Parsnip & Peanut: An Introduction

March 25th, 2013 by Chrissy

Several months ago, I found myself standing in this tiny little frame shop on Denman street, deliberating about whether or not I should purchase this pair of bizarre flocked plastic pigs. The pigs served no useful purpose whatsoever, and I had successfully reminded myself of this fact during each of the previous visits I had made to the store to see them.

The things were shoddily made through and through. Hollow plastic, weighing next to nothing, covered in fuzzy flocking… as cheap as can be. They felt like something that might be discovered at the bottom of a dollar store discount bin, with remnants of hot glue and messy seams holding them together. The shop owner had no idea where they had even come from, and they had no defining markings indicating their origin—not even a ‘Made in China’ stamp. There was no price tag, either. The guy went from being initially surprised at my interest, to genuinely stumped when I inquired about the cost. He responded “$12.95 each?” (his voice betraying him by trailing up a little at the end, indicating he was just pulling that number straight out of his ass). That 1st time I had managed to walk away, cash still firmly in pocket.

But man, those pigs haunted me.

The 2nd time I didn’t even ask how much they were, I just admired them through the racks of spinning greeting cards, and traced my fingertips over their soft backs while the clerk was dealing with someone else. The 3rd time though, I was feeling friendly, and struck up a conversation with the girl working behind the counter during the late shift. She appeared brand new, so I tried my luck again on the price.

“Uh… ? There’s no price tag? I have no idea… I really have no clue. What are they even for?”.

“They are just weird decorations, I guess? I don’t really need them. I just feel strangely drawn to them; I was thinking about buying them for my desk. I probably shouldn’t”.

“Hmmm. Yeah… I honestly don’t know. How about $7 each?”

“SOLD”.

She placed them in a bag, and I rushed out of the store before they could realize what a smoking deal I was getting. (Cut to: much jubilation and congratulatory back-slapping to mark the occasion of a stupid customer finally buying the ugly pair of pigs that had been sitting in the place for years). Whatever.

As I walked home, I reasoned that the $14 was probably pretty well spent, as long as I could somehow turn them into some type of project. What if I carried the pigs to various places in Vancouver and took pictures of them? Landmarks, tourist attractions. Might be kind of charming… or seriously dumb. One, or the other.

Never underestimate the desperate lengths one will go to when they are bereft of a creative outlet.

So, without further adieu, meet Peanut and Parsnip:

I took them to English Bay over the weekend. I wrapped them in plastic, so not to get them horrifically dirty on their first day out. This, after spending a good 15 minutes while still in my apartment, trying to pick Stewart’s hair off their bodies… (for reasons unbeknownst to me, he likes to rub up against them while I’m working, like some randy teenager).

Admittedly, I felt a little ridiculous pulling out the pigs while there were so many people around to witness it. But it’s Vancouver… there are always people around. I’ll have to grow a pair if this project is going to continue.

At first, Parsnip and Peanut just sat calmly on the bench, trying to act nonchalant—as tourists often do—as not to raise suspicion that they might be in fact, from out of town.

They spent some time watching the tankers in the harbor,

hunted the shore for beach glass,

wandered the meandering path of the seawall,

played hide and seek (in upon closer inspection what may, or may not, have been a sewage overflow pipe),

and gazed longingly at the water, wishing that either pig could swim…

(…or weren’t inanimate objects whose sole means of transportation didn’t involve being toted from one spot to the next via the bag of a crazy person).

Until next time, friends. Here’s hoping I find more gainful means of creative entertainment between now and another installment, where Parsnip & Peanut might visit the Vancouver Aquarium, the Maritime Museum, or the dumpster underneath the Lion’s Gate Bridge.

The end.

(Totally not the end.)

PS – At one point during the process I actually caught a tourist stealthily taking a picture of me, taking a picture of the pigs. I briefly wondered if this might cause them to replace the somewhat overused and outdated stereotype of Canadians being ‘friendly and helpful’, and swap it instead with ‘Bizarre; possibly under the influence of illicit drugs.” Keep your eyes peeled in future editions of Vancouver area guidebooks.

*The next adventures of Parsnip & Peanut in Vancouver will be found on parsnipandpeanut.com (you know… once I actually build it).

 

Serendipity

February 23rd, 2013 by Chrissy

Close your eyes. Quick—imagine your most prized possessions. Assuming all the people and pets were safe, the ones that you would grab first if your home were to catch fire. They are generally pretty nondescript; objects that that would be seemingly worthless to strangers—the photo albums, childhood stuffed toys, and items belonging to grandmothers, long since passed.

My most favorite object has had a prominent spot in every apartment since it came into my life, but I doubt it will stick out from all the other junk I collect:

But it means so much to me. It’s existence reminds me  regularly that there is magic in the world, if I stop to look for it. It helps me remember that if things are meant to be, they have a way of working themselves out, even when all the odds are against it.

