A look into the Latino LGBT nightlife of Queens, New York City
Queens is often called the “World’s Borough.” It truly is one of the most culturally diverse urban areas of the world, and Jackson Heights may very well be its heart.
Step off the Roosevelt Avenue subway stop and you will immediately be greeted by taco stalls, ethnic grocery stores, a smattering of Tibetan/Himalayan/Asian food joints, and a whole host of Latino eateries catering to a diverse mix of people from all across South America. This stretch of Roosevelt Avenue is also home to a thriving and vibrant Latino LGBT community.
The recent political climate in the U.S. and events like the one in Orlando have shoved some of the issues of the LGBT community into our national conversation. This is especially true for the transgender community – bathroom laws, acceptance in military, gender identity – you name it…every aspect of their identity has been politicized. A recent Huffington Post article highlights over 100 Anti LGBT bills pending at the state level.
Photo by Sandy Gennrich
Photo by Shamik Ganguly
All this media attention has also had some positive effect. More people are talking about LGBT issues today than perhaps ever before. Shows like Amazon’s excellent Transparent would have been unthinkable a few years ago. It has also made folks like me, who has had very little to no interaction with the transgender community, more curious about learning about their struggles. A recent, most excellent, heart-wrenching and powerful episode of HBO’s Vice “Trans Youth,” really opened my eyes to the issue of Transgender rights and their struggles. I strongly urge anyone interested to watch this episode where Vice correspondent Gianna Toboni provides an intimate look into their lives.
Photo by Shamik Ganguly
Colombian photographer Joana Toro has been documenting the vibrant Latino queer community in New York for years, and over time she has cultivated personal friendships with many of its members. So, when she offered to take a few of us to experience the nightlife, I jumped on it.
Being straight and having never been to a gay bar, let alone a gay nightclub, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Frankly, I was a little nervous about the whole thing. The evening started with three of us having a late but sumptuous dinner of steamed Momos and Thenthuk at a Tibetan restaurant before meeting up with Joana. After dinner, Sandy, Susan and I met up with Joana who took us on a mini walk of Roosevelt Avenue. It was getting close to midnight on a Sunday night and the vibe and energy on this stretch of Roosevelt Avenue was just starting to pick up. Music streamed out of the many bars and clubs that dot this diverse neighborhood. People lined up for late-night tacos. The occasional drunk stumbled by. The corner grocery store was still serving customers even though it was past midnight. We passed a pair of dressed-up Trans women ready to start the night’s festivities, while the girl on the corner was still working the streets.
Photo by Shamik Ganguly
To get into the spirit of the evening, we stopped at a bar for a drink and listened to a Colombian jazz band play some amazing music. We were told by Joana that we had a surprise coming. The club we were about to visit had a Miss Colombia Beauty Contest planned for the night and we were in for a treat. As we headed into the nightclub, I realized how underdressed I was – jeans, sneakers and a casual shirt with a big camera hanging around my neck.
Photo by Sandy Gennrich
Inside, it was a different world. The Latin dance music was blistering loud. Strobes flashed and the smoke machine created shadows that danced on their own. Bare chested bartenders served Corona Extra in buckets with their hair gelled to almost ‘Chihuly Glass’ perfection. Everyone had their sexy on. As the clock pushed closer to 1 am, the scene picked up with a few people taking to the dance floor, some couples more intimate than others. Some of the clientele gave us curious, amused looks. I realized all three of us were a minority here.
Photo by Sandy Gennrich
A little past one in the morning, I suddenly noticed heads turning towards the entrance of the club. The queens had started to make their way into the club. It was a sight like none I had experienced before. Surreal.
Photo by Sandy Gennrich
The parade of beauty contestants filed in and took their time with the finishing touches. Lipstick applied to the light of a mobile phone while others crowded (or hogged) the bathrooms. I never thought that the party would just be starting up if I showed up at 1 o’clock in the morning, on a Sunday night.
Photo by Sandy Gennrich
The contest kicked off with all the contestants coming forward, gleaming from head to toe in sparkling, skin-tight gowns, decked in stiletto heels, and with make-up and hair (or wigs) so remarkable for their perfection. Each contestant wore a sash with the name of a city in Colombia. This Miss Colombia Beauty Contest is like no other beauty contest in the world. The winner isn’t picked based on popular vote, or on some criteria of beauty. No, this contest’s winner is decided differently. The emcee for the night introduced the contest and started the elimination round quickly by drawing a ping pong ball out of a bag bearing the name of a city in Colombia that matched a name on a sash. The poor soul who’s city/sash was drawn came forward, the emcee said words about the contestant in Spanish and whipped the ping pong ball across the floor with a flourish. Contestant eliminated.
Photo by Sandy Gennrich
A few ping pong ball eliminations later, there was a break for a solo singing performance by a Diva. The lights went down and the spotlight honed in on her. She was pitch perfect, belting out what I can only assume were ballads of heartbreak in Spanish. The power of her performance and the raw emotion she wore on her face gave me goosebumps. She might as well be a Broadway star. The crowd was awestruck and started showering her with money. Soon, the floor was strewn with dollar bills all around. And all along her voice soared (don’t tell anyone that she was lip syncing).
Photo by Shamik Ganguly
At this moment, I realized how much members of this community support each other. And I realized that they have to. They don’t have a choice. Everyone rooted for every contestant. There was genuine love and support. I told one of the contestants that she looked beautiful. Her eyes lit up as she thanked me profusely and gave me a hug and posed for pictures. Looking at the faces of the contestants and the divas made me wonder, what kind of life are they hiding behind that perfect makeup? What kind of struggles do they go through every day?
Photo by Shamik Ganguly
Outside these walls, they may be a fringe minority – judged and misunderstood. A pawn in some politicians’ gender identity games. A subject of bathroom politics. But inside these walls, it is their Happy Place. Safe Place. They can be their own. Live their fantasies. Support each other. Love each other.
In here love trumps hate.
Photo by Shamik Ganguly
It was late – almost 3 am. Decision time was near. Stay for round two of the beauty contest, or head home for a few hours of sleep before the reality of showing up for work was near. The party supposedly goes on till 5-6 am, even on a Sunday night. Energized, excited and smiling we headed home, buzzing about this new world that Joana introduced to us. Hello hangover.
Story by Shamik Ganguly in collaboration with Sandy Gennrich.
A version on this post first appeared in The Light Diaries.
Since childhood I have considered myself an observer of everything that surrounds me and excites me. Photography has given me the ability to return to those important moments through images, and I’ve always found this fascinating. I’m more aware of it now, this possibility to go back and remember. I still recall with emotion when my grandparents gave me their Kodak INSTAMATIC X-15 for taking pictures. From that moment on I was held captive by anything that would appear in the viewfinder. Nowadays, I feel it’s essential to take photos daily, as it’s a visual and very personal record of everyday life.
