Monday, July 31, 2023

A new colourful cultural experience

Let's start by saying that yesterday Michelle and I attended the public event part of the Tsuut'inna Nation Pow-wow. There's a lot to unpack here, and context is everything.

I've lived next to the nation for 40 years, but know little about the people. That's on me. As far as I know I have no indigenous heritage, and acknowledge that I was raised in a settler culture, giving me all sorts of preconceptions. I carry that around, and it's mixed with great experiences working with Indigenous summer students, along with day to day life in Calgary. For my American readers, on any random day I'm far more likely to see or interact with someone who is Indigenous, or who's ancestors came from China or India, than with someone who is Black. It's a function of where I live.

Why go to the pow-wow? I'm a curious guy. The various Indigenous peoples have been getting the shitty end of the stick essentially since Europeans came here. They are trying to overcome generations of trauma to bring back their languages and cultures. The pow-wow is one of the ways. This is where it gets complicated. Bear with me.

Let me start by saying that I went with the thought of being respectful and to learn. While I took my camera, I was determined to first find out where I could and could not use it, and what rules I should follow. I found a photographer setting up for posed portraits. He was very helpful, but didn't have the time to chat much. The important point was that outside of the grand entrance and dances in the arena, was to ask first. I shouldn't  expect to get lots of great portraits because I don't know the culture, and my potential subjects would know I don't know the culture. They would be right to question my motives and what I would do with the photo. That I think their regalia is beautiful and photogenic is meaningless to them, because each item has a cultural meaning, and they are under no obligation to explain it to me. Photography during the grand entrance and dances is fine, and that's where all the images below are from. I realize this is not a performance put on for the tourists.

It was clear this is a family event. There were numerous mentions of family relationships. The people dancing ranged from toddlers to I'm not sure how old 'golden age' is. But I liked the phrase, golden age, considering my age. The golden age dancers were some of the best, which I suppose is not a surprise given how much practice they've had the time for. Some of the dances are judged, and I was reminded of ballroom dance competitions. I saw people watching carefully, and handing in slips of paper after each dance.

I wandered around, looking at the various booths, but didn't buy anything. The words cultural appropriation came firmly to mind. It wasn't so long ago that white people could photograph anything they wanted and do whatever they wanted with the photographs. They could do the same in writing. Whatever biases they might have been carrying around infected the work they created, and then infected almost anyone viewing the work. Now we're coming to realize that some stories aren't ours to tell. I don't have the right to capture someone's image and sell it, or even display it out of context. There are entire museums full of plundered items, and the discussions about returning the items are only recently being taken seriously. 

As a side note, during the Unarchived video I saw recently, an Indigenous woman saw an archival video of a woman scraping a hide, and said that's my grandmother. She wanted a copy of the video to take home and share with her community. I was baffled and astonished that the response was not, "Sure, what format is best for you?"

There was ceremony and pageantry, and no end of colour. Even knowing little of the cultures involved, I enjoyed the day. I'm planning a trip to the Tsuut'ina cultural museum to learn more. Here's some of my photos.



























Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Some watery photos to cool you down

The main news is that I've finished the first draft of my next photo book. It's called Memories of Sundown at the Arctic Circle, A trip up the Dempster Highway in September 2019. Unless I come up with a better title. Right now it's 42 pages, 67 photos, several of which are panoramas taking up the entire width of the layflat book. My loyal blog readers will have seen at least some of the photos before. I need to fill out some of the stories that go with the text, but the main attraction, I hope, are the photos.

I am reminded of the 80 20 rule. During the first book I goofed on the layouts, and had lots of tweaking to do. I was more careful this time, but there's still a bit of tweaking. The whole size of the photo container vs the size of the photo is a bit of a pain in the butt.

Last week I dropped off 8 rolls of film to be developed, and as always, I can't wait to see what's on them.  While I was out and about on Canada Day with a film camera, I got asked why? The young adult couldn't get over the manual focussing, manual settings, not seeing if it was done right, waiting till the roll was done to take it out of the camera, dropping the film at the lab to be developed, waiting to get the negatives back (though I could have the developer scan them for me), scanning them myself, and then running them through Negative Lab Pro to finally, FINALLY see what is there. 

They thought it was such a hard process and took so long. But that's the point. People appreciate what they work for. There is more to photography than carrying around a camera set on auto, with the lens that someone told you was appropriate, pointed in the direction they said was a nice photo, edited by AI software.

It's been smoking hot here, and it seems everywhere else. So I thought I'd show you some photos of water captured in the last 3 months.  

1. Fish Creek in subdued light, finding out how Lomo 100 film reacted.

2. Fish Creek on a smoky day.

3. Fish Creek on Acros II film.

4. The film black and white version of #2 above.

5. Fish Creek.

6. A road trip into BC. This waterfall is just off the road to Takakkaw Falls. This is the digital version, I think I've blogged the film version that I happen to like better.

7. Takakkaw Falls.








15. Film is Kodak Gold 200

16. Film is Kodak Gold 200

Of the Day
Driftwood (NZ)

Driftwood (BC)


Flower, One of Linda's new roses that is living near the front door.

Yukon, Miles Canyon.

Film (old) (You got lots of new film above.)

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Recent books

So what has Keith been reading lately?

I saw this in the library, but already had a few things picked out already and figured I could get it on the next trip because this is a thick book. A very thick book. It might well be sub-titled 'digressionary and alternate views of history'. Lots of digressions. It's well enough written, but it's almost more conversational than anything else, having grown out of conversations between the two authors. It was still there when I dropped off some books the following week so I got it. I figured it would take a while to get through and I was right.

It's interesting, almost more a philosophy of history, but good Lord does it go on, and around and around, taking multiple runs at various events. They needed a ruthless editor.

If you saw The Good Place, which we have, and liked the bits where Chidi is explaining various philosophy points of view, then you'll enjoy this book. A fast and easy read.

There's lots of books about the 'best' or most important photos. You've probably seen them, and maybe even you've read those books. You've almost certainly seen some of the photos. Except this book doesn't show any of them. It dives a bit deeper into the photographic history, and talks about some of the other developments. (I hope you see what I did there.)

It was interesting in places, but I'm not THAT interested in the history of photography. A quick read and back it went.

So I actually met George Webber the other day. The Camera Store was hosting a seminar on black and white photography, and he dropped in. I'd read several of his books, and after the seminar made a point of telling him how much I enjoyed them. (The only thing more flattering to an author than saying you liked their book(s), is that you'd bought them, and for most, asking them to autograph it is a dream come true.) I'd been to any number of the places he had photographed, and in some cases the 'there' in the photograph wasn't there any more. We chatted about darkroom printing, and the next day I looked up his books in the library.

I hadn't read this one so I borrowed it. I've been to a few of these places, and know the names of many of them from oil and gas work. But overall it's a sad book. The future for Saskatchewan looked so bright 100 years ago. Buildings were put up, some of them quite handsome brick structures, proudly looking to the future. I've seen some of them. Then the Dirty Thirties happened, and a world war, and mechanization, and the corporateization of the family farm, and the kids moving to the big city for fame and fortune. We're left with the relics of a bygone time, slowly fading away, or falling down. 

The thought occurred to me while reading, what if a bunch of well off retired but active people moved to a small town? They bought homes and fixed them up. They brought their pension cheques and tried to spend locally. What businesses would be revitalized or be started? How many people does it take to make an economic base?

And speaking of books, my first one arrived here the other day. It's a test book, done purely to see how photos look on the printed page, and take a run through the process of putting it together. I've already started on the second one.

Of the Day
Driftwood (NZ)

Driftwood (BC)




Film (new)

Film (old)