Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Another Day Out

So, I was really hoping to use reading week more to my advantage by going out on excursions and shooting some photos instead of actually reading, but unfortunately, the weather threw a wrench into my plans. On Sunday afternoon, a storm started to blow through the area, and on Monday, the city of Windsor woke up to 30 centimeters of snow. As this is not normal for the area, and it was family day, I decided it would be best to postpone shooting for the day. Driving would be terrible, none of the lots would be plowed to park in, and really, I didn’t feel like walking around because no one shovels there side walks here until a day or two after a snow fall… if ever.

But on Tuesday, Natalie Sinn, an undergrad in her final year of completing a Honours Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Visual Arts, and myself decided to venture out to see what we could find. Our first stop was out by the Windsor airport at a place called B.O.S. Auto Parts, which is an automotive recycler. The lot looked to have a lot of really interesting old car parts, so I asked the owner if I could take some photographs. I found it quite humorous when he stated “Ohhhh… you don’t want to be out there today it’s to cold to be shooting photographs!” (It was -8 -16 with the wind…) “And the snow in the yard is up to here!” (As he pointed mid thigh, an obvious exaggeration) I just chuckled to myself, and said I was from Saskatchewan, but he didn’t understand the reference, and was adamant that I come back when the snow was gone. But, I’ll take what I can get, as they usually don’t allow people in to the car yard, so when the weather gets better, I’ll be back.

A few shops down the road we stopped at ABC Auto Parts. When we first walked in, I really
liked the place. It had all kinds of old and interesting memorabilia of the area hanging all over the walls. There was even an oversized amour of a knight in one corner of the office. In the garage part there were shelves and shelves of old motors and fans and auto parts lined up on one side of the wall. The first guy I asked about taking some photographs said I would need to wait for the owner who was next door eating lunch, so we had a quick look around the outside of the building. But, I found the inside to be much more photographically interesting. We went back in, and waited and waited, and then finally, Jim, the owner showed up wiping food from his face. My first impression was not good. I explained my process, and when I was finished, he asked if we were spies. Really… spies! I think this guy has some serious paranoia issues. I told him that no, I’m a student, and here’s my business card so you can see what my work is about. He looked at it briefly, and rudely said it was too nice for him to keep, and handed it back. He then proceeded to give me one of his cards, which he stated that because they weren’t as nice as mine, he could afford to hand them out. He wrote down his name, and said “there’s only one person to talk to about getting access to my lots.” To what I replied, “you?” And he said, “Yeah, come back when the weather is better…” Honestly, I am torn. This guy was such an ass, and I’m assuming that this also had something to do with the fact that we were two women, that I’m not sure that I will go back. It’s something to keep in mind though. He did seem to warm up to the idea a little bit at the end, and he mentioned something about a large lot of old cars in McGregor that is his. I’m not quite sure where that is, but if I need to, I’ll figure it out.

After we left ABC, we stopped for lunch at The Whistling Kettle, in the township of Tecumseh. Natalie worked here years ago, and like she said, the food was amazing! Mmmmm I just had ½ a gyro and sweet potatoes fries as leftovers for lunch! We then ended up in the small town of Elmstead. I still find it strange how towns in the area seem to be connected. I still thought we were in Windsor until I looked at a map. Here, we stopped at AP Plasman, a company that specializes in painted plastic for automobile exteriors. Although we weren’t allowed access, I did get the contact information for Richard (who Natalie couldn’t stop talking about how much she loved his Liverpool accent) and he said to get in contact through email, with the possibility of doing a tour. (And if Richard is giving it, Natalie wants to come along so she can listen to him talk) Which reminds me… send that email! While in the area we stopped at Integram Windsor Seating, a company that specializes in manufacturing and assembling the front and rear seating for minivans. Unfortunately no one was in the office, but I did get a contact number to call to see if I could get access. Another reminder… make that phone call!