This has evolved, in such a way that the traditional consumer of images has now become a “prosumer”, generating and offering their perspective on social networks. As a reference, let’s consider the scope of mobile photography, which has become a powerful tool for telling stories. Personally, it has allowed me to meet interesting characters on the streets and made it easier for me to approach the issues relevant to my environment.
In my pictures I try to capture the contrasts of light and the details of the characters, silhouettes and objects. I think that the best light to do this in is daylight; I only need to go for a walk with a pair of comfortable shoes and my cell phone fully charged. On the streets, a certain look can be intriguing. You can stop, get closer to your subject, or respect their anonymity and take a picture without them noticing and just thank them afterwards. The streets are pure emotion, that is where the stories are.
Personally, I’ve never liked to capture misery or the degrading condition of the human being; this has never caught my attention. On the other hand, shadows, contrasts and the characters that emerge from them, spontaneous symmetry and natural gestures, these are more interesting to me for generating my visual discourse.
Chihuahua city is located in the north of Mexico and, being close to the border, we have an interesting cultural mix. This has caught my attention and led me to title one of my projects: Puro Norte. In it I present urban portraits of individuals with expressions and in activities denoting the identity, clothing, instruments and poses of the urban cowboy, in costumes from a western film.
Go out, walk and be alert, but don’t stop enjoying the ride and the experience. This is where objects and people have something to say, have made their own history and are waiting to be seen. It’s all about going out to look for them in order to find them.
I prefer to document my own environment without expectations and tell the tales of what I see in my own way, though pictures. I don’t ask for poses and often I don’t ask for permission, but I watch and wait for the moment instead. Photography has given me the opportunity to meet some unique characters; it’s just a matter of approaching people with respect and making my intention clear when necessary, as in the case of a portrait.
I am constantly on the hunt, defining my style and reinventing it. This is evolving more and more, allowing me to expand to other networks and find various platforms for experimenting with an image. This is part of the process and the evolution of photography. It changes on a daily basis and requires you to be a curious person.
In my photographs I try to present my vision – what I have to tell – by using certain angles and editing processes. For some time, a quote has accompanied me and it’s by one of my favourite photographers of all time, Lola Álvarez Bravo: “I seek the essence of beings and things, their spirit, their reality. Interest, personal experience, ethical and aesthetic commitment form the photographer’s third eye”. I hope to some day find this, I am still looking for it, but so far I think I’m getting closer.
About the author: Ramón Cruz is a college professor and photographer based in Chihuahua, México. Documentary, portraiture and street photography are his areas of focus. He is currently a member of 1415 Mobile Photographers.
You can see more of his work here:
14&15 Mobile Photographers
We’re rushing through streets nearly every day, trying to get from A to B in the fastest way possible. This is especially the case when you’re living in bigger cities like Berlin, for example. Hectic is our constant companion on our day-to-day tours, causing stress, exhaustion and sometimes even anxiety, with no remorse. As we’re speeding through urban canyons, desperately trying to avoid any unwanted physical contact with one another, we become increasingly detached from our surroundings, and sometimes even from ourselves. We feel the need to hurry – possibly being late for work or for an appointment is indeed one of many reasons to do so – even though most of the time we don’t really need to; we just want to get it over and done with.
When I was a young boy, around 10 or so, my father always suggested we walk slowly in places we visited during our family holidays, reasoning that if I walked in a more moderate speed I would be able to soak up the beauty of the things around me, and thus have a truly enriching experience no matter where we were. Of course, as a 10-year-old boy, I couldn’t even imagine what he was talking about let alone comprehend his teachings, so I rejected his advice and kept on rushing. I continued this behavior until a while ago, but my childish reasons from back then – excitingly wanting to see as many things as possible in the least amount of time – weren’t really applicable anymore. Instead of curiously soaking up the world around me, I was more and more concerned about being where I wanted to be, as fast as I could, without any distractions whatsoever. In a way, I had shut myself off from the world surrounding me.
Up until one very particular day in my life, I was a dedicated jaywalker, always careful and attentive, and quick to respond to speeding obstacles. That was until I was forced to wait at a seemingly random and dreadfully busy intersection, which I had to cross. Acting out of a strange mixture of boredom and stress, I decided to take a deep breath and feel a bit more comfortable with the situation I was in. Turning my head left and right, I started noticing many different things, the details of my surroundings. For a few seconds I opened up, if you will, guiding my attention towards a beautiful dress worn by a kind-looking elderly woman across the street; the color arrangements of a middle-aged man standing in front of a corner shop (lilac, he was wearing clothes in different shades of lilac, even his tablet was covered in lilac too); the interesting height differences between a man and two Great Danes he’d taken out for a walk; the scent of beer and pizza, and coffee and cigarettes, coming from various sides…transforming this usually uncomfortable moment of forced waiting into something unique and special.
Upon crossing the street and continuing my course – the green light indicated its allowance to do so – a subtle smile appeared on my face: had I just shared an intimate moment of patience with complete strangers at an intersection?
On my way forth towards my destination I felt unusually light and present, noticing all kinds of patterns, shapes, and colors. Rays of light bounced off various surfaces, creating plenty of shadows and generating an overabundance of beautiful light situations in return. All this within only a couple of hundred meters. I suddenly remembered how my father used to tell me to slow down and pay attention to my surroundings. I also remembered that after years of trying, he eventually gave up. Who would have thought that about twenty years later, his teachings would not only come to fruition but also unintentionally lay the groundwork for both a great photographic practice and an exciting way to widen general perception and strengthen the skill of patience?
Historically, the Sunday stroll was always vital to the well-being of the majority of people: the obligatory walk to church on the only labour-free day of the week, used for recreation, quality time with the family, meeting friends and listening to the Word of God – a truly social experience, if you will. Even artists, writers and, later, photographers have devoted their craft to telling the art of strolling – Henri Cartier-Bresson is a perfect example of that. Nowadays, however, it is quite uncommon to just slowly stroll around, observe and pay attention to life happening around you, especially in places usually not frequented by travelers or tourists.
People witnessing me appear to be puzzled by both my slow walking speed and my intense and curious way of looking. Although I agree with Franz Hessel’s claim that you, the flaneur, do look somewhat suspicious, I would rather say interesting. Adding the fact that most of the time I don’t carry a camera with me and am solely photographing with my smartphone, mostly in unusual places, seems to be sufficient enough to be approached by a few irritated, yet interested people, striking up a conversation in an attempt to find out my intentions. A classic, neck dangling camera, however, appears to be the only visible indicator of intent, allowing the general public to decide whether to dismiss or welcome you upon first sight without the need to interact with you.
Usually, those conversations end in smiles, sometimes spontaneous coffee dates, and on rare occasions even turn into long-term contacts. Anxious at first about being approached by strangers – somehow I always felt the need to explain myself – I quickly adapted and became more confident with time. I now see the good in irritating people – it just means that there is something new happening and they don’t know how to properly react to it, which mostly leads to a conversation, and that is always a good thing.
