The ground was wet , the apples were crisp, and the clouds parted just in time for the sun to set, bringing the greens of the orchard at Sea Cider to life. It was a perfect backdrop to a wedding with an international guest list, and an ocean view. No better place on Vancouver Island to be.
I truly believe the best people, and the best weddings for that matter are the ones with a surprise in their back pocket. The better you get to know them and as the night goes on slowly the cards are laid. Shirley and Shane are those people, their day was that wedding. I knew it would be beautiful, and I already liked them after we met back in December but I didn’t expect Shane to own the dance floor like he did, Shirley to tear up during the signing of the marriage license, and how proud their parents were.
It was a coming together of family and friends from as far as Hong Kong and Toronto, and as close as Victoria. It was a surprise I’m so excited to share today.
Dream Team Credits:
Venue: Sea Cider Wedding
Florals: Celsia Florals
Cake: Ruth and Dean
Tonight I am up late, I can’t sleep in light of news of this week, in light of the senseless terrorist attacks in a mosque in Quebec City; across the country from me, but dangerously close to home.
I’ve spent the day staring at the news just south of the border in disbelief. Heartbroken.
I photograph weddings most weekends. I don’t often talk about heartbreak.
I’ve spent the last five years celebrating love from all corners of the globe. Commitments between two people, to care for and to share life going forward with each other, despite often coming from wildly different backgrounds.
I’ve seen the best side of a country that embraces diversity. And today after this weeks world events I wish to remind us all of that.
I’ve feel extremely privileged to be a photographer, and to live in an era of Canadian history where I have had the opportunity to photograph a cross section of first, second, and third generation Canadians hailing from Sudan, Indonesia, China, Germany, India, Korea, Congo, Jamaica, Israel, Japan, Yugoslavia, Italy, England, Mexico, Russia, Jordan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Poland, Iceland, St. Lucia, Norwegian, France, The United States, Egypt, and Portugal.
I’ve been welcomed into the homes of Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike. I’ve seen traditionally dressed Thai dancers, dance the Jewish Hora. I’ve seen a woman shake with joy after being pronounced married to another woman. I’ve photographed Ponkwa ceremonies for Ismaili muslims, and seen the Veil and cord placed on Catholic Filipinos. I’ve seen white dresses, red Chinese cheongsam dresses, hanboks, and stunning hijabs.
There are few nations whose citizens cannot look to Canada and see their own reflection. For generations people from all corners of the globe have made the decision to choose Canada as their home. We are a nation of immigrants, and diversity, and despite the news this week I will continue to celebrate that.
I sometimes ask myself what the point of making art is? Why be a wedding photographer? Really what good am I doing for this world? But tonight at 12:03am as I write this and pull the images you see below – I believe more than ever in what I’ve spent the past five years creating.
I’ve photographed a body of work that shows a commitment to love, in a nation of people that value diversity.
That two people regardless of their differences, regardless of their backgrounds, and regardless of their religious beliefs, can make a life together; and that together through understanding, and in a place with an inherent belief in equality, love will win. And that is the point.
This weekend I finished Neil Gaiman’s collection of essays – A View From The Cheap Seats. My favourite of which as a photographer is called “A Wilderness of Mirrors.” It is about the National Portrait Gallery (which I visited while in England years and years ago) but I think beyond that it is about portraiture and its ability to tell us a truth.
“Who am I?
Is the first question.
The second is harder to answer. It was this: Who are we?
And to answer it I would open the family photo album. The photographs, black and white in the front, color in the later volumes, had been carefully stuck with photo mounts on corners and handwritten notes beneath each photograph. … This is who we are, the albums said to us, and this is the story we are telling ourselves.
When we look at a portrait we begin to judge, because human beings are creatures of judgement. The joy and power of portraiture is that it freezes us in time. Before the portrait we were younger, after the portrait we will age and rot.
Ask the question, Who are we? and the portraits give us an answer of sorts.
We came from here, the old ones say. We look like this naked and clothed, they tell us. We are here, in this image, because a painter [or photographer] had something to say. Because we are all interesting. Because we cannot gaze into a mirror without being changed. Because we do not know who we are but sometimes there is a light caught in someones eyes that comes close to giving us the tiniest hint of an answer.”