Years ago, I was dating a boy who lived in Seattle. I would spend weeks there, often alone, trying to occupy myself until he returned home from work in the evening. One day, while idly flipping through channels, I paused briefly on the local evening news. There was a story about a local artisan collective called ‘Monkeyshines’, who annually craft a few hundred one-of-a-kind blown glass balls in celebration of Chinese New Year, then hide them all over Seattle like Easter eggs. It’s a really popular event, with some individuals setting out as early as 4am the morning after, in order to get a head start on the hunt.

Without a doubt, it was the single coolest thing I’d ever heard of, and when the boy comes home that night, I excitedly tell him about it. The people who stumble upon those treasures are lucky. I feel a tiny pang of joyful envy at the thought of it.

Fast forward: 4 weeks and 50 miles Southwest; when we decide one Saturday afternoon in March to head toward Tacoma, on a whim. The boy owns a sweet black Labrador retriever, and we stop his truck in remote parking lot down by the water to let her out for a walk. The details are foggy, but while I’m waiting for the dog to pee, I decide to climb a huge covered staircase that leads from the parking area up about 100 steps to the main street above. I’m am in ‘picture taking mode’; focused on noticing the details. Looking upward into the eaves, my eye flicks briefly over an object tucked into the space between the wooden rafters and the ceiling. I almost don’t register that something seems out of place until I’m a few steps past it—a delayed reaction of that doesn’t seem right. Going back, I look again, and I know what it is in my heart before my brain understands what I’m actually seeing. I hurriedly scramble to grab it before it disappears into thin air. My fingers close around it, and it fits perfectly into my palm. It’s heavy, and I bring it into the sunlight to better see the vibrant colours thread through its surface.

It feels like my lucky day lifetime. How was this possible?? Weeks had passed, the city had been scoured over and over, a thousand people walking past this spot every day, never once seeing what was hidden just a few feet above their heads?? I’m speechless.

I suppose in life you are either a realist or a dreamer. You choose to find the serendipity in events, or shrug them off as pure coincidence. Personally, I will choose wonder every. time. I will choose magic. I will entertain the crazy, delightful idea of fate. Sometimes, we must allow ourselves to be surprised by things not making sense in the moment. I like to believe that I was just meant to have it. I was meant to turn the channel and happen upon the tail end of a brief news clip while flipping through a hundred stations. Then weeks later, I happen to visit the one spot miles away, in a place that we would have never have otherwise been, had the dog not needed to pee. Fate.

So whenever I’m feeling particularly down, or that despite my best efforts, nothing seems to be working out, I just hold it in my hand for a few minutes… and remember that when things are really meant to be, they have a way of finding me.

(I did have my camera with me that day and documented the event, but the SD card ended up with a mystery glitch, and all the images were lost) Each year, the glass balls are handcrafted and stamped with the symbol of the animal for that Chinese New Year… mine has a Rat. Here’s a link to the project.

Quieting the Critic

January 27th, 2013 by Chrissy

I like to take photos. I carry a camera around as often as I can—sometimes not so much because I am inspired to take photos, but more to feel personally reminded that I am in fact a photographer. Somewhere along the line, it’s become a weird part of my identity. But it’s taken me a long time to be able to say that title out loud, without irony. I still feel like an impostor some of the time using it, depending on the immediate company. Because these days, anyone with instagram is a photographer, anyone with a blog is a writer, and anyone with a copy of Photoshop is a designer.

But you know what? I actually think this is pretty fantastic. I know many people who likely disagree, but maybe that comes from a place of feeling threatened. Like our own creativity is somehow diluted if more people are creating things. There are days when this absolutely gets the better of me, too. How can you distinguish yourself? We end up getting so hung up on titles, and who does (or doesn’t) have the right to use them, that we get paralyzed from making anything at all.

Poor Stewart, stuck in an endless cycle of design doubt.

I don’t know the answers. These are just questions that swirl around when I’m stuck. But perhaps it would be best to just keep our eyes on our own page. Put our heads down, and just begin. Ultimately, separate yourself by actually doing. Eventually, it stops being so precious, because we’ve done it a million times already.

Having said that, I’m just as guilty as the next person of procrastinating on creating things because I don’t have the “right” equipment yet. I don’t write as much because I don’t have the correct keyboard; I don’t take more photos because I don’t have a 24mm lens; I don’t draw because my sketchbook paper is thin and scratchy. Excuses, excuses. Ultimately, I have the most respect for the people who use rudimentary supplies to create really interesting work. They draw with HB pencils on napkins, take striking photos with shitty point and shoot cameras, and write prose on old receipts dug out from the bottoms of purses. They do these things because the creative urge takes over, and they don’t talk themselves out of it when it comes.

Like this unpublished photo—not bad, but still not quite right.