Today, I see the slow stroll not only as a great photographic practice – as it allows you to habituate a certain way of seeing and perceiving things – but also as a way of easing your mind. Having to stop at a red light is no longer only an aspect of obedience, but a welcomed invitation to just pause for a moment and let your eyes and thoughts wander around. If you remove the debatable necessity of speed and are willing to open yourself up emotionally, you will start catching up the vibes around you, thus training your sensitivity towards your surroundings and your empathy towards others, eventually finding yourself calmer, more content, and confident during unforeseen circumstances.
When I told my father about my past experiences, he warmly replied: “You see, that’s exactly what I was trying to teach you all those years ago. Sometimes it’s not bad at all to just listen and take someone’s advice, is it?”
All Images © Alexandre Kurek, 2017 / shot & edited on iPhone using VSCO
After a lengthy vacation, our popular, Storytellers Circle has been revived in GRRYO’s Instagram account. We feature a photo prompt each Monday and ask our audience to share their stories to accompany the image. We would love for you to join us and share what each photo says to you. In September we focused on wonderful photos by talented artists with stories that our followers contributed. So come and browse through this digest and let the stories move you to join us each Monday in October!
“Look”, Agnes. “That man is buck naked!” “I’ve seen better”, she sniffed, “much better”.
On days when the air hit a certain percentage of humidity she couldn’t erase the image of the scar upon his back. The starched shirts, the fine suits, the fancy accessories were not enough … he would joke with the kids about the march and the days without food, make it seem like a cartoon- tom and jerry, wile e. coyote … all double takes and hi-jinx. But she knew the truth, had felt the raised skin underneath her fingertips for years. She had felt the tightness of his jaw, the grinding of his teeth and the quiet sound of his despair. She hated these days, when the sun was like a knife.
Ok, yes, I know, I’m old. I don’t look it, call me Dorian Gray. But I am old. 70 is old! And tired. Tired. I miss Lois, may she rest In peace. And Jimmy, God bless that little rascal. My knees hurt, I can’t fly more than five feet off the ground. Super? No more. But I’ll keep showing up, the world needs me. The world needs a Superman.
“Hmmm . . . the newest in spring fashions for the grand reopening of Atkins Department Store and the lineup of boring afternoon soaps on the local TV stations,” thought Roger as he squinted at the tossed aside newsprint. He’d been hanging out at the warehouse for 3 days now looking for any scrap of a clue that might help him to wise up to the mystery of Lucid’s disappearance. He would stay as long as it took if he had to. He loved that girl and there was no way he would give in to the heat, sweat, and misery of searching until he found her. And found her alive. She had to be alive.
Join us each Monday to share your stories with photo prompts in Storytellers Circle. If your story is selected it will appear on our website like those above.
adoring reverence or regard
Deference. If asked, “What is your house of worship? Where do you find comfort and solace?”, my answer would be, “The forest.” I have always felt sheltered and present in the woods. Dysphoria melts into mindfulness. I am happily lost in the presence of such grandeur.
Perennial Questions. The strength of root and branch, the ability to bow and give to nature’s force, what is this balance? How does the constant weight of snow, the perpetual force of the wind shape trunk and limb? You are over a century old, will you live another?
the fundamental or essential part
Foundation. Root over rock, here my seed alighted and here I must stay. Granite and flora, a stark contrast between the inert and the living – an inspiration to adapt, remain steadfast, to prosper. I am awed by the energy it takes to root oneself.
an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location
Collective Ownership. Below the forest canopy, below the forest understory is a vast network of fungal connections known as the mycorrhizal network. These filaments of fungi, growing in amongst the roots, are the interlacing connections that bond each individual tree into an integrated system – transferring information and nutrients back and forth. Point in fact, a dying tree will share its stored supply of food with neighbors. Perhaps a last act of altruism to support the forest community.
a way or track laid down for walking or made by continual treading
Succession. There is something special about winding through a wooded area following the footsteps of strangers. The path becomes a metaphor for a journey, a culmination of all who have passed.
mystic; of or relating to supernatural agencies, affairs, occurrences, etc.
Metamorphosis. The magic of the woods is ever present – forms fading and thrusting forward, some geometric, some anthropomorphic. How can imaginary beings not exist?
I remember as a child, walking home at dusk. As the light faded and the katydids’ and peepers’ rhythmic drone filled my ears, the scrub pines of Cape Cod would transform into gnarled and wicked shapes. I would try to look straight ahead and tell myself not to run, for evil smells fear. Once I was through the woods, I would bolt for safety and the glowing lights of home.
lasting a very short time; short-lived; transitory
Fleeting Moments. Left with a nagging sense of responsibility to record the moment, transience has always unnerved me. If not captured, the moment may never have existed. The forest has taught me to slow down and observe. I have learned that the celebration of ephemera is an everlasting practice. And, if you happen to record the moment, that is simply a bonus.
marked by clarity or translucence
Light. In the woods, I feel transparent.
Not invisible, but in a sense porous,
as if the light could pass through my skin and bones.
Forest shadows reaching toward me,
I half expect, when I turn around,
to see a continuation of their shapes
and not mine.
something composed of parts fitted together and united
Acknowledgment. How noble these trees,
how they display the vista, pulling its
likeness between them into balance.
I return to this spot season after season,
hoping these trees will outlive me,
hoping this frame is never altered.
the act of dying; the end of life; the total and permanent cessation of all the vital functions of an organism
Mortal Wish. When I die, I wish a thousand living things will sprout from my corpse.
Holy Week (Semana Santa) is definitely the biggest, most prominent celebration in Spain. It is also the most important period of the year, immersed in a wide array of emotions. Spanish people always find time to experience unusual processions – re-enactments of the Passion. Let’s go for a walk down the narrow streets of Ibiza’s old town, and admire this unique spectacle.
Before we begin, we cannot forget that people in Spain love eating, drinking and enjoying the company of their loved ones. Apart from celebrating the religious holiday, which is obviously of great importance to them, they value spending their free time with members of their families and with friends.
It is worth it to see the processions – they take place throughout the whole of Holy Week and they tend to be quite elaborate. You may also encounter their alternative name – “penance processions”. They involve members of the brotherhood (nazarenos) parading from their church to the city’s cathedral.
It is easy to spot the start of the procession – just search for a giant cross. It is always carried at the front.
What makes Spanish processions so unusual and so different from those in other places of the world? People who participate in them are dressed in a specific outfit known as capirote – a traditional, tall hat covering the face. Conical hats were traditionally worn by those doing penance. They were a sign of atonement and remorse for your sins. In this way, sinners would not be recognized and could repent anonymously. They also wear belted robes.
Another highly important factor of this event is music. Most of Semana Santa processions are accompanied by live marching bands that play religious, pompous pieces.
