This year we’ve had the pleasure of working with Brian Graham on a personal project of his: photographing the Rideau Canal near Ottawa. We mentored Brian in the creation and direction of the project and during the shooting process. Finally, we provided our feedback and helped curate the collection into a final ten or twelve selects. We were so impressed with Brian’s unique interpretation of the canal that we asked him if we could showcase his work here on the oopoomoo blog. He said yes! Below is a brief statement from Brian explaining his thoughts on the project and some information about the canal.
I want to show how the man-made beauty of the Rideau Canal and locks…the regular structure and patterns of the canal, locks, and the machinery used to operate them….can exist harmoniously with the surrounding natural beauty of the lakes, rivers, and vegetation. I don’t see the canal/locks as destroying nature but rather co-existing with the surrounding natural elements allowing me to produce photographs that attempt to show the beauty of man-made objects alongside nature.
The Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America. It was built to provide a navigable waterway between Lake Ontario and the Ottawa River largely as part of the aftermath of the War of 1812. Preparations to build the canal began in 1826 and the canal opened in 1832. The canal is 202 kilometers long and originally had 46 navigation locks and one guard lock; today the canal has 45 navigation locks plus 2 other locks. The canal is now used by pleasure boaters during the summer months and has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Turning the Lens to the Present to Build the Future — Wayne Simpson Photographs Phoenix of Sarnia Reserve
Wayne Simpson is a professional wedding, portrait and landscape photographer based out of Owen Sound, Ontario. Wayne’s creative work graces our home, and we feel privileged to consider Wayne our friend. When we saw his most recent project, we knew we couldn’t keep Wayne’s work to ourselves — we had to share this original series with oopoomoo readers. Wayne’s project has deeply touched us as we are about to embark on our own creative journey. Read on to discover Wayne’s personal connection to a disturbing reality for Sarnia Reserve First Nation residents in Ontario.
Q: You are known for your landscape, wedding and family portrait shots, but this series is a little different from some of your work. Where did the idea for the project originate?
A: I’ve actually been thinking about this project for over a year and was only recently able to pull it together. There are several factors that play into why I wanted to do this shoot:
I grew up visiting my Mom on the reserve as a small kid (about 8 or 9 years old). I still remember driving through there at night and seeing all the lights and flare stacks with flames burning – it felt like we were driving through hell and it scared me as a kid. Part of me wanted to make an image that got some of that feeling across.
I still have lots of family living in the middle of all these refineries and I fear for their health and the future of the youth. Just google “Sarnia Reserve” and you will find all kinds of troubling information.
It also really hurts to see the land/water turned toxic. There are small rivers that the kids used to swim in that are now marked as toxic with signage… it’s just so sad.
Q: How did you visualize this scene/story in your mind?
A: This shot was taken on a concrete island between a major 4 lane intersection and an off-ramp. If you were to look in the opposite direction, the reserve starts about 15 meters from here.
I’ve always been amazed by the close proximity of several of the refineries, but I chose this particular spot because I liked the busy hydro lines and old cracked asphalt and also knew that the sun would be rising in exactly the right spot. Knowing the location well and figuring out the direction of light allowed me to communicate the mood I wanted with the introduction of supplemental lighting. It’s not often that I can say a shoot went exactly as planned, but in this case it did!
Q: Tell us a bit about the girl in the picture. Who is she?
A: This little girl’s name is Phoenix Sky Cottrell. Phoenix is 6 years old… but I think her soul is much older! She has a certain mature and quiet manner about her which really draws you in. We left it up to Phoenix to decide if she wanted to do the shoot at 5:30 am to use the best light and she was all in! She was actually excited about the idea! I’m 100 percent certain that she is destined for great things!
Phoenix and her mother have taken part in several Idle No More demonstrations and care deeply about the environment and health of the people, so they have given me permission to share these images.
Q: What kind of lighting set up are you using? Why?
A: In this shoot I wanted to keep the lighting very simple and practical. I used my elinchrom Ranger with a deep octa as a modifier. I wanted to keep things simple, fast and easy so I didn’t waste any time messing around with gear and risk loosing the interest of Phoenix.
I wanted to show the refinery as a dark and ominous presence behind her and utilize some of the early morning colour in the sky. To accomplish what I visualized the shoot looking like, lighting was a must in this particular case.
Q: Describe the morning of the shoot. How did you decide to place your model?
