than I can be here.   It is filled with humour and memories to this man who meant so much to me and many, many others.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Our Big Mistake

Another rally on Gabriola today, held at Artworks and hosted by the indomitable Kathy Ramsey.   The place was packed of course and at one point proceedings had to be paused while the people stuck outside the door were given the chance to go upstairs and avoid the rain.

I love this place.  I moved here two years ago from Vancouver and when my friends asked me why I was going to this seemingly remote island, my reply was not what they expected.  Sure it is quiet and beautiful here.  There's a sense of peace and although the island economy is not what it could be there is something vastly more important here, community.

Gabriola is a place where individuals take responsibility for the environment and for the other people who live here.  When the province refused to build a health centre here, the community pulled together and did it anyway with a generosity that I have seldom seen.

Gabriola has, I am told, the only registered "Commons" in Canada.   The Commons is an old farm that has been converted to an impressive community resource with meeting and workshop rooms, commercial kitchen (coming soon), community gardens so we can grow our own food, a yurt for meetings, dancing, poetry readings and more.  It's the home of Gertie, our own bus transportation system, the Mac User Group, the food bank, PHC (People for a Healthy Community) and many other organizations, groups and resources.  It belongs to the island and to its inhabitants.

People help each other here.  We argue, we worry and we stand together.  We believe in democracy as all Canadians do.   People think we come here to live the easy life, to get away.  But that is not so.  We are here because we directly affect our environment, our lives and the lives of our community.   We collect rainwater, we dig wells, we worry about the future.  Living on an island is not easy, we can't stay here all the time.  Our kids have to go to school on the big island, we buy supplies, see doctors, specialists and visit friends in hospital.

But the title of this posting refers to a condition that seems to have grown over the years and it affects and has affected the whole country.  Right now it seems so extreme as to be alarming to those who are aware of what is happening.   I think that Canada has been blessed in the past with pretty good governance considering.  Now before you jump out of your chair, let me say that our elections have been bloodless over the period of my life.  There have been many, many bad decisions, many, many mean and nasty politicians, and much abuse.  But overall, Canada is a wonderful country and to a great extent it is our system of government that has made it so.

But now we are in a time of danger.  The rise of the political right, the opacity of government, it's secrecy, its dogmatic, economy based decision making and the fragmentation of the left have brought the country into a state of peril.  We Canadians now have to stand up and demand that the country return to democracy, run by transparent governments that are accountable to the people.

Canadians are known as a polite people.  We try to respect other people's opinions and generally try to think in the positive.   We are and should be proud of that.  But if we are not careful, we will find ourselves the subjects of a fascist government.  The signs are there, we are being warned every day, we must pay attention.

What's more, we must take action.  The first part of this posting deals with Gabriola as a community.   But the fact is that a city is a collection of communities.  When I lived in Vancouver, I had great neighbours.  We would often talk about current events but the flavour there was different.  I felt isolated interestingly enough, a small blip in a giant country.  I felt the only difference I could make to the world was to care about the people around me.   The demands and distractions of living in the city, working a demanding job and building a life were all consuming.   I had no time for politics.  I voted and was appalled to hear that I was one of only 60% of the country who did so.

What's more, I knew people who didn't vote!   They had reasons, excuses, some valid, some not.   But what we didn't ever discuss was that voting is a responsibility.  Voting is the mechanism by which we participate in choosing our government.   I realize now that I failed at my job as a citizen of this country.  If each of us finds one person who has decided not to vote and we are able to help them to exercise their right, we will have done our fundamental civic duty.

Democracy demands participation.  For some of us that means taking an active role, putting our communities on priority.   Not everyone can do that.   But we can all vote, and we can help others to vote, in fact I think we must.   That's what island living has taught me, may I never forget it.

Our federal government was elected by 35% of the voters!   That figure does not represent the will of our country and we have been paying the price for it.   In fact, we will be paying that price for some time as the damage to our nation has been deep.