The ambiance of these festivities is one of a kind. Although the atmosphere is definitely solemn and spectacular, nothing can hide the Spanish desire to live in the moment. Strong religious beliefs are blended with celebration, and that’s how the unique mix is created. Don’t miss an opportunity to see the Semana Santa procession, and take from it what is most valuable to you.
Text written in collaboration with Monika Malucha
Magda de Jonge Malucha, aka Magda DJM, is a Polish mathematician, self-taught photographer, Picker and mom of a teenage otaku-boy, based in Ibiza, Spain since 1998. Her adventure with mobile photography started in 2013. She is a member of the Polish Mobile Collective Grupa Mobilni. Her work has not only been exhibited in Spain, Italy, USA, Germany, France and Poland, but also recognized in some competitions, like the Mobile Photography Awards and iPhone Photography Awards.
Martha is the second author to be published on Grryo following the announcement of our partnership with Picwant.
You can see Magda’s work on: VSCO | Instagram | Twitter
One two three four
Six seven eight.
Balance, lean, follow,
Corazón y alma,
Relax, and keep the tension.
Open the door,
Walk, walk, walk,
It’s all coming back;
Two three four;
In a new way;
A new way;
Listen to the rhythm,
Sense the beauty,
Feel the strength,
Heart and soul,
Cross six seven.
My world has changed:
It is a total secret,
That no one should know of.
It is awful private,
But far to heavy
To carry alone.
So I might just dream it,
And leave you the pictures
Frame by frame?
But then again:
I don’t want to re-
experience it all.
Two three four.
I still have to balance;
I still want to dance;
I still feel the tango.
Six seven eight.
I’ll bring the dark times to light;
I won’t fear them,
Although they know me,
And how to catch me,
And how to blind me.
I dare to touch them;
I dare to stay,
And reach for light.
I take off my shoes,
Walk past the curtains
(Like in a vision),
Open the window,
And breathe deeply.
I can feel a beginning,
It’s coming closer;
Almost like peace,
A vow transformed:
vision to matter.
Flexible body, flexible mind,
It derives from the soul,
Practice and effort,
Two three four.
I open my heart;
I drink the light;
I know it’s time
To leave soon.
Five six seven eight.
I move to the silence;
I count the beats;
It’s all in my soul;
It knows the direction;
It owns the music.
I sense the beginning,
It’s lifting me up
On wings of intention.
Six seven eight.
I watch the dawn behind the trees;
It’s glowing like trust.
The sky is burning
With light and answers
It’s time to leave.
The night is over
And time readjusted.
Two three four
From an uncertain point
I touched the shadows,
Felt them in my eyes,
Felt them in my body,
Their density and cold
As I reached for the light.
Through a shimmering corner
Of my awareness
The light flows
Through chaos and joy,
Bones and soul,
Mind and muscles,
Heart and will,
And much more.
Six seven eight.
It flows through
From All that is.
I am a visual artist working with photography, based in Copenhagen DK and Norwich UK.
I was a dedicated dancer of Argentine tango for 13 years, when I was diagnosed with cancer.
In September 2016, I went through some tests at the hospital, just to make sure nothing was wrong. But, something was wrong.
Late one Monday afternoon, a surgeon called me. She explained that I was diagnosed with cancer located in my lower abdomen and that I was scheduled for surgery Wednesday morning 7.30. She gave me one day to get used to the thought. The operation would be performed by two surgeons, and it would take six hours. It was going to be a large operation. She advised me not to postpone the operation.
I was shocked.
I thought I would die.
Or at least be transformed.
I spent Tuesday trying to get used to the thought of leaving this planet.
The good thing was, when I thought of the people I loved – and still love – I had already told them they were in my heart. That was the most important thing for me.
Maybe it was the surprise of surviving the surgery that gave me tremendous energy and will power? Maybe it was just a miracle? Anyway, I tried to get out of bed the day after the surgery. I succeeded and felt that the healing process was in progress, and insisted on going home.
I soon discovered that my life had changed, and my perspectives too.
Not all of the changes were pleasant: four months after the surgery, I started to dance tango again. It was wonderful and easy and a total joy, with all the renewed energy. BUT, after one hour of dancing, my legs and lower abdomen looked like something that legally belonged to an elephant. They were swollen because of damages on my lymph system. It was terrible. I couldn’t stand the look of myself.
Even though tango is about heart and soul, it’s also an art form that is very much expressed through beauty, grace and elegance. I felt that these important aspects were out of reach.
I don’t want to bore you with long explanations about all the kind of therapeutic stuff I did every day (and still do) to dance again, and to prevent the lymphedema from becoming chronic (and the cancer from coming back); just tell you that I made this series for two reasons:
- To express important matters through art. By transforming something private into something generally human, it hopefully becomes meaningful to other people – and it might even make them feel uplifted?
- To convince myself that I don’t look like an elephant. Anymore.
To see more pictures by Titika Røtkjær, go to Instagram.
This story begins with two photographers: the first one, Christian, a Frenchman living in Arcachon, a little town on the Ocean, 70 km away from Bordeaux. The second one, Valeria, an Italian living in Milan.
They have met by chance in the virtual land of an app called Instagram in 2013, and for the last four years they have been sharing their thoughts about photography through two other apps called Viber and Kik. They have never met in the real world until now, though they have been planning to do that sooner or later. As they share not only a love for photography but also the fact they don’t like talking about their personal work, they have decided to write about one another. This is the first of two articles reassuming a relationship based on reciprocal admiration and a long conversation about the need for photography.
(Within dance the expression pas de deux refers to the number of dancers, men and/or women, performing together a sequence of a ballet or choreography.)
I was a very “young” Instagramer with no awareness of my own work when I first came across Christian Mondot’s photography in 2013. I was making my first steps in the jungle of Instagram when I found his striking bw account (@cclm31) and I was caught off guard by all those images speaking so honestly of their author’s emotional side. It was more or less like when a child perceives the difference between himself and an adult, feeling the shape of authority. Compared to mine, his gallery had no contradictions or random images, but showed a definite strong identity. The most impressive trait to me was that all the images seemed related to one another, like words of a speech, and they were meaningful and soulful despite the absence of a garish subject.
I was in awe of his skillfulness in focusing on humble details, like an old washtub, a newspaper in an abandoned classroom, a closed door.
His extraordinary way of shooting the ordinary showed a contemplative eye to the world and spoke a language full of intimacy to my heart.
I realized in my naive approach to his photography how intensity doesn’t need spectacularity or drama, but rather a moved eye, and how the importance of a subject comes from the story the photographer sees or imagines behind it. Everything can become important when beautifully focused and framed, but it’s not just a matter of technical skill. The impact was strong but it took me a long period of time and more personal consciousness about photography to unfold the mystery and to understand the message hidden behind that work.