Most of the time, we’re just getting in the way of ourselves. We critique things before they are even out of our heads; afraid that everyone around us is thinking the exact same terrible thoughts that churn around in our own brains in our darker moments. But so rarely does anyone else judge us so harshly. People are likely envious that you have the drive to start things at all, when they don’t bother to ever take pen to paper, or tote around a camera in the first place. Everyone has opinions; but I don’t have much faith in those who spend more time being harshly critical of other’s work, without spending any time developing their own.

I’ve always been inspired by this quote by Ira Glass. I love when brilliant people admit there is no secret formula, aside from a lot of mistakes and practice. You have to take a hundred shitty pictures in order to get a handful of good ones. You must write a thousand mediocre sentences before a few string together into a decent story. That’s just how it goes.

Which takes me back to me and photography. I never formally took photo courses. Not really. It’s only now, in my early thirties, that I’ve really began to teach myself the basic fundamentals of how a camera actually works. Before that, I had a creative eye, but didn’t understand the technical breakdown very well. Much of it was simply trial and error. I admit, I’ve lucked out on many occasions, but that was due largely to sheer volume. You’re bound to win eventually if you play often enough. Had I waited for someone else’s permission to be a “real photographer”, I wouldn’t have captured anything at all. Perhaps in the long run, people who begin with the interest in tools like camera phones and basic art supplies will discover their enjoyment and move forward into a more serious hobby. I just get so wary of stamping on others creative enthusiasm. I love the idea of more inclusive artistic communities, rather than elitist ones.

Much better. (It only took 1286 tries.)

The stories I enjoy most are the ones where people admit fault; admit failing. The underdog tales of people working themselves up from the bottom, and over time creating something magnificent from very little. It can be hard to root for those who hang out secretly in darkened rooms and emerge weeks later with a fully finished amazing piece of work – ta-da! The interesting bits are revealed in the trial and error process, in the mistakes. The uncertainty of actually pulling it off… and the victory that comes once you finally do.

Looks can be Deceiving

January 21st, 2013 by Chrissy

I’ve had this idea mulling around in my head for awhile, but I have been somewhat reluctant to publish it. It’s regarding the illusion of a person’s online presence, and how easy it is to misconstrue where someone might be in their life, based on casually viewing their social media. It seems like we are growing ever more used to visually “checking in” with the people we know, and basing our ideas of where they’re at from the pictures they post, the links they share, the sporadic one-liners talking about movies seen, or restaurants dined in. We form opinions based on a smattering of random breadcrumbs, with the gaps being filled by those of us viewing the profile.

All these things can give a rather false representation of the people in our lives. Or perhaps more accurately, they absolve us of feeling the need to physically check-in with them, because we assume that everything is fine, based on their status updates.

This has been rolling around a lot in my mind recently because I myself have been seriously struggling for the past few months. As I’ve mentioned previously, for the most part, I have a very strict “If I don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all” policy. Which means days stretch into weeks, which turn into months, and then it feels like I am never posting anything anymore. I’m writing a lot; I just write it down in private journals, my hand muscles cramping from all the words I’ve put to page this year. But much of it is talking about fears, insecurities, feeling like I don’t measure up compared to my peers, my deep depression surrounding looking for work. I’ve kept it all to myself – in my head, in my house. And people assume that because I post pictures like this…

…that everything is great. It’s sunny and bright, and I look happy, so things must be going well, right? That’s what I would assume if I saw it. It’s what I do assume when I see other people’s postings. Updates about engagements and new babies, and interesting work projects; it becomes increasingly easier to make assumptions about where people are at, rather than actually asking them. Instead we distill volumes into text messages. Fit it into 140 characters. Leave it open to interpretation. Wonder why we feel so disconnected from those around us, despite having more “friends” than ever before. And all the while in our connectedness, I think many of us are feeling lonelier, and trapped inside our own heads. I’ve become lazy in this regard, and it is only now that I’m so deeply feeling the isolation myself, that I see it’s my own fault. I’m the one who’s constructed this artificial ”online me” that is eternally positive, certain of my life’s path, someone who knows what she’s doing and where she’s going.

But the secret is, none of us know. Many of us are scared and struggling, and putting on a brave face to keep up online appearances.  Personally, in the last few months I’ve suffered debilitating panic attacks that have kept me from socializing at events, a heart crushing breakup, and daily feelings of failure and inadequacy at my inability to locate gainful employment in this city. It has been rough. I have been silent.

No one wants to read incessant negative posts on their timelines, on their twitter feeds. But at the same time, I think there is also a yearning for authenticity—to find solace in knowing that you aren’t the only one who doesn’t have it figured out. None Few of us have; some of us are just better at putting on that face. You are not alone.

I don’t know what the answer is. Get out and see the people who mean something to you. Tell them you love them. Ask them how they’re doing (how they’re really doing). And then listen as best as you can.