In addition, our system of voter representation is seriously flawed and needs to be changed.  Proportional representation in British Columbia was defeated because our provincial government demanded a majority of 65% in favour.   The vote was 64% and the initiative failed.   Does 64% represent the will of the people?  I think it does.

Finally, my last demand is to our politicians on the Left.  If the federal Liberals, the Greens and the NDP cannot find a common ground upon which they can build a coalition for a single party, they are risking the country.   This is not the time for nit picking.   Our next election will be critical.   If the forces of the left can find a way to put their differences on hold, present a united front, find a way to ensure that the right is defeated, there will be hope for our future.

The conservatives have done more damage to our environment, our social systems and our individual citizenry than any of us can imagine right now.  It will take many years to rectify these egregious actions.   God help us if they win again.

UPDATE  Mar 22 2014
Here's a link to a CBC article stating that of more adults who are under 30 had voted, the outcome would have been different.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lost in the Atrium

OK, I admit, this is not my best picture.  In fact I was hesitant about putting it up at all.  But it is authentic and speaks well to my state of mind upon leaving the BC Ferries corporate headquarters on Tuesday following the protest at the BC Legislature.

I had never attended a protest before and frankly wasn't entirely sure what to expect.  I took a small Nikon pocket camera with me because it fit easily in my pocket.   I wasn't serious about the pictures from the protest but felt I should do something to record the event.  JPGs were good enough I told myself and chose convenience rather than precision.   I thought that if I got anything at all I would probably convert it to B+W anyway.

I admit I was somewhat disappointed with the turn out.  I thought that the impact of these cuts would have brought out more people and I even worried that tempers might get a bit out of hand.  Silly me!

I never realized just how large the lawn of the Legislature really is.  It seems that there were over 700 people attending but they were dwarfed but the immensity of that lawn.  However, what we lacked in numbers was more than made up for by the quality of people there.   

It was a serious event, media people were everywhere.   But coastal people are a pretty well grounded lot it seems.   They carried signs, wore outrageous clothing, sang and laughed.   They were serious but in a true spirit of the coast, they were there to be present, to get the message out, to support their friends in other communities, and hopefully, get this very misguided government's attention.

Musicians, politicians, grandparents, young families and children were there to make their voices heard.   I was proud to be an islander.  I spoke to a police sergeant standing on the steps, who said that he wished all demonstrators were this sensible.  I saw friends and made new friends.   I even saw a few politicians who impressed me as well intentioned, seriously concerned people.  

I felt elated at times, the spirit, the energy, the humour, the camaraderie, were infectious.   I love these people, my fellow British Columbians, who came to support and represent the thousands that it seems, couldn't attend.

I admit I left a bit early, it was supposed to end at 1:00pm and I was ravenously hungry.   I had a quick bowl of soup and there, across the street was the head office for BC Ferries, "The Atrium".  I thought, "here's an opportunity to see where they live, these people who are responsible for running our marine highways."  

It is an opulent structure, with a soaring atrium dwarfed the people who sat in its shops sipping coffee, chatting, oblivious to the havoc they would shortly cause to so many peoples' lives.  

On the elevator, a man and a woman discussed fuel consumption anomalies that were obviously important to the efficient running of the enterprise.  They left and I was alone in a strange environment, a mirrored elevator.   Before I could blink, the doors opened again and I was standing in the foyer of BC Ferries main office.  A cold, uninviting, oppressive space, uninhabited, despite a huge built-in desk that stretched the length of the wall.  I heard voices, laughing about what fun they were going to have on the weekend, and was confronted with a woman who asked if she could "help" me.   I told her I had come from the protest to see the offices of the Ferry Corporation but I had seen enough.  I wanted to get out of there.  Her comment was that she would bet that the protest would have been a lot of "fun".   I looked at her speechless.  She then asked me what I thought of the office, blocking my way so I could come no further.  I told her it looked like a prison, to which she replied that she thought it was "very nice."

I left, thinking that there was no hope for the world. 

I took the picture at the top of this post as I descended to escape from the aquarium and all its thoughtless fishes who have bought the package. the pipelines, the 54inch TVs, and the GM'd foods that we call dinner.