Preferred subjects to talk of his inner world are people and nature. Many of Christian Mondot’s photographs don’t feature visible people but rather their absence: melancholic shots like those of abandoned places full of traces left by their passage, empty restaurants frozen in the wait of customers, interiors of churches in the half light without believers.
Sometimes we get the human presence from a sign, like the light coming from a window, or a dog waiting for its master. Through this feel of missing people, Chris seems to talk of a lost Golden Era, full of warm relationships and expectations, like youth is.
These images without people and missing people are gloomy, and fascinate the observer with their ominous power: the unpleasant loss of the Golden Era is unavoidable. In more recent images, the presence of people seems rather to emphasize the serene acceptance of the loneliness of the human condition. Chris shows himself like a lone wolf, bashful and contemplative, loving his rich and multifaceted microcosm.
Nature is his best friend. Chris said to me he often gets lost in the beauty of landscapes, standing alone and totally overcome by the feel of immensity, absorbing the space around him in an impossible desire of symbiosis and waiting until he understands how to take “that” shot. Nature looks like Mother: peaceful, embracing and supportive. This side of Chris’s work suggests a powerful identity with mystical traits.
He is a professional musician, and music never leaves him alone as it is always in his head like a soundtrack. That’s why looking at his photos featuring awesome countrysides or marvelous sea landscapes, I have often sensed a sound, like a whisper, growing until it becomes the din of an orchestra tuning its instruments.
Chris uses a poetic black and white language to tell an endless series of little stories. He has a very personal use of black and white: his black is deep and enveloping, often taking most of the image, sometimes soft like velvet, others very intense and dramatic. Inside it, smooth like a caress or sharp like a blade, the light insinuates itself, showing beauty. He uses his whites coming out of all those blacks like a curtain raised to reveal the truth. It’s a mystical light and I have often felt in awe of his way of engrossing the observer: ravished and sucked inside the frame, we are called to take part.
Christian Mondot’s photography fulfils its author’s wish to engross the observer in his own emotions. These are artistic photographs, evoking much more than they show, involving more than what they feature.
There’s no way to escape a personal participation in these charming stories, so be ready and enjoy them.
You can find Chris on: Instagram | Website
When taking photos, there are times we feel the images we captured aren’t good or maybe we lost our touch. Thus, we spend time looking for inspiration and motivation in photography by looking at people’s feeds on Instagram or other photography platforms. It isn’t because we failed; rather, our willingness to learn and keep growing gives us the thirst to be better. Seeing others’ feeds brings a new feeling and often a new perspective to moments.
Suddenly Sherbet by Jay McCullough
It is hard with the advancements and, of course, competition in photography these days. But we must not forget why we started taking photos in the first place. Yes, getting commercial has become important to some. Yet, for many of us who started photography as a passion, we shouldn’t lose our way. Through my journey in photography, I feel if we forget that first moment we started capturing and don’t continuously relive that feeling, then, however professional we get, at one point the taste and enjoyment of it will fade. Many photographers in the past kept clicking and stayed humble to their passion, which is why we always feel inspired through their work. Compromises may have been made, yet their brilliance remained true.
Light by Victoria
Coming across the feeds of Aki Sato (_akisato_), Victoria (vi.or) and Jay Mccullough (jmcullough) was one of those moments for me. Their feeds and photos bring a fresh feeling. The first time I saw their images, I was amazed at their captures, clarity and perspective. Each of them have different styles, unique in their own way. The idea and motive to keep it original has lost its way for many, but when seeing their feeds, I was convinced that there are some who want to stay original and be themselves.
Here are a few words Aki and Jay share about how it all started for them :
I live in Tokyo, Japan, and I’m an instagrammer taking photos with the iPhone 6s.
Photography has always meant something to me. But I’ve got a different point of view of my city and my photos after a Copenhagen trip in 2015.
Before I went to Copenhagen and Stockholm, I had no impression about my city because I’d been so busy at work. Tokyo was just a place to work for me. As you know, Tokyo is one of the busiest cities in the world. I had no time even to look up to the sky. In Copenhagen and Stockholm, I met lots of happy people. They were proud of their city and enjoyed their life even though they worked so hard like us. I really loved them. After the trip, the scenery of Tokyo was totally different from before. Everything looked very fresh, even if it was a flower on the street. The trip opened my eyes and it was so inspiring.
Also, I really love a simple interior and monotone fashion, even in my everyday life. ~ Aki Sato
I’ve loved photography since I held my first camera in grade school. This interest carried through high school and college, influenced by everything from Ansel Adams to Rolling Stone magazine. I’ve enjoyed photography throughout my adult life, but it became a regular and serious hobby for me a couple of years ago around the time I started using IG. Since then, my love and interest for photography has grown exponentially. From minimalism to mood to light to magical moments with my children… I could not be more in love with capturing beauty and artistic expression through photography. ~ Jay McCullough
Victoria’s words can be seen here.
Simple and minimalist are not easy to approach in photography. Some people have a sense for it and are able to capture the essence. Aki, Victoria and Jay have done a fine job in showing how simple things can stand out stunningly. Their photos speak of various moments. Every photo is telling you a new story. Aki’s photos form an intertwining story of their own and make you see Tokyo from a new angle. Victoria captures minimalism in street photography through her creative eye. Jay magically captures various moments in daily life filled with colours.
Let’s create the story through their photos below :
Architecture by Aki Sato
She stood there on the stairs, whilst time stood still. She wondered and waited in silence for that one moment when her friend would say, “Hey, I am done, let’s go.” Once she saw the picture she was in awe of how beautifully her friend framed her in this simplistic setting.
Midsummer Night Dream by Jay McCullough
He walked through the fields during sunset. The impressive lines from the power lines striking through the skies formed a lovely, simplistic structure. Intrigued by the colours of midsummer, a thought crossed his mind. “Should I enjoy this moment and let it pass or should I take my camera and hit the shutter?”
Paint the Silence by Jay McCullough
Melodiously, the voice of the trumpet resonates around the house, creating a classic and soothing rhythm. Everyone starts to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere whilst continuing their household chores. Jay, feeling inspired, pictures a colourful moment in his mind and instantly clicks.
*On the street
Street by Aki Sato
He walks whilst looking at his mobile after work. Checking his messages and missed calls on a quiet empty street. Oblivious and in his own world, from a distance, a photographer, triggered by the patterns on the floor, instantly captured this moment and, voila, he is frozen in it.
Green by Victoria
Her prominent red hair stood out against the teal background. As she passed by through the light and shadows, thinking of her next appointment, the photographer felt it was the perfect moment to capture. After playing with some angles, she finally clicked.
Red by Victoria
Lost in trance, the music flowed through him, bringing him to a new place and atmosphere. He felt carefree and refreshed embracing the moment. Victoria, forming the shot in her mind with the stark red background and the man rapt in his world, hit the shutter.