From here we decided to tour around the rich area of Essex County, as this was where Natalie
wanted to get the portrait of here car taken. At this point her car was splattered with slush, and she was adamant about the dirtiest part of her car being displayed in front of the nicest possible house we could find. The nicest we found were on Elmgrove Drive, and one that we stopped at is perhaps Steve Yzerman’s summer cottage. It’s important to note, that all the houses face Lake St. Clair, so we were only seeing the back of the houses, which are not as nice as the fronts.

It was starting to get to be later on in the day, and Natalie wanted to take me to the Chathem-Kent Museum, which is located approximately 80KM from Windsor. She had never been there
before, but from all of the press it gets on it’s displays of the a
uto industry, figured it would be interesting. We were both sadly disappointed. There was 1 old car, and a few horse drawn carts. I think the most interesting thing I saw in the museum was part of the jaw of a Mastodon that had been found in the area. But regardless, we got there ½ hour before closing, so I quickly set up and took a few photographs. Although in no way do I see this fitting into my final body of work, I was partly experimenting to see how they would turn out, and this way I can also show that I have been playing around with lots of subject matter, which seems to make people happy.

As the sun was setting, Natalie took off to take a few of her own photographs in a park within Chathem… and then we drove off into the sunset back to Windsor. Although no solid panoramic resulted, I feel like I got a lot of really great leads that could result in so
me amazing photographs.

I also had another studio visit today with Julie Sando, and the concept of performance came up again. How this process of getting people to take me out has a performative aspect to it. In a way, I see these formal/informal p
ortraits of other people’s cars a way of inserting a personal aspect into my work.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

First Day Out

So today (February 18th) marks the first day someone took me out in their car to shoot some photographs. Kiki Athanassiadis works for the University of Windsor as the printmaking and digital print lab technician. Sheis from Montreal, and only arrived in Windsor for the first time, likemyself, just after September. The first trip made for a most interesting adventure.
The first place she wanted to take me to was Zalev Brothers, which is a metal recycler, because she drives past it every day. But I had just been there on Tuesday when Riaz had lent me his car; I knew that I would need to get permission into the area to get the photograph I wanted. So, we took a service road to some interesting buildings that she had seen instead. It was here that I took the portrait of her car, and decided I would come back to photograph a building during a day when there was morninglight.

From here we got a little bit lost, but ended up driving over an overpass where hundreds of new cars from the Chrysler plant are stored. First, we stopped for a quick lunch at Tim Hortons. (I ate a Spitfire donut. Really… do all cities have donuts named and decorated for their junior hockey leagues!?)

It was a good time to sit and discuss my current project – we discussed mapping, a perfomative aspect, and adding audio. All valid issues that I need to give more thought to. After lunch, we drove near the edge of the overpass, and Kiki waited in the car, while I walked up the grassy side of the overpass to get an elevated view of the Chrysler Plant car yard. This may sound easy, but I had to do a bit of bush whacking to get up there, and with the fresh snow melt, it was a bit wet and muddy in places. But I made it, set up, and am hoping something good emerges once I stitch the pano together.

Our next stop wasThe Wood Mill, as Kiki is currently creating a piece of work out of wood. They had some really exotic and beautifully coloured and textured wood in stock and I couldn’t help taking a few photographs.

We decided to head back at this point, and took Riverside drive back into the heart of the city. The colour of the Fleming channel was so blue, I couldn’t help but stop and take a photograph of the Detroit skyline. Before being finished for the day, we stopped at Crawford Avenue so I could reshoot a pano I had shot on a day when the light wasn’t as good. Then headed back to Lebel, finished up a few things in my studio, and here I am.