I often shy away from pictures, but the more deeply I think about photography the more I believe I should be in at least a few. They tell us a truth about ourselves and where we came from and the people that make us happy. This weekend is one I won’t forget, curled up on the couch with dark chocolate that we bought by the pound, I read Gaiman’s book, I cooked pizza, hiked, and laughed till my stomach hurt, and maybe I don’t need a photograph to remember it, but there is a few, and I like what these ones are saying about who we are.
“Perhaps it isn’t a collection of portraits as TS Eliot put it but a wilderness of mirrors.” – Neil Gaiman
March 7th – Day 1
It’s an early start, I fall asleep with my head pushing hard against the glass of the van window as Jo and Tom negotiate with our driver to get us to the trailhead. My bag is so full, and I think about lugging that grey beast of a backpack up mountain. I think about breakfast. I wonder what is in store for us, and I secretly hope the two travellers that have hitched a ride in addition to our foursome are faster hikers and break off ahead. They are too intense of personalities for me, and for Maddy as well, we gave each other a look last night and I know we are on the same page. I’m excited to hike with Jo and Tom though, Jo is from Germany, living in Austria, and Tom has been in South America for months, after a few years in the special forces in Israel. We met three nights ago in Pucon, Chile and now here we are here about to walk around a few Volcanos together.
We make it to the monkey puzzle forest just the four of us. Our travel buddies have jogged on ahead and I’m happy, but then I feel guilty for not wanting to be more inclusive. Jo leads our group up, while Maddy tells me the Araucaria araucana trees we are walking through. They have been around since the time of the dinosaurs, and have lava resistant bark, which makes sense as we are surrounded by volcanos. I wish I could identify plants nearly as well but I can contribute in my own way, and I tell her we are on land that the guy who started the North Face Outdoor Gear company bought, protected, and turned into a park. It was a contested issue in most of Patagonia at the time. An American coming in to buy up huge parts of land in the name of conservation. In theory it is great, and from my western perspective I understand need to protect magnificent old growth forests, and celebrate the biodiversity where we are walking through that probably exists no one where else. But I get it was controversial. The land cut Chile in half north to south from the coast to the border, and fundamentally changed the parks system here. Chile has both private and public parks and I’ve been reading about the benefits and draw backs of both.
Jo stumbles upon a red haired tarantula first a few meters ahead, Maddy naturally picks it up, and I take a few photos. Tom’s eyes pop out of his head but he knows both of us are too stubborn to tell us not too. Maddy casually says “not enough venom to kill you” and that settles it. We break to put more sunscreen on. The hole in the Ozone layer sits nicely over southern Chile and us Canadians freshly off the plane are still as white as winter. Here in the southern hemisphere winter feels like a world away.
We don’t make it to our campsite at 22kms like we had planned. We stopped at around 18 by the first and only stream we’ve seen since we started. Jo and I arrive ten or so minutes ahead of Tom and Maddy and we break out screaming and dancing. For the last hour we have been contemplating what we do if we don’t find any, so the two of us finding water was a little bit like finding treasure and we are hysterically happy. The backcountry makes everything feel a little more immense. We fill up our water bottles and drink almost a litre each right there. The water is so cold I can feel it slide into my stomach after I swallow. We can see the glacier in the distance its melting from, and Jo says “Junger Gots” and I look at her like she is crazy but really she is just speaking german and translates for me. “Young Gods.” its a saying. Tomorrow with this water we will be as strong as young gods, and the water tastes like gold or maybe the elixir of life which it is, and I get it.
March 8th Day 2 Morning-
The others are packing and I’m scribbling fast in this journal because the memories of last night won’t be as fresh after today. I don’t want forget the whiskey we shared in a plastic cups last night as the sky burned around us. I don’t want to forget how tired my legs were as we climbed out of the crater we had pitched out tents in, to see the best sunset probably of my life over the Villarrica Volcano, Jo yelling in the distance “Is this heaven?”, or Maddy saying quietly in our tent before we fell asleep; “Best Sleepover Ever.”
I never want to forget how happy I was last evening with my best friend, and two no longer strangers.
I also don’t want to forget the large amount of pleasure I’ve taken in my single combined spoon, fork, knife camping utensil. Its genius, don’t know why I’d ever use any thing else ever again.
March 8th Day 2 Evening –
It is getting dark now, and Jo is cutting up cucumbers. Tom is making pasta, and Maddy is taking photos down by the little waterfall next to our campsite. We haven’t seen anyone else all day and it feels like all of Chile is ours. Lake Azul, fields of igneous rock, the desert, the impact crator from an asteroid, new landscapes every few kilometres. This is what I came to Patagonia for and we aren’t even officially in Patagonia yet.
