I had the opportunity to visit Barcelona for a team meetup this month. Amazingly, bits of Spanish from my long-ago university days somehow managed to re-emerge in my brain, ocasionally even forming sentence fragments that seemed to be at least partially understood. For various reasons, I didn’t take as many photos throughout the week as I’d planned, but during our last day, we played tourist and the camera came out in force as we explored two of Gaudí’s masterpieces, the Sagrada Família and Parc Güell.
A couple of hours east of Montreal lies a natural phenomenon called the Coaticook River Gorge. During the day, hikers cross its spectacular 169-metre suspension footbridge and picnic by the rushing river, itself a memorable treat. This time, we saw the area in a new light — or rather, dark. Foresta Lumina is a nighttime experience introduced to the forest by multimedia entertainment company Moment Factory, which used sound, video, and light to transform an already magnificent environment into something uniquely immersive. Here’s a taste.
I’ve been to Los Angeles a couple of times, but the most recent trip was over 20 years ago. On this visit, what struck me most was the disparity between rich and poor, highly privileged and not at all. Homeless people sleeping outside in a neighbourhood of multimillion-dollar beach homes. Expressive, colourful street art vs. sedate European treasures at the Getty Museum. Kids arriving at the art centre in a black smoke-spewing school bus that looked like something from the 1950s lining up alongside their preppy uniform-clad counterparts from a private school.
My recent trip was full of many contrasts like these, but since I’m usually too shy to take photos of strangers, all the images I have to offer are of inanimate objects. Here you go.
I may be cynical about a lot of things, but the spectacular-ness of the natural world is not one of them. So last night, I went down to the corner of our street to stare at the sky for a while with my husband. And we took a camera and tripod with us.
Before the digital-photography era, I was pretty comfortable with a single-lens reflex camera. I knew my way around F-stops and shutter speeds. I even developed my own negatives and prints in the darkroom. When I finally gave in and got a digital camera before a trip to Australia back in 2006, I never learned how to apply the skills I had to the digital world, and sadly lost the ability to manually adjust settings on my camera. I rely on automatic settings and blind luck to get OK-looking photos, which is why I was so pleased to have some of last night’s shots turn out much better than I’d expected. Here’s a few, straight off the camera.
I’m a longtime documentary lover. I used to gorge on them, attending the early years of the now well established Hot Docs documentary festival in Toronto and volunteering on its pre-selection jury. In my film production days, I worked on making documentaries too; one of my most memorable experiences was travelling to Prince Edward Island to film a biography of Anne of Green Gables author Lucy Maud Montgomery.
Over the last decade my doc-watching has waned, in favour of absorbing dramatic series like The Sopranos and Dexter, or more recently, Breaking Bad, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Simply put, I’ve let documentaries slide.
Subscribing to Netflix has brought new documentary inspiration, despite its rather limited collection. (My guess is that the lack of doc selection is related to the smaller selection of titles in Canada overall, but I don’t know for sure.)
Here are a week’s worth of docs you might like to check out:
- Tig – comedian Tig Notaro shares her compelling journey, making us laugh even while she takes us through a series of personal tragedies.
- Pink Ribbons, Inc. – thought-provoking look at the breast-cancer fundraising industry, and all the contradictions and complexity that lie within. A National Film Board of Canada classic.
- Erasing Hate – follows a former white supremacist as he goes through a long process to remove the hate-filled tattoos that cover his body. Touching, despite the “voice of God”-style narration that I’m not a fan of.
- An Honest Liar – layered biography of James “The Amazing” Randi, who I never realized was born and grew up in Canada. Moving and nuanced portrayal of a man who’s devoted his life to debunking “paranormal and pseudoscientific claims.”
- The English Surgeon – a British neurosurgeon helps a colleague in Ukraine handle difficult cases, many of whose brain tumours could have been cured had they been diagnosed and treated sooner. Made me appreciate working in a field where the decisions are never life-or-death.
- Miss Representation – compelling analysis of women’s portrayal in pop culture and media, and how it affects, reflects, and shapes political and societal reality.
Do you have a favourite documentary, whether classic or recent?
The gentleman sat back in the bus seat in front of me, put up his feet and took out his phone. He was going through his contacts, making the requisite round of New Year’s calls. I could tell this one was a message he was leaving on someone’s voice mail.
“Hi, happy New Year. Everything is the same as before. Nothing has changed. OK, good-bye.”
And so it is.
I’ve never been one to make resolutions, but today I went to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for a culture injection and realized that is something I’d like to do more of this year: feed my soul through art. I’d also like to eat more fruits and vegetables – to that end I stumbled on a new recipe compendium with an amazing collection of salads. Both happen to be WordPress sites. Coincidence? I’ll let you decide. Happy 2015.
Nuits de Liban at Cocktail Hawaii
Christian Rohlfs – Birch Forest
Andy Warhol magazine cover – “for the girl with a job”
Andy Warhol wall
On a recent trip to London, I went on a street-art tour with guide Karim Samuels. Having watched Banksy’s controversial Exit Through the Gift Shop it was really cool to see works by some of the artists in the documentary.
Christiaan Nagel mushroom
piece half picked over by a scavenger
Christiaan Nagel mushrooms