Stairs by Aki Sato
Standing at the center of the stage looking at the audience applauding his marvelous production, humbles him. He is proud of his first-ever successful moment. He thinks, “Wow, one day, it shall come true.” Looking up at the stairs spiraling through eternity inspires her to create a moment that stands still in times to come.
Stairs by Aki Sato
Running through the stairs of eternity, she looks through the crisp blue skies joyfully and blissfully. From behind, she hears a murmur, “Hmm, the steps look great. I wish she would climb faster so I can frame the shot and capture it.”
Stairs by Aki Sato
Wandering back into her past, and exploring her present, she sits contemplating how time has passed. Having no regrets and continuously moving forward in faith she smiles. Aki, her friend, through the flowing patterns and stairs clicks a vivid snapshot, then calls out, “Hey, look here, let’s go!”
*Chasing the shadows
Blue by Victoria
In anticipation she stands peacefully whilst looking at the shadows and colourful background weave through the reflections of the sun. The subtlety of the moment injects her to create this lovely masterpiece.
Dream Awake by Jay McCullough
Shyly, she practices ballet near the window thinking no one’s looking. Gracefully, she enjoys herself in the movements. Her father, quietly smiling, sees the opportunity of a beautiful moment to capture. Picturing the sunlight rays forming a shadow and lovely silhouette of his daughter, he snaps his shutter.
Through their photos and our personal photography journeys, we can see how we can influence one another. Changing vistas, new angles, patterns and structures bring with it a fresh outlook on photography. Let us continue to find our sparks in each other whilst growing to build our passion!
See more of their feeds on Instagram Aki | Victoria | Jay
Thank you, Aki, Victoria and Jay, for allowing me to express through your beautiful photos.
“Now, we are Fez!” Mohammed, our driver, announced in his broken English.
I sat up, bolt upright, shut my laptop and looked out the window. Something about the air in Fez gave off a sense of rawness that was so characteristic of Morocco herself. But if the streets of Marrakesh, where we’d just come from, were dipped in the deep terracotta hues of sunset, the labyrinthine streets of Fez’s centuries-old medina were kissed with the dusty sand-coloured tones of the Sahara.
Mohammed’s sharp voice cut through the air as he called the hotel to get directions, turning the steering wheel with his free hand. We weren’t even in the medina yet, but we were already lost. I didn’t mind, though. To me, one of the most eye-opening experiences of traveling anywhere is getting lost.
As we circled around attempting to make head or tail of our location, we’d ended up passing through a street that curved around the edge of a hill overlooking the rest of the city below several times, giving us a spectacular bird’s eye view of the entire city more than once.
Twenty minutes later, we stopped outside one of the entrances into the medina, luggage in tow, waiting for the riad staff to fetch us and sticking out like sore thumbs.
Bakeries, grocery stores, dimly lit teahouses and spice shops lined the road, and bearded old men sat in silence outside small restaurants, sipping mint tea and frowning as they scrutinized their surroundings. Young men pushing carts laden with everything from bread to clothes to old machinery shouted their way through the crowd, and pairs of women dressed in bright-coloured Moroccan djellabas shuffled in and out of the medina.
Children scurried about, weaving through the crowd and shrieking gleefully as they played together. Just inside the gateway, fruit sellers hawked their wares on wooden tables, and the aroma of freshly roasted corn wafted through the air. Just being inside the medina was a feast for the senses.
But some things stay the same no matter which part of the world you’re in: crowds of men of every age huddled together inside teahouses, rapturously watching soccer games on the TV, their conversation interjected with bouts of cheering and jeering.
The entrance to the riad we’d be staying at for the next two nights was an inconspicuous glass double door almost completely hidden behind two grocery stores, which left us feeling more than a little hesitant. But the humble entrance belied the exquisite interior of the riad. We were led down a tastefully lit hallway decorated with bright Moroccan zellije tiles of blue, red, yellow, white, and green, which opened up to a wide open-air courtyard whose emerald green tiles glinted in the sunlight cascading down from above. Plump white pouffes and ottomans neatly circled small hand-carved wooden coffee tables, and the faint scent of sandalwood drifted through the entire riad.
This, I learnt, was a hallmark of Moroccan and Islamic architecture. Traditional Moroccan riads were often purposely designed to have unimpressive exteriors that suddenly open up to elegant inner courtyards enshrouded in privacy, symbolizing the primacy of inner beauty over outer appearances.
In fact, Fez’s entire medina was infused with this elusive sense of hidden beauty. Every narrow alleyway and shophouse-lined avenue within the medina seemed to radiate so organically with a rugged sense of practicality that still somehow managed to be delicate in its beauty. Wandering through the maze of streets in the medina, I found so much attention to detail in the otherwise mundane.
Public water fountains dotted the streets, each of them breathtakingly decorated and painted in vivid colours that came together in an explosion of luminosity. Huge wooden double doors that stood at the entrance to almost every riad, restaurant, Sufi zawiya (spiritual centre), or mosque were embossed with calligraphy and arabesque carvings. Some of the streets in the medina were covered with wooden lattice structures that served to provide shade from the desert sun and filter just enough sunlight to brighten up the narrow walkways without making it too warm. And despite the abundance of butcheries and fish stalls all over the medina, no matter how many times we walked past, there was never any stench or any kind of unpleasant smell that is so often associated with wet markets, because the produce in Fez is always fresh.
The myriad alleyways winding through the medina appeared to be deceptively stuffy, yet the minute I stepped out of the blazing warmth of the streets outside the medina and into any of the alleyways leading into the medina, I was enveloped in a cool embrace that seeped into my skin and instantly refreshed me.
It turns out that the materials used to build the houses within the medina were specifically chosen because of the cooling effect it had both inside and outside the house.
Even though a unifying colour scheme of creams, browns, and greys runs through most of the medina, occasionally, the desert-like hues of the medina were interrupted by vibrant splashes of colour that popped out of nowhere.
As I made my way from site to site within the ancient medina, I came across a rainbow alley packed with displays of oil paintings, bracelets, carpets, bags, and prayer mats. A group of street artists had taken it upon themselves to literally brighten up a dark alleyway within the medina.
As I continued wandering around, I caught a whiff of an overpowering fragrance which beckoned me further and further into the medina until I found its origin: a small shop selling pink rose water that was being made and bottled on the spot. A bespectacled young man in a lime green t-shirt, camo pants and a red taqiyah (Muslim skullcap) stood amidst huge woven baskets of pink rose petals and neatly packaged glass bottles of rose water, diligently simmering the rose petals in water.
Because of the brown monochromatic colours with which she’s predominantly painted, Fez herself may initially come across as rough around the edges and even drab compared to other Moroccan cities.
Yet the maze-like streets of its pristine, ancient medina immediately sweep residents and travelers alike into a cradle of veiled beauty whose authenticity is at once rejuvenating and calming in a world that, in so many ways, has lost its heritage to the throes of modernity. I know I’ll be back here again, one day.
Santriani is a freelance writer based in Singapore.
You can see more of her work at the links below:
How my mobile phone helped me to discover photography and what I learned along the way
Not too long ago the number was 36. That was how many pictures you could take with one roll of film. I went through about three of them per year. Two for the holidays and another one for the remaining family get-togethers. The constant lack of remaining shots on the film, the hassle of taking that little black box to be developed – it’s safe to say, I wasn’t a fan. To me photography felt complicated and out of reach.
Digital photography came along and things changed. People around me still took photos of their holidays and families. But now it wasn’t 36; now it was more like 360. I would sit through endless photo presentations, but picking up a camera myself wasn’t an option. Things seemed to get even worse when mobile phones turned into cameras. I remember buying my first smart phone. “I want to make phone calls and send text messages, why does this thing have a camera?” Oh, sweet ignorance…
They get us all in the end
Eventually, while everyone else was already busy taking selfies and stuffing Facebook with pictures of their daily lives, my inner photo geek awoke. First, it would only stick out its nose into this wondrous world of social media and mobile photography, quickly retreating whenever someone accused it of finally being interested.
What really caught my attention were blogs and, of course, Instagram. There I found people using their phones beyond the odd snapshot. For years I’d visited Instagram pages in my browser. Just for their photos. The social part of the app was too far out there for that little photo geek. Consumption okay, but sharing? No way! It takes confidence to put yourself out there. Most Instagramers, like me, are not professional photographers. However, this isn’t National Geographic, it’s a phone app and we all learn a thing or two as we go along.
The best camera is the one you have with you
Yes, I know. Phrase-mongering! But it’s still true and I learned the hard way. It was my second visit to Australia. The first time I went, the camera I brought gave up on me after two weeks. So one year later I returned home with only two photos, and a travel diary, but that’s another story.
Armed with a new DSLR and lots of determination, this time I was going to get it right. However, DSLRs are heavy and did I mention complicated? So it stayed in my bag for most of the trip. Not so my phone. It saved the day more than once and slowly but surely taught me to approach photography from a different point of view. That of a storyteller.
Getting to this place meant a long hike through a dry river bed and the burning heat of the Australian outback. We started before sunrise. Guided by the light patches of white sand, we made our way through the bush and gum trees rattling in the morning breeze. Without sunlight the rocks appear black. They radiate the heat from the day before and there is a distinctive scent in the air that can put me back to Australia in an instant.
As we reached the bottom of the river bed, the sun began creeping over the edge of the gorge and turned black into glowing red. It was beautiful but also meant we were up against the clock. Walking back with the sun up was not an option. So when we finally got to the end of the gorge there was just time for a few pictures with my mobile phone. The big camera stayed in my bag the entire hike.
This guy was about as big as the tip of my thumb. There were thousands at this beach in Tasmania. We had a blast trying to capture them in a photo without having them retreat into the sand or running away. This was a beautiful place and sunset, but I would not remember it as vividly had we all not spent an hour or two chasing crabs with our phones.
There is a difference between capturing the essence of a memory and a snapshot of a moment
At some point during my trip I began capturing things simply for their uniqueness or beauty. These photos have no story, but they form one if I put them all together.
They aren’t about what happened but what it felt like to be there. The color of the water, the texture of the sand and maybe even the sound of the birds in the morning and the scent of the gum trees at dusk. The details of everyday life.
Suddenly everyday things become special
Power plant along a freeway.
We all know them. The things we pass by on our way to work. They are familiar and yet we rarely pay attention to them. Especially when they represent the negative things of what we do to our environment. This, however, caught my eye. Since my phone camera and I have become better acquainted, I catch myself looking for interesting shapes and colors. I had stopped at the side of the road for the canola field, but ended up posting this on Instagram.
Sometimes a picture can make my day. Like the cool T-shirt you got for a bargain or the train you almost missed.
The perfect ending to a not so perfect day at the office.
For the non-professionals among us, our phone can be our best friend
I admit, I like my DSLR and I use it often. There are things that my phone just can’t do and I enjoy the challenge of learning about exposure, aperture and all those other things. But there are times when it’s not my camera but my ability to use it that reaches its limits. And more than once my phone has gotten me the photo I wanted.
This is not fog. It’s the heaviest rain I have ever been in. A sight to behold, but my camera wasn’t happy. Holding the camera in one hand and the umbrella in the other I just couldn’t get anything in focus. Freezing, drenched and quite annoyed I finally took a few shots with my phone. Not perfect, but sooo much better.
My phone makes me a hunter for opportunities
I am a writer and sometimes I desperately look for a picture to illustrate a thought. That’s when I go on secret photo missions. Wherever I go, I try to create an image that will translate that picture in my mind into something others might recognize.
Instagram caption: What if you could jump and dive into that other world?
And sometimes it is a song.
“There is nothing more difficult than talking about music.” – Camille Saint-Saëns
🎶 Camille Saint-Saëns – The Aquarium, Carnival of the Animals 🎶
Gadgets – every photo geek’s dream
Be warned! There comes a day when even the humblest mobile photographer opens their bag and it’s full of equipment. Halfway along my journey, I discovered gadgets. My favorite is this tiny lens that produces the most amazing macros.
The Alien – A beautiful poppy, so creepy up close.
My next lesson is how to do street photography. It helps to only have my phone. It doesn’t feel as intrusive when I sneak up on people.
Lovers on the love lock bridge in Cologne
There is still a long way to go before I master those intense portraits taken on a train or in a café. Let’s have a talk about your friendship with your phone or how to tackle those little photo geek insecurities. Find me on Instagram @tonivisual and say hello!
Thank you, Alexandra, for editing! @whisper_feather
What you are about to read are disparate and fictional short stories I have written to coincide with images that are part of a series of photographs of mine entitled “Empty Seats”. The series embraces the enigma of everyday objects that are specifically created by and for human beings, yet they are filled with emptiness, loneliness and a longing for human presence…
Alone and abandoned, the once proud turquoise chair finds itself frozen by the side of the road. Mere hours earlier the chair had enjoyed a life of abandoned inclusion in the warm garage of a lakeside vacation home owned by a caring family. Strategically placed next to the riding mower and directly across from the red 10-drawer tool chest, this once elegant and much sought after chaise was complacently secure in its retirement inside the cozy dry garage.
On a frigid January day with no forewarning, the teenage children from the family burst into the garage with orders to clean it out. One by one, the familiar items in the garage were carted out by the teens and left indignantly at the end of the driveway in a heap of despair. When the eldest daughter picked up the turquoise chair, it knew the end was near and its destiny would be on top of the heap on the driveway to await a final resting place in the local landfill. But all of a sudden the girl walked across the driveway to the side of the icy road in front of the property and plunked the chair into the snow bank.