I’m wearing Tom’s shirt because I missed the sunscreen on half of my arms and my sunburn is really quite bad, a friend who will give you a shirt off their back that is something special.
We stopped in the desert for lunch, and I was at the lowest point of the past two days of straight walking. We tried to make a little shelter of our backpacks to block but the wind as we heated our water but it didn’t really work. We ate shitty rice soup with dirt and more sand than I like for texture, but calories are calories and I felt better immediately. It is a feeling that I miss all too often in the city when I eat regularly and don’t need the energy in the same way.
After lunch I led up the next ascent, the sand land we were leaving stretched out behind us. I used the last of my iphone battery to listen to a little Missy Elliot for moral support, attaching it to the top of bag so Jo who was behind me could hear the speaker over the wind. It died before I got to the top so for the minute that I crested the ridge it was silent. The others caught up not long after, and with all of use standing there in awe the light broke over the most incredible view I have ever witnessed. Exhausted and wind beaten I cried. I asked Jo take a picture of me.
Validation – this is real. This was the world before humans placed a hand on the landscape; untouched, and rugged, we all knew it.
We dropped out packs for a break and I took a few more photos that will never do the moment justice. I bandaged up Maddy’s blisters and told her her I am her one and only wilderness first responder. A strange thing to say at the top of the world.
March 3rd – Day 3
Tom tells us about the Israeli army and a little bit about spending part of his early twenties in special forces. He shows us a scar on his leg where shrapnel hit, and even seeing something so tangible it is still hard for me to comprehend what it means to be in a war. We make fast friendships travelling, friendships that cross cultures and break all the regular social norm of getting to know a person. Jo is all about the German efficiency, and gets so frustrated that there is no signage in this park to tell us which way to go. I find it endearing, but I like that there are no signs. Like all Europeans it seems like she speaks at least three languages. I could almost kiss her when I realize she speaks the perfect amount of Spanish to get us a ride back to Pucon with a park worker. It’s hard to imagine we didn’t know Tom and Jo last week and that in a few more days we will all go our separate ways. This is the best hike I’ve ever done, and there is no one else I would have liked to share it with.
[Am I in Heaven?]
What a wonderful thought it is; that some of the best days of our life haven’t happened yet. – Unknown.
Today after hours of prepping this blog post I’ll hit publish on my fifth year end review, and that is completely surreal to me. [2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012. ] It has been five years of being able to look back on those posts not just a relic of where I’ve been for the past five years, but also a reminder that as each year passes, the mystery of the year to come is always somewhat solved come December (or in this year’s case the end of November).
This year I settled into city life, Vancouver is home for now, and I’m consciously trying to do as many “city” things as I can. Come February on a partially planned whim I convinced my best friend to go to Chilean Patagonia. We spent six weeks together hoping back and forth across the Argentinian border, we saw magma at the top of the Villarrica Volcano, we contemplated the eco-tourism industry in Puerto Natales and drank all the Pisco sours we could in Santiago. I came home to the most insane wedding season I’ve ever had. I hiked Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail in early May and spent the rest of the summer bopping back and forth across the country shooting. In June I met all my grandmother’s living sisters, in July I learned from my German visitors, my new favourite German saying: Schiess die Wand an! (Which literally translates to shit on the wall, which apparently translates to this is amazing!) and come August I was able to show my own little sister the west coast.
I entered the printing world this year, and printed my work for all of my clients by hand; learning the intricacies and frustrations of that technology intimately. The sound of my paper cutter is strangely satisfying, and seeing my work on display has never been more rewarding. I spoke at two conferences – ARC and Vancouver’s Travel Expo and I couldn’t have been more grateful for a platform to share my thoughts as a women in the photography industry. I spoke on both how our memories work in conjunction with photography and how that translates for me into living a full, and memorable life.
On top of all of this, I photographed more work and weddings than almost humanly possible. I’m so thankful to be able to fill my time so fully with jobs that have taken me across the world, photos that I am proud of, and ultimately the most fantastic people. Every photograph taken for a photographer is a double image: the scene itself and the reverse angle, the picture of the photographer in action. I stood behind every scene you see below, and it isn’t lost on me how amazing it is that I get to take photographs for a job. I can’t say thank you enough to everyone I’ve worked for this year, and to everyone I’ve worked with. I couldn’t have shared my year with anyone better.
« Older posts