Mostly… keep going. It’s all any of us can do.

 

 

Wandering the West End

May 29th, 2012 by Chrissy

It seems like we have long periods of sun that happen to fall smack dab in the middle of the work week. Then come the weekend, it’s been grey skies and torrential downpours. So when the weather cooperates, I try to run as fast as I can and get out to explore the new neighborhood. These are a handful of shots I’ve found over the past few weeks:

 

New Paths, New Places

May 25th, 2012 by Chrissy

Some days, 24 hours seems like a ridiculous amount of time, moving at a snail’s pace. Other days, it’s gone in a blink, and Monday turns into Friday, and I wonder where the weeks.months.years have gone. It feels perpetually busy, but with not a whole lot yet to show for it. I’m not entirely sure what would make me feel justified in my current spending of time, but perhaps a novel, or an 8ft marble sculpture might suffice. However, all I have is this business I’m trying to start up, and a new apartment.

I say that so nonchalantly. As if I haven’t been dreaming it forever. I think part of me is scared that if I dwell on it too much, love it too hard, it will vanish. Old superstitious behaviors are hard to break. But for this moment I will admit how much I adore my new life. How I feel changed by this West End neighbourhood, have become smitten with a cat who enjoys a spirited game of hide and seek as much as I do. Life is wonderful right now. Which makes it difficult to understand why I’m still struggling a bit with it.

It’s all rooted in fear, I guess. It’s my fears of losing things that keeps me from making the huge advancements in my own life that I wish I could be. But to finally come to terms with understanding that it is only me who mans the controls, me holding the reigns, me steering the oars (insert 9000 other vague transportation related metaphors here). It’s scary, because when things go wrong, I have no one to blame but myself. And it’s terrifying.

I’m trying to juggle my personal life while starting this new business life, but they both live in the same walls, under the same roof, and it becomes blurry. So I spend a lot of time feeling like I should be always working on Fable, even though I’m somewhat baffled as to what step to take now. It should go without saying that starting up a business is challenging, but I think the hardest part about it is the lack of clear instruction. There are days I miss the task-lists of 9-5 jobs, and knowing exactly what it was that had to be accomplished, having a method for completion, and knowing at the end of the day that it was done. Instead, there is a perpetual feeling of ‘I should be doing…’ that I can’t quite shake. Ever.

At any rate, I’m relishing the new space. I wander from room to room, amused at the lack of furniture to fill it; regularly run down the hallway and slide ‘Risky Business’ style into the living room, the cat hot on my heels. With time, I know life will expand to fill in the gaps… both in the apartment, and my confidence. The light helps. It is bright even on the dreariest Vancouver days, and this in of itself is huge. I feel inspired by it, even in the midst of trying to understand my new roll as grownup-life-figure-outer. In the meantime I’m happy I have my sidekick Stewart, who immediately flopped down in the center of my place, in the center of my heart.

We’re figuring it out. Guess that’s all that any of us can really do, as long as we’re growing in the process. And to prove a point about my own growth? The new kitchen has inspired me to start cooking… who’d have thunk it?

(Ok, so it’s just pizza and salad – but this is a HUGE step up from cereal.)

Constructing a Fable

February 8th, 2012 by Chrissy

I opened up this browser today because the nagging tiny voice at the back of my mind could not be ignored any longer. I have neglected this blog for exactly SIX MONTHS (to the day!).

To my defense, there has been a hell of a lot going on in my life… when you divide your time amongst a ton of little projects, months have a way of slipping by, virtually unnoticed. Where did the time go??

But I have made progress, albeit quietly. I enrolled in and completed a round of business courses aimed at entrepreneurs. It was here that I came to the somewhat earth-shattering conclusion that I didn’t want to be a graphic designer anymore. Ever. I just didn’t enjoy it (I’m not sure if I ever did?). So I sat down and admitted that what I really love most is this — this combination of writing and photography. They say that you can find where your passion lies when you look at the things that excite you most when there isn’t a paycheck involved. While working on ‘Wanderful’ for VancouverIsAwesome.com I remembered how satisfying it was to have something creative that existed beyond myself. I put a lot of hours into exploring neighborhoods and trying to capture a bit of their stories during that project. But as autumn progressed it became increasingly more difficult for me to keep a creative focus, take business courses, and coordinate my days of wandering with days that actually had decent weather (this is Vancouver, whoamIkidding?). It was hard to strike a balance. In the end I decided to put Wanderful on a bit of Winter hiatus, so I could devote my energy toward a brand new venture: starting a business.

After a frustrating and fruitless year of trying to find a graphic design job somewhere anywhere (all the while feeling totally unexcited by the process), it seemed like the universe was trying to tell me something. So I decided to focus what I’d learned in business classes to build my own company, doing something that does excite me.

I wanted to take my passion for photography and couple it with my enjoyment of writing. So I began to imