Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Reminiscent Sunday

This past weekend I only had one shooting excursion scheduled. Kacie Auffret, an undergrad from the class I am assisting in, set me up with her mother, Celeste Pare. This is the first “blind date” that I have been set up on, so I felt a tad anxious. Celeste was so sweet though, my anxiety was gone within minutes of meeting her.

One of the first places she took me to was just down the street from where I live on Sandwich Street. On our way there, I was initially feeling a bit disappointed because I have ridden my bike up and down this street so many times. But then we pulled up to a building that she said used to be a Hi Ho Drive-In fast food restaurant.

“These restaurants were original fast food drive-in restaurants in Ontario. The Fortin family asked for and received permission from Walt Disney Company via a simple letter, to use the trade marked Seven Dwarfs and the Hi Ho name for their restaurants. No lawyers were involved. The Fortin’s received permission within a few weeks in early 1934.”1

Celeste was born and raised in Windsor, and worked at this particular Hi Ho as a teenager; so it was really great to listen to her reminisce about Windsor when it was in its prime. It was a beautiful day outside, but unfortunately the building was engulfed in shadow. Now that I know what this building represents, I have full intensions to bike here on my own one day to photograph it in better light.

From here, we drove to another place that I have ridden my bike past, but which I have had no reason to connect it to the auto industry. This is an area just past Sandwich Town called Brighton Beach, and it is where Celeste grew up.

“Over the last decade the area has been slowly decimated by the City of Windsor, who have been busy buying/expropriating all the homes in the area. Initially the plan was to turn the land into an industrial park, but smart money is on this area being the home of the next Windsor-Detroit Bridge.”2

We first had to ask the security guards if we could drive into the old area, which is now mostly made up of empty lots where houses once stood. He told us that it was now crown land, and they didn’t want people dumping, but Celeste explained our situation and we were cleared to shoot some photographs. I took a panoramic of the lot where her parents house once stood, and in one corner of the photograph, the Ford Nemak Essek Aluminum Plant can be made out. From here we continued on to LaSalle, where I reshoot the Canadiana & Auto Museum of Essek County, one of the locations that Mike Marcon had taken me to a few weeks earlier. I am confident that this will make a much better panoramic then on the previous date.

On our way to LaSalle, Celeste began describing here two first loves to me. First, was her horse, and second, her Mustang. After describing my own love of horses, and how I had taken lessons for a few years, she continually pointed out areas where she used to ride when she was a kid. She even invited me to go and check out a holding pen with her, a spot where she is considering keeping a horse that she is hoping to purchase in the near future. I agreed, so after taking a portrait of her car at Ojibwa Park, we went to have a look at the stable. The smell always brings me back to when I was a kid…

From here we headed back to Lebel so she could drop me off, but before she did, she gave me a few photographs of herself with a replica of the Mustang that she had once owned that she had taken at a car show in Detroit. All in all it was a fantastic two hours. This trip really made me realize that I must solicit more people who were born and raised in the Windsor/Detroit area to take me out.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Another week goes by...

This past weekend was another successful outing. But before I get into details, last Friday, March 18th I had a studio visit with Scott McLeod, the director of Prefix Photo Magazine. I have to give a big thank-you to Amanda White for giving me her slot because she thought it would be more suitable for me as a photographer. Overall, the visit went really well, and he had a really positive attitude towards my current direction that my work is moving. In fact, he even asked me to send him an image to keep on file. But with every visit comes some criticism, and his main one was to stay true to realism, or in other words, avoid as much distortion as possible due to the panoramic process. Yes, yes Bryan you were right… I have to admit it.

Later that afternoon I was scheduled to go for a motorcycle ride with Zeke Moores - one of the sculpture professors at the University, but we were both busy so decided to reschedule for Sunday morning as the weather was still suppose to be nice. So when I showed up at 10:00am, I was a little bit groggier then usual as it was a Sunday. Zeke seemed a bit apprehensive that I would be able to hold my own, and I’m pretty sure he told me about 3-4 times not to lean with the bike, and to hold on so I didn’t fall off. But fair enough, as I’ve never been on a motorcycle before.

After driving down Huron Church Rd. to get gas, I’m pretty sure to take me on a trial run to make sure I wouldn’t kill either of us, we headed towards the core of Windsor, Ford City. Our first stop was Drouillard Rd, at the International Tavern. Professor Rod Strickland recommended Zeke take me here because it is the bar that would become filled with autoworkers in overalls leaving the Ford Plant at shift change. I like the fact that you can see the Ford Power House in the background, one of the locations that Tokio had taken me the weekend before, and the mattresses in the upper windows of the building.

After taking a pano of the International Tavern, we drove to Richmond Street, once the industrial centre of Windsor, including motor vehicle and parts services. Here I shot a pano of some of the old buildings that once serviced the auto industry, but now lay in rubble after being torn down. Zeke, and his partner Lucy Howe, once had a studio near this spot on Walker Rd and Richmond Street, but it was destroyed in a fire, an occurrence that seems to happen regularly in the area.

It wasn’t a long drive from here to Central Avenue, another area of town that services the auto industry. The one building that stood out the most here was the yellow building of Central Stamping - a metal stamping manufacturer. I shot a pano of it, and the yellow building against the blue sky created great contrast. Having been out for 2 ½ hours at this point, we stopped at Taloola Café to get a coffee and warm up. It was right near here that I took a portrait of Zeke’s motorcycle next to an old abandoned building, with half of the windows broken in it, that apparently had once been an art studio. We then headed back, and although the coffee warmed me up a bit, I was still pretty chilled, and this was apparent as people in the Lebel building kept commenting on my blue lips.

I had about a ½ break before Cyndra MacDowall, one of the photography professors at the University picked me up to go out. I have to say, the heat of the sun in the car was really what I needed to warm up, although it did take about 2 hours to get all the feeling back into my hands. We immediately headed out of town on Walker Rd. Cyndra is doing a series on salt domes of Windsor, so we were initially searching for a new one she hadn’t seen before. It was located just outside of the township of McGregor by the Sutton Creek Gold & country club. Cyndra took some images of the inside of the dome, but we decided to stop here on the way back to shoot the exterior in the hopes that the light would be better. I did take a portrait of her car at this location though.

Maybe a kilometer from here, we came across ABC’s Auto Recycler Lot. This was the lot that Jim had mentioned, the guy that Natalie Sinn and myself came across at his shop ABC Auto Parts near the airport. Although he had said that if I wanted to shoot anything of his I needed his permission, I ignored this comment, and trespassed to get a pano that I am quite happy with.

From here we continued driving south, and stopped in the town of Harrow for a bite to eat and have some tea. It was getting late, so we headed back towards Windsor, but did stop at the salt dome to take some photographs. That evening, Cyndra made me dinner, in return for me helping her with some computer software. Again, good conversation were had throughout the day with both Zeke and Cyndra that otherwise would not have occurred within the confines of the Lebel building.

On a side note, a few other things that occurred later this week were a visit with some students from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Although this was a group of metal smiths, they brought some interesting ideas about my work to my attention. One being that my work does not address the auto industry, but car culture. I’m still not sold on this idea, but something to consider. I also had a studio with professor Jennifer Willet, and her main concern was my idea of mapping. I agree with her on the fact that right now it is not resolved enough to be considered part of my body of work, and maybe it never will be. It may just be my process of gathering images when all is said and done.

Finally, there was been an article recently published about my show at the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon in Verb magazine, and written by Meagen Thomas. Although the article is written very well, they cropped my image, and I am struggling with this. Was it wrong of them to crop my image without my knowledge? Should I address this issue with the editors? Or just ignore it and let it be… hmmm

Article, and Uncropped Image:

Article, and Cropped Image:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Law of Attraction

Well, this weekend was full of the law of attraction when it came to cars. Not only did Amanda lend me her car for the entire weekend because she was taking the train to Toronto, but Tokio Webster and Sandra C, both fourth year undergrads at the U of W agreed to take me out. So that being said, I spent my entire weekend out shooting photographs.

I dropped Amanda & Lydia off at the train

station for 5:30pm on Friday Mach 11th, and immediately afterwards, I headed and grabbed my camera because of the rich blue colour of the sky. The day before, Amanda and myself had been out running errands, and she had wanted to take a picture of the Ambassador Bridge for a new piece she is working on. We found this little park with the perfect view, and while she was taking some source images, and I swung on a swing, I decided I would come back to photograph this location. The bridge is the busiest international border crossing in North America in terms of trade, so figured it would make an good addition to my panos, I just didn’t think I would be coming back the next day!

On Saturday, I was up early and Tokio picked me up from my place. As she grew up in Toronto, and only got her license within the last 5 years after moving to Windsor after coming to the conclusion that it is an impossible city to live in without a car, she decided to take me on some of the routes that she drives by regularly since getting her license. We started by heading NE through the city, and our first stop was the Ford Power House. Owned and operate by Ford Canada, it provides power to its Engine and Casting plants. After doing a loop around we found a parking spot and walked to the best spot to shoot a pano.

We didn’t drive far from here until we reached the Ford Test Track, which is a 59-acre park that is used as a major venue for local sports activities. It was the original test track facility for Ford Motor Company of Canada, but in 1979 Ford agreed to lease the track to the City of Windsor as a park. Tokio had never been to the park before, so we got out and walked around trying to find the best vantage point for me to shoot a pano. While walking around we had a good chance to talk, and I was really surprise to find out how similar our past histories have been. On the surface it’s been obvious, same age, both in long term relationships, but had it not been for this project forcing me to spend more intimate time with people, and creating conversations I normally wouldn’t have outside of the Lebel building, we never would have realized how similar certain aspects of our past have been.

After shooting a pano, we continued on, but the weather was getting ugly, and we both had other places to be. Before I even knew it, we were back near my place driving by Malden Park, which is 175-acre park, featuring the highest hill in Essex County. I had no idea that this was so close to my place, and since the hill has the perfect view of BP Canada Energy Company - pipeline contractor, I knew I would be back. I still needed to take a portrait of Tokio’s car, so we stopped by Lebel, and then she dropped me off at home.