Alone and facing the elements for the first time in its storied life, the chair sunk into the wet, damp snow and sighed a deep, remorseful sigh, knowing that for now it had been saved from imminent death, but, that from this moment forward, life as it had known it would succumb to a daily ritual of growing rot, mold and mildew. The horror. The horror.
William sat alone mourning his dead wife for nearly an hour. Looking up, he realized that every person who had come to witness the burial had vanished. Suddenly he felt the weight of knowing that he was truly alone now for the first time in 36 years. He rose sobbing and walked away, leaving behind a hard damp bench, a haunting headstone and the cold lifeless body of his beloved Jacqueline, now six feet under ground.
It was not always an “art piece”.
It first held court upon the front deck of a beautiful cottage situated high above a lake. Sturdy and strong with a brilliant coating of white paint, it beckoned family members and newcomers alike to sit in comfort on its reclining seat with big wide arm rests and gaze upon the magnificent view.
But time and the elements are not kind to a Muskoka chair. Today it sits on the slope that faces the lake below the cottage deck. It is in the perfect spot to be seen by those passing by in a boat or lazing carefree on the dock.
This chair comes from a strong breed. In its retirement it may be willing to sit alone in the cool shade of a Hemlock tree all summer or hibernate throughout the winter under a blanket of snow, but it is far from the end of its life. It can no longer support the full weight of today’s generation of cottage-goers, but it can support the weight of their fond memories.
After all, art is all about memories.
Derek forgot his raincoat and gloves – again!
This is a frequent occurrence – too frequent. In fact, Derek has been forgetting a lot of things lately. His doctor has hinted at early-onset dementia. But at 53 years old, Derek doesn’t want to hear about such things. After all, as he said to his doctor, “I have a wife and two daughters to take care of for Christ’s sake!”
Derek has worked at the scrap iron yard since he was 18 years old. He never saw the point in going to university. He wanted to start making money at an honest job right out of high school.
Eating his lunch at the company picnic table every day for 35 years is one of the small pleasures in Derek’s life. He loves to sit out there rain or shine. It makes him feel alive. If he happened to have left his raincoat on the bench again, so be it. He’ll grab it tomorrow, if he remembers.
Nathalie came upon this oddly placed chair on a brisk winter’s day. It was just sitting there upon the rocks inviting her to take a break from walking her dog. “How wonderful,” Nathalie thought. “I could use a short rest.”
Nathalie sat down on the cold steel bars of the chair. At first it was a welcome respite. “Life is good,” she said out loud for no one to hear. The view was spectacular. Large ice dunes had formed along the beach and provided a scenic panorama. The sky was painterly in its glorious blue-gray striations. The air was fresh and clear. No sound could be heard except the lapping of the waves under the ice and the breathing of her tired old dog.
Then the cold hard reality hit her. A pair of thin blue jeans was the only thing that separated Nathalie’s butt from the cold hard steel. Immediately her respite was interrupted as she realized her moment of Zen was going to leave a mark!
Hoping no one was watching, she rubbed her hands across the ridges of the grid-like imprint on her frozen behind. She called her dog and briskly walked toward her car, murmuring under her breath, “Damn winter!”
Drenched and near death, men, women and children from a land far away washed up on the shore one by one, clinging to their precious life rings. Stumbling upon the beach they realized they had survived their flight from genocide in their homeland and that they were now miraculously safe.
Many of their friends and family members were not so lucky. They were not able to find a life ring to cling to as their small boat capsized in the stormy and frigid water. They were now lost forever.
The survivors who made it to this desolate beach took a moment to stack their “life” rings next to the empty benches on the frozen sand. They created a makeshift memorial to honour those who died trying to reach freedom. For this exhausted and frightened group of refugees it was of paramount importance in their dire moment of survival to somehow pay tribute to their lost loved ones.
They turned and walked away into the warm and open arms of those who would help them begin a new life in a new land.
The greatest Luchador in all of Mexico has hung up his mask. He was always a bit of a swinger.
The train came to a stop at Broadview Station. When the man sitting across from me got up to leave the train he crumpled up the newspaper he was reading and dropped it on the floor. As the man exited the train, I noticed the word “hate” in the headline on the page facing me.
“You know what I hate?” I thought. “I hate litter!”
No, wait, I hate the act of people littering. Yes, “hate” is a strong word. In my opinion those who litter deserve to have a strong word thrown at them.
Subway litter. Roadside litter. Sidewalk litter. Litter in the countryside. Litter on the beach. Litter in our lakes, rivers and oceans.
Today litter is everywhere on this Earth and it’s repugnant to me. It’s the ultimate sign of utter laziness in a human being. And it’s ignorant as well. The person who litters is blatantly saying, “I don’t give a crap about this Earth.”
Well I do give a crap about our Earth. I care deeply about stewardship and preserving the only land and water we have to live upon. We are choking it and I don’t believe it can come up for air any longer without some emergency measures. We need to release the Earth from the chokeholds of litter and pollution.
We need to “hate” litter and the actions of those who create it.
I was walking through my neighbourhood park that contains one lone blue bench. I saw a photographer hurrying to set up his camera and tripod across from the bench, as the sky grew ever darker with ominous storm clouds overhead.
Two teenage boys came walking across the park toward the bench, unseen by the photographer who was looking through his viewfinder.
The two boys looked to be up to no good, so I hung close by in case there was trouble brewing. They approached the photographer and one of them said, “Hey dude, you gonna be long ‘cause we wanna sit on the bench?”
The photographer looked up and said, “Just give me ten minutes please. I drove for an hour to get here to get this shot.”
“Are you kidding me?” the boy said. “You drove an hour to take a picture of that!”
“Ya, I did.” said the photographer.
“What a waste of time.” the boy replied.
I laughed out loud and walked away as the photographer hurried to get his shots. The boys wandered off to sit on a large boulder in the park and as I walked past them they lit up a joint. I turned to look back when I heard the photographer shout to the boys, “It’s all yours now guys.”
The boys never moved off the rock.
He had been officially “homeless” for nearly a year. This outdoor encampment perched next to an abandoned railway track was his “home” now. It contains a tarp to sleep under, a cane chair, an end table and a tiny garden with kitschy decorations.
His kingdom is deliberately designed and immaculately ingenious. The squatter got up out of the chair, grabbed one of the many pairs of work gloves he had collected and walked away.
Off he went to who-knows-where. But one thing is certain. He has a place to come home to, be it ever so humble.
Where do lifeguards go in winter?
Do they fly south? Maybe they go work at a tanning salon. Or perhaps they just find an indoor pool to guard.
These brave souls whose job it is to protect us frolicking sunbathers, suddenly vanish in September not to be seen again for another nine months.
Where DO lifeguards go in winter? It’s surely one of life’s guarded mysteries.
My photographs and words can be found at: