On style

Uncategorized, Writing


I joined the Ajax Photography Club and went to a very interesting talk by Michael Willems on “Developing Your Photographic Style”. Quite by accident I decided to join the club when developing your style was a theme this year. Thank goodness!

Over the past few months “style” has been a weight I’ve been carrying around. I understood what it meant, but applying it to my photographic work was a whole other ball game. Pretty sure my earlier posts talked about or at least implied the pressure of trying to define my style. I just didn’t feel like waiting around for it to happen (just shoot long enough, you’ll find it). I’ve been doing all this too long. Secretly of course, I was quite sure I didn’t have one. I like to do too many things, experiment with too many things.

Once you know who you are, you’ll know what your style is, goes the advice.

I think not.

Not for me, anyway. It’s possible to get too close to your work. It’s possible to get lost in that low lying anxiety.

Michael Willems was the first I’ve encountered that actually had specific and actionable suggestions on how to tackle this question of style.

One of the more helpful take aways was the suggestion of going over your past work for those of us that have work to look back on which I do.

What patterns emerge? Certainly when I look at the work I’ve done that I’ve never intended to show anyone, I see a number of patterns.  Structures, empty rooms, skies, flat graphics, people – but specific kinds of shots (of course the rabbit heads!), and the requisite selfies.

With some of my work there has been a certain darkness and isolation that has been there since I started shooting, although much more muted than it was. There is also a kind of unreality of others, some fantasy based, some blown out highlights, over-saturation. When I think about what my obsessions are, there are identifiable ones. But rather than thinking that I just keep going after the new shiny object, (ie. I do too much and I need to just pick something) I suspect I am actually after something.

I have visual stories to tell, but I haven’t told them all, and I haven’t found a way to more accurately tell the ones I’m working on.

The new few shots are an exploration of the Lake Ontario. The lake and lakes in general have been a feature of my life except for when I lived in England. And when I lived there, I remember going to the Thames and feeling unsatisfied, and then taking a trip in December to the Highlands of Scotland (people thought I was mad) to get that water and land fix.  Later I remember asking my husband once why he took the Lakeshore instead of the Gardiner and I was surprised when he said, because you like to look at the water.

Well here are some of my looks.

Our Modern Stonehenge

Photography, Uncategorized

This is one of my favourite places in Ajax.

Friend bought a tree in spirit of my late husband several years ago. Most springs we come down here to see the tree and have a picnic to celebrate his life. The kids usually want to come up here after.

It’s a commemorative abstract Stonehenge that sites on a small hill on the site of the old water treatment plant. You can come here and look at the lake. Or the stars if you are lucky. Come here Easter weekend and you are likely to find the the big old moon rising over the lake.

In the history of art, light often depicts God or a spiritual aspect. These days we might be more inclined to think of visitors from other worlds.

Industry at Night

Photography, Uncategorized

I have no idea what this place is.  It makes a lot of noise at night and it glows. It seems alive. And to me, at least, mysterious.

Ajax is full of industrial buildings. It’s amazing how you can live in a place for so long and yet never really look at it. So many places here that we all just drive by. Not wanting to see it. Thinking of where we have to get to next. Checking our cell phones.


Moral Dilemmas and Transformation

Uncategorized, Writing

I found this new moral dilemma. I’m always finding them.

This idea of shooting the town to express a kind of passive discontent that I felt, this sort of suffocation with the mundane, with routine, the conformity, the ugliness, but not even in a glamorous rock star ugly way, of the big box store malls.

The problem I felt was that I was starting to get to know people in this community who love it here. People who have originated from different countries that actually chose Canada, chose the suburbs, who are happy and thriving.  These people actually love the suburbs.  In fact some of them like the town of Ajax more than other suburbs they’ve lived in.

I was starting to feel that I was doing my new-found community of people a disservice. How would it make the people I’ve grown to care about feel if I showed their beloved home in any kind of negative light?

Well, I still may explore that, but I felt challenged to look at things in a new way. Not in the way they looked at it, because I can’t see it from their perspective, I can only see it from mine. But I asked myself what that negativity was about.

Back when I was growing up the suburbs there was a kind of darkness that was hidden in the suburbs and it lived in my house. It involved looking the other way. It involved not making waves.


Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that doesn’t still exist.  But I caught myself living in the past with it – almost because it was easy. I knew how I felt. I know I didn’t want to show myself as being the kind of person who sold themselves out and retreated quietly to domesticity either.

But now I wondered if it was possible to show other people a town in a new light, in a way that I wouldn’t feel bad about. Why was I falling back on easy?

I’ve been shooting at night for a couple of years now, long before this most recent project. Night shooting is not something that comes from my past. It’s not something that comes from any idea of who I should be and what I should be doing. It truly is this fascination I have for exploring a hidden world.

And I think this hidden world was what I wanted to show people that live here. Your town is full of town artifacts we haven’t really looked at.

But I don’t seek to show you something that you’ve seen already. I wish to transform what you’re usually used to seeing into something new. Because that was the journey that I needed to take for myself.

In life we often get stuck in roots, we get rooted in the past and our past beliefs, we get attached to the idea of who we are and it prevents us from living in the present, from being present and seeing things new. We get stuck in our own perceptions and into the belief that how we perceive the world is not only correct but is the only way to see the world.