I’m Exhausted! It’s been a long, but good week. I’m glad reading week is ahead, and I have at least two more people lined up to take me out during it. Kiki also made a suggestion that I should get everyone together at the end of this project for a dinner. Not that I could afford a dinner for all those people, but just a get together. Something to keep in mind anyways…

Friday, February 18, 2011

New Direction

I’ve really been struggling with keeping up with this blog. The last time I really kept one was with Scruffy Nomads, which was easy because it was a synopsis of world travels my partner, Bryan, and I experienced last year. I guess I’m just having a hard time comprehending why someone would want to read about the securities/insecurities that I’ve been struggling with through this Master’s program in Windsor. That being said, I think I’ve found the perfect outlet to keep me writing…

Anyhow, let’s catch you all up to where I’m currently at with the development of my artistic concept:

Even though I’ve never had a car registered to my name since I received my license on August 4th 1998, I have always had a car to use at my leisure. There was the Suzuki Swift throughout high school, registered to my Mom, the Chevy Beretta, registered to Joan (Bryan’s mother) throughout our undergrads, Betsey, the van we drove over the course of 11 months in New Zealand was registered to Bryan, Scarlet, the car we put 14,400 KM on in Australia over the course of 4 months in 2010 was also registered to Bryan, and most recently, Cherry, is currently in Saskatoon, registered under Bryan’s name.

When I came to Windsor in September, my parents graciously undertook the 3-day drive with a U-Haul of my stuff in tow. But when they left for the 3-day drive back to Saskatchewan, I was left carless – which really felt like my biggest nightmare. All I could do was dwell on the fact that I didn’t have a car, so how was I going to get out and shoot what I wanted to? So, I bought a bike, and rode around my area of town randomly taking panoramic photographs, which subsequently revolved around the theme of auto-recyclers, scrap yards, and the auto industry. But I still wasn’t satisfied. I wasn’t seeing enough of the city.

After Christmas break, I came back to a snowy Windsor, which immediately made me even angrier about the fact that I did not have a car. As Bryan can attest to, I may have on an occasion or two, cried and whined and pouted about how I didn’t have one but NEEDED one, perhaps in the off chance that he would say, “Hey, guess what! I didn’t tell you, but I have a few extra thousand lying around… Why don’t you go and buy yourself a car.” This did not happen. Instead, I was told to quit being counterproductive and constantly focusing on the negative, and instead, turn my attention to the positive. Wow… I must really be rubbing off on Bryan!

But, I agreed, and since two of my classmates in the program, Amanda White and Riaz Mehmood, had offered to either drive me around, or lend me their cars, I took up Riaz on his offer this past Tuesday, February 15th. He was busy, so Monday night let me keep the car overnight so I could head out and shoot the next day. It felt so good to be in a car, and driving myself home, that I couldn’t stop thinking about it.Then, later that night, I had an epiphany that could turn my disadvantage into an advantage.

I figured, if one person was willing to lend me their car, why wouldn’t a number of people be willing to lend me there ‘expertise’ on the auto industry? The word automobile and Windsor seem to be deeply intertwined, so through this process I will also be learning more of people’s opinions on the matter. So my question will be, “What do you think represents the auto industry? And would you be willing to drive me to this location so I can document it?” Of course, I’ll be fronting gas and food money to make it worthwhile…Additionally, I will take a portrait of each person’s vehicle and keep track of where we go through a mapping process, and through this blog. So, every time someone takes me out, I will write about our adventure here. As being on the hunt, and the thrill of seeing new places is part of what drives me to be a photographer, this seems like the best way to make my current situation work for me. The idea is still being formulated, so I don’t have much more to say about it at the time being, but I appreciate any feedback or ideas that people have… that is if anyone bothers to read my random ramblings.

Portrait of Riaz's car from February 15th 2011. Just a sample, as I would like to re-shoot with direct light, rather then side light.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The New Website is Live!

Check out the new website design at showcasing a bunch of new photo galleries, including some work still in progress. As it's still quite new, there might be a few surprise kinks to work out yet, so let me know if you notice anything... strange. If you've been to the site before, you may need to refresh the page to help clear your cache.

Hope you enjoy some of the new work - I'll keep you posted as new collections come together.