A: The morning of the shoot was quite chilly and very calm. It was very refreshing to not have to deal with harsh light and high winds blowing my light over! I wanted to showcase the great natural light behind Phoenix but also keep my light at least a little bit natural looking. I made a conscious decision to put my light on the same side of her as the sun to keep things as natural looking as possible.
Q:Any tips you want to share about working with ‘real’ people (as opposed to models) in shooting a personal portrait project?
A: I believe that if your personal project is meant to communicate a specific idea which is affecting actual people, it’s best to use those affected people in the images to make it authentic. The images will lack depth if the subject is not personally invested in your project as well. If the project is meant more as a creative release then models are great!
Q: Where do you hope to see this project going?
A: I’m hoping to come up with a series of images depicting environmental challenges facing local reserves, but who knows… it could turn into more than that! After seeing the attention that this work has already received, I’m really hoping to use my vision to bring awareness on more of an emotional level. I could be wrong, but I feel that pulling at people’s emotions with images would garner more long-lasting attention than numbers on a page.
Stay tuned to Wayne’s website for further work in this inspiring series!
We have another travelogue story from one of the Chain Mail Chicken cousins. This time our chicken in the field is Larry Lays-Two-Eggs and he visited photographer Ethan Meleg for a great time at the cottage! Ethan gives us his report on Mr. Lays-Two-Eggs:
After a long stretch of working hard for a poultry wage and just scratching out a living, Larry was starting to feel rather fowl. Instead of cracking up, he decided to fly the coop and go on an eggstravagant adventure like no other. So he decided to make a trip to Ontario, which everyone knows is the best province in Canada. A couple of weeks chilling out at a cottage was exactly what this rooster needed!
The cottage was located on a picturesque lake in Muskoka, so Larry got to fly in on a float plane. The other passengers urged him to ride on top of the plane and taunted him by saying, “What are you chicken?” So he climbed on top of the plane and it was sunny side up for the entire flight. Who says that chickens can’t fly?
At the cottage there were so many things to do each day. Larry went for hikes through the woods, paddled a canoe around the lake and went swimming at the beach. The weather was hot and sunny, so he had to coat himself in sunscreen to avoid getting roasted. There’s nothing worse than burnt chicken.
In the evenings, Larry would sit on the shoreline and watch the beautiful sunsets. It was the perfect way to relax after an adventure filled day. He was, after all, no spring chicken.
One night, there was a party with lots of hens around and Larry was feeling cocky. He ended up drinking too much wine and was running around like a chicken with his head cut off. When he woke up early the next morning, he had bird brain, but it was still fun to have something to crow about with all of his friends for the rest of the day.
On Larry last day at the cottage, they had a big farewell picnic for him. Someone brought a bucket of delicious food called KFC. Larry wasn’t exactly sure what it was… maybe Kentucky Fried Cauliflower? It was so tasty, Larry ate was too much and thought he was going to kick the bucket!
It was a fun trip to the cottage and Larry was stewing about leaving, but it was over easy and he was excited about the next leg of his adventure….
I arrived at the home of Lynn Smith on May 17. It was great visiting the Smith’s home. They all are very friendly. They have an apple tree right beside their deck. It was in full blossom. I could not resist the smell of the apple blossom tree. I noticed there were not many bees in the blossom. I asked Lynn about this and she said “there has been fewer and fewer bees each year”. I did read about this when I was at the University of Ales where I had to present a paper on the decline of bees.
I found out Lynn is a nature photographer. We discussed animal and bird behaviour. I had a few things to tell her about birds! Lynn showed me a video of feeding a humming bird from her hand. I saw the hummingbirds on her deck and they were very close to us. Boy, can those suckers fly!
On Saturday we travelled to St. Jacobs Farmers Market. It was great seeing all the vendors. I especially liked the fresh vegetables because I am a vegetarian but I do sneak the odd grasshopper here and there (they taste like chicken, you know ;-))
I did take time to smell the flowers at the farmer’s market (mostly because the pollen gives me a nice ‘high’).
On Sunday we drove up to Kincardine. This great town is on Lake Huron. They have volley ball nets up for people to play. I tried to play but got a little tied up during the game.
It was restful sitting on the beach taking time out of a busy schedule to see the sun set. There were a lot of boats in the harbour. I had my eye on one but Lynn said we could not take it out for a spin.
Ah, what a great visit, I can’t wait to see where I end up next, I hope they are as nice as Lynn and her family!