"We should separate" I thought, "I don't know who these people are."   But I'm afraid I do.   They don't want to think, they don't realize and they don't care, as long as they get paid.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Overview Effect

This is a short film that was produced by Planetary Collective.  It features interviews with astronauts about their experiences in space related to the home planet and the effect of that vision on their lives.

It is an important viewpoint that needs to be shared and what's more, it is very beautiful.

Beyond that it is an opportunity to see the world from that Global Perspective, the important perspective.  The one that brings us home to the realities of life and our planet.   We have much work to do my friends...


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dreams and Realities for iPad by James Emler

After considerable testing I am proud to announce that, Dreams and Realities by James Emler is now available as an epub file for iPad and iBooks.  It looks beautiful…

Here's the link…

I'd sure love to hear what you think of it.

I'm now starting on my free Artist Book which I hope will be available soon as well.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Call for Entries - Blue Iris Editions

Sorry everyone, the email link below was not working properly.   It has been fixed, my apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused…

As many of you know, we have been working on a business plan for an artists representation and publishing company for some time.  We released the first Artist Book on Valentine's Day and the response has been very gratifying.  I'd like to thank everyone for their support and to those people who purchased the book "Dreams and Realities", a very special thank you.

Our intention is to approach publishing in several formats.   The first will be artists books featuring projects that have been underway for a while and are nearing completion.   Dreams and Realities gives an overview of three different projects by James Emler.   Our next book will be "Reflexions" by Robert Title.

We are offering them in both pdf for desktop, as well as epub versions for the iPad devices.  The epub version is in its final testing stages and will be available soon.

In addition to these we will introduce a new series of limited edition project folios containing 10 to 20 prints that are signed and numbered, produced to museum standards, and packaged in an archival enclosure for long term protection.   Our feeling is that over the next few years, prints will become less  available and more valuable.  We also believe that collecting a series of prints  dealing with a single project or subject will be an investment that will gain greater value over time

We will be looking for artists who are interested in participating in these strategies over the next few months when we have more established marketing channels.   If you think you might be interested in this please drop me an email so we can keep you in the loop.

In the meantime, we will be expanding our websites and focussing on developing our marketing vehicles, so keep you eyes open for Blue Iris Editions.  It's going to be a fun experience!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hot Off The Virtual Press!

This has been quite a month for me.  I've been working on a book for a while now and have finally finished it.  We did 3 separate edits, lots of testing and more to go but I can wait no longer!   I have to release this now!

The book is titled "Dreams and Realities" and is 111 pages in length.  It contains three separate essays.  

The first essay, The Nude, contains a series of beautiful colour photographs that were originally shot on film.  These handcrafted pictures illustrate a range of processes that I formulated using different film emulsions and chemical processes.
The second essay, A Search for Silence, consists of a set of toned landscapes spanning a range of different mediums from film (4x5 to 35 mm) to digital.   These beautiful, timeless, etherial photographs originated as an essay based on the last of the available Kodak 4x5 Infrared film, record the journey from film to digital, large format to small, all within a very personal context.
The third essay, In Transit, explores one aspect of city life, the need to get to work and those who must do so on the city buses.  In a gritty black and white, these pictures explore a unique vision of Vancouver, its residents, and the feelings of being alone in a densely populated society.
The storyboard layout of the entire book is below, for a larger version click the image and another window will be provided.
The book is priced at $6.95 and is a 51mb pdf.   For those of you who are iPad people, the epub version is still in testing but should be available after the 25th.  
Be sure to read the book in two page mode as there are many two page bleeds in it.  Also, if you are using Mac Preview, if you maximize it to full screen mode, Preview will put a white line between pages.  To correct this you can go back to window mode and stretch it out to the full width of your screen.   The pictures are beautiful and I sincerely hope you enjoy it. 
You can link directly to the store here.   You can use Visa, MC, AE, or Paypal.   If you have any trouble with it you can email me directly and I will either fix it or give you a full refund.
I would appreciate any comments you may have.   Thanks so much!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Utopian Dreams

Wouldn't it be wonderful to live in a country where each individual citizen is recognized as being the most important asset the country possesses?  Where every single individual is cherished for their uniqueness, their potential, and for being an exquisite manifestation of life?   Where the economy is not based on growth but on sustainability and sustainability is regarded as being in harmony with the planet?   Where laws are crafted on fairness, where health, food, shelter and access to information are considered to be rights.   Where greed, gluttony and bullying are recognized as symptoms of frustration, unhappiness, fear or disease?  Where people are encouraged to be individuals, to have their own thoughts, to express their ideas and dreams?  Where children have rights?   Where teachers are given the tools and the recognition they need to do the job they hope to do?  Where students are seen for their potential regardless of their shortcomings.   Where emphasis is placed on caring and ensuring that every person has hope for their lives  and their children's lives?  Where a person's perceptions are seen as their realities?  Where feedback is considered to have value?   Where integrity and generosity are seen as great virtues?

There's a dream!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Waiting For The Rain

If you don't live on the west coast you probably don't know that this is a very dry winter.  Heather and I moved to a bigger house this summer after being assured by our landlords that they have never had a water problem.   The well went dry shortly after we moved in and we have had to buy water for the last four months.  We have a rain collection system and a cistern for water storage but if there's no rain, there's not much to collect.

I must admit that, when I lived in the city, I seldom thought about water and was always grateful for a sunny day.   Things have changed now, I just looked at the CBC weather page that predicts rain for the next few days with a sense of hope and relief.  If they are predicting 5 days with rain and showers, it might be enough to replenish the cistern and relieve us of having to spend another $200 on a truckload if we can get it.  

No matter how you look at it, water is not an option.  As it is, we can't drink our water, it is polluted by various materials, so we have to buy it from the market in the village.   It was an experience discovering this, we all showed various symptoms that I won't go into but as soon as we changed, it was an almost immediate relief.   The water from the cistern, we use for washing, toilets etc and I am amazed at just how much we use.  Each time I flush the toilet, I find myself thinking about how much water we have left.   We keep our showers has short as possible and are very careful about how we use the water we have but we still go through it surprisingly fast.

I can't imagine what it must be like for people who live in developing countries with water shortages.

So now I think about water a lot.  I worry that we are destroying the water that we are using to extract natural gas.  I've seen videos of people whose water resources have been destroyed by fracking, by spills, by the corporate carelessness that seems so ubiquitous these days.  Man, do we need good government!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Wealth of Vision

Do you ever wonder what it is about a particular piece of art that moves you?  Why some pictures seem to speak directly to your soul?  I do, and for all the years I have put into studying imagery I confess that it still seems a mystery to me that the instant I clasp eyes on a particular picture,  a scene, a gesture, an object, I am flooded with recognition, with a sense of validation,  with joy and often, wonder.  The experience seems to be instantaneous, a lightning strike in the middle of something else that rivets me to the spot and commands me to look.

I have difficulty tearing my eyes away and resent interruption of these rare moments of bliss and often, insight.   It hurts in a way that is beautiful.   It is often what I would characterize as a "spiritual" experience.   I feel compelled to respond and occasionally am brought to tears at the sight of that thing before me regardless of what "it" may be.

I suppose that is why I consider myself to be an artist.  What good fortune have I!

Heather recently introduced me to a man via Youtube who understands what this is all about.  I would like to offer it to you, so go and get yourself a cup of coffee, tea, water and even a cookie if you are so inclined.   This runs for about 45 minutes I think, I hope you enjoy Alain de Botton on art as the new religion.   (Don't mind the singing as it starts, it put me off a bit I confess…)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Walk in the Woods

I haven't been on the River Trail for a while and I must admit it is one of my favourite walks here on Gabriola.   It's quite beautiful and the dogs like it a lot.  But today was a surprise.  As we were walking we came upon an area where the trees have been decorated with Christmas ornaments!   This seems to me to be a pretty clear statement about Gabriola.   I love this place!

My thanks to whoever did this, you made my day!