I think I was looking for my photograph archives from a trip I took with my son, the summer of 2009, when I came upon some images from the end of the teaching year and celebrations with my students; specifically, my grade nine art students, our life sized sculpture exhibit and my grade seven home room.
It was that year that I invited my students to bring in a special object for our prayer table…so, every Monday, it would be the next person’s turn. It started with me…and a stone. Jarrett Alley, a former student of mine, had passed away in 1997 at the age of 13. His place in the classroom was two rows back, but directly across from the framed article that remained, for all of my teaching years, a tribute to his life.
I think I always intended to copy and pass on a photo to each student at the end of that year, but evidently that never happened!
I’m going to loop the photographs here. My students, of over thirty years of teaching, remain in my heart.
For the most part, I am out of touch with these students, so if my readers know any of them, please share.
I visit the same place, Frank’s Flats, daily…it doesn’t matter the weather. It’s been five years now and I like the intimacy that comes with knowing this single place well. For some, traveling the world is satisfying. I feel as though I ride on the seasons as others might ride on an airplane and I gain such perspective and understanding because I look closely. If one tends a small piece of the land, with gratitude, it is possible that one becomes more keenly aware through all of the senses. This is just what I’m thinking.
Along with my written archive, I’ve posted a collection of images over the years that partners with the words, however, with no room in the budget for a camera these last two years, I’ve been using my phone. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to get up close enough to some of my subjects because they (the coyotes, magpies, red winged black birds, osprey, muskrats and all types of water fowl) have been doing the most amazing things and doing them quickly and everywhere.
So…today, I got myself a camera. And this was my first photo.
Within minutes of picking up my Canon PowerShot SX60 HS, I sorted out some of the technical aspects of the camera. While doing my research I knew that I wanted something with greater zoom than my former Lumix point-and-shoot. While I’d had two Panasonics, in time, the same component had failed on both. In both instances I was told that replacement value would be equal to a new product. This was disheartening and I really didn’t intend on buying another camera. Once I had decided that a good camera would make my experiences more enjoyable, I decided I still wished to have the convenience of Auto settings and that I didn’t wish to invest very much time learning the science of photography, given that I have pledged to get back to the easel consistently over this decade. (Praying for continued good health.)
This afternoon, the female osprey was surrounded by a wall of nesting material, her head peeking again and again over the edge.
The male was enjoying the sunshine on his back…hanging with his buddy, the magpie. This was taken from quite a distance away and I know that the image is fuzzy edged, but I so enjoyed capturing these two buds hanging in the thick brush. It wasn’t long after this shot that he lifted off, delivered another large branch to the nest and then settled in to watch over Mama.
I really enjoyed the fact that the sky was seamless. The waves on the water were actually pounding, it was so windy. There was a smell on the air of life.
I will have to pour through the photos to find ones that have the better compositions, but these few demonstrate the difference between using my phone…
Can you see her?
…and using this beautiful gift to myself. What joy! This one legged stand was my surprising capture. It makes me smile. I am blessed by this beautiful location and discover something new every day.
I’d like to meet Orest Semchishen. When I watched particular scenes from the movie, Finding Forrester, I felt a similar feeling about the character, William Forrester. Gradually, the greatness of this writer is unveiled through the testaments of others. It seems that people who accomplish great and important things are not always known, but come to be known for what they have created. So, this is the way it feels once looking into the intimacies of an Orest Semchishen photograph.
On Friday evening, Terry Fenton spoke to some of the content of the photographs represented in the Splendid Isolation exhibit, so wonderfully displayed at the Esker Foundation. Through that conversation, I had a chance to also meet Lawrence Chrismas, who has successfully documented, through photography, the culture around Canadian coal miners. Lawrence shared during question period that he has known Orest as a dear friend and that in sorting through his studio, Orest offered him his darkroom equipment. Such an inspiring gesture! In keeping with the humility I try to describe in my opening paragraph, Lawrence includes a quote on his home page, “The intelligent man is one who has successfully fulfilled many accomplishments, and is yet willing to learn more.”
Lawrence Chrismas Elymer Holsteine, Pit Supervisor, Costello Mine, Estevan, Saskatchewan, 1987 Gelatin silver print on paper Collection of the Mendel Art Gallery. Gift of the artist 1996.
Who is Orest Semchishen? ArtSask offers this biography.
“Orest Semchishen was born in 1932 in Mundare, Alberta. Like other self-taught photographers represented in the permanent collection of the Mendel Art Gallery, notably Les Saunders and Stewart Brown, Semchishen makes his living in the sciences. As a radiologist, he is intimately aware of the properties of light and energy, and this familiarity translates into striking imagery.
Despite his highly technological occupation, the primary subject of Semchishen’s significant body of work owes more to his rural origins than to engineering. For many years, Semchishen has been documenting his travels through rural Canada. As he encounters towns, neighbourhoods and individual residents on his journeys, he photographs what he finds, freezing the changing, or disappearing, lives and lifestyles with a medium format film camera. He then processes and prints his images himself, by hand, through photographic chemistry.
Because I have such a preoccupation with memory and nostalgia, Orest’s works are powerful in their intimacy and in their restfulness. I feel transported, somehow, as I view each photograph, to a particular time and to a place. The notion of PLACE is so significant. Regarding value and contrast, I find most of his works to be dominated by the use of middle greys, contributing, I think, to the overall stability and peacefulness of each setting. They are very sensory and I respond immediately from my own memory of drives through southern Alberta with my grandfather…or recollections of driving the dirt roads of central Alberta and stopping into coffee shops along the way.
Regarding his portraits, Orest has documented a fantastic collection of northern trappers and their homes, impacted so much through the surging influx and pressure from beyond their reserve boundaries. The objects of their affection say as much about the personalities as the portraits themselves.
Bill Moyan, trappeur, Kinuso, Alberta Orest Semchishen juillet 1985, tiré en 1990
Thank you, Orest Semchishen, for your greatness and your gift.
Rea wrote: “You should add a paragraph of P names so if P Mason Googles himself he might find this post… You can also hide the text I bet or colour it white if you don’t want a big long obvious list of names on your blog. Good luck with the search! “
I think this is a great idea. In fact, it’s crossed my mind. The reason it crossed my mind, of course, was because I wondered if doing a google search for a P. Mason would be adequate. So…I am going to include some possibilities here and then perhaps someone will hit upon this entry when searching for their own name. (Come on now. I know you’ve done it!) Who’s to say that P. Mason is male? I immediately made the assumption that because of the content and the approach, this was a MAN’S photograph. Not necessarily. It made sense that I began with P. and then Peter. Actually, I began with P. Mason and the word photography….then, expanded to Peter.
hmmm…apart from the word, PESTO, nothing is coming to mind right now…
Pete Mason (oh dear, I’m back to that again…) I’m wondering why Rea would suggest that I hide a long list on my blog? White? OH! I know! Did she make this suggestion because likely this is the most ridiculous series of posts I’ve ever written!? Could it be? I think I’m onto something! It feels much like a series of “Where’s Waldo?” It matters not! I’m having fun!
To offer up a context for this madness, I’m waiting for potatoes to boil. Suggestions would be welcome. P. Mason, I adore this photograph…but won’t use it as a reference for a painting until or unless I find you! And…I know that my HUGE following is wondering, “Where are you, Rea?”
Philip Mason (the potatoes are soft now…off to eat a late dinner!)