After a quick lunch, I packed up and walked back to Lebel to meet Sandra. She is a first generation Canadian, and both of her parents immigrated to Canada at a young age from Italy. Most of her family worked for the auto industry throughout the years, so the first place she took me was to some residential areas where her family lives. One of the images I shot in these locations turned out really well, and the lack of sidewalks in the image makes it even more appealing to me. The no sidewalks in many residential areas are still a strange faucet of Windsor that I am still not used to and one that I have been pondering on how to document. She then took me to a few locations along Huron Church Rd where they are expanding the 401 highway for easier access to the Ambassador Bridge. I took a couple of panos here, one of an old gas station that has been shut down, and a row of houses that has been boarded up.

Since most of her family worked for Chrysler, and I had not seen the plant yet, she took me on a loop. This is the plant where the first minivan rolled out of the factory in 1983. They do tours here, and I must get access, if not for the photos, then for the history lesson. From here we wrapped it up, but before she dropped me off, we stopped at the riverbank for the car portrait.

I had big plans for Sunday. It was suppose to be sunny, so I was going to out and shoot all day. But when I woke up it was cloudy, and since I went out the night before, and woke up a bit hung-over, decided to postpone for a bit. After going out for brunch and getting groceries, I decided to go back to Malden Park for the afternoon. Although I have really been enjoying the social aspect of this project, while at Malden park, I remembered how much walking really helps clear my mind. I didn’t feel rushed, just meandered around, picking at things, talking to the geese, taking photos, and then just went and sat in the car for an hour afterwards thinking. As I am a person who is greedy for experiences, I would never choose one experience over the other, but I couldn’t help remembering how comfortable I feel just sitting in the driver’s seat of a car.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Last Thursday

Last Thursday, March 3rd, I headed out on another adventure. This time Michael Marcon took me out, an undergraduate in the 4th year of his BFA. An aspect of this project that is starting to emerge that I hadn’t previously thought of, is how different every outing is, not only because of where each individual takes me, but also because of each individual’s personality. While some people are more into taking the time to explore with me, others have specific spots in mind and see the process as directly from A to B – and then there are all those who exist in-between.

Mike, although not a photographer, would have what I call a “photographer brain.” When I say this, I mean a personality that blends being both an artist and a technician together. So, while having an eye for aesthetics, people like this, myself included, tend to pre-plan the majority of their lives in detail. In this regard, I would have to say that out of everyone I have gone out with so far, Mike is most similar to myself in this aspect. He knew roughly where he wanted to take me and had a timeline in which to do so. I was all right with this though, as I had things to do later that day, like clean my apartment to show potential sublets.

Since no one had taken me West of the city yet, he knew of a few places out that way, so we headed out into the county. LaSalle is the first suburb West of Windsor, and our first stop was at the Canadiana & Auto Museum of Essex County. Before photographing the premises, we went in to ask permission. The inside was full of old antique car parts and random odds and ends, and although they wouldn’t let me shoot the interior due to the possibility of thieves, they were fine with me photographing the exterior. The best angle I could find included a number of old antique cars behind a fence.

We began heading out of LaSalle, and we passed by Marty’s Full Serve Gas Bar, but the sun was hitting it at a strange angle, so I asked if we could stop here on the way back, and Mike agreed. From here we just kept heading West. We eventually turned onto Front Rd. N and just continued following this road along the riverfront. We stopped in the beautiful small community of Amherstburg, a town I would retire in if I was from the area, and then kept driving west until we hit Lake Erie. It was starting to get late into the day, so we began to head back towards Windsor. Along this entire way, I don’t even remember if we talked. It was just nice to be out for a drive.

I’ve been recently been reading Wanderlust - A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit, and as someone who has both walked hundreds of kilometers and driven thousands more, I see the two being interrelated. As Solnit states, “walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord… The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it.” Although Solnit is referencing walking in this passage, I occasionally am in this same frame of mind while on a road trip, and Thursday was one of those days.

Solnit, Rebecca. Wanderlust: a History of Walking. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Penguin, 2001. 5-6. Print.

It must have also been a similar day for Mike, because on our way back, just before reaching Marty’s Full Serve Gas Bar we were pulled over for going 77 in a 50 zone. Although for most of the trip in the county we barely talked and just watched the landscape pass us by, we had started up a conversation about nothing in particular, and neither of us noticed the change in speed. Unlike myself in similar situations, Mike was pretty calm about the whole thing and after being given the ticket, we continued on our way. Literally two seconds later, we reached Marty’s. I took a few panos here and also the portrait of Mike’s car.

I know it’s taken me quite a few days to get this post up, but I’ve had a few busy days since Thursday. Asides from writing an essay, I’ve been in the process of trying to sublet my apartment for the summer months. But, I have had success! There is a couple who have said they will take it, so fingers crossed that they don’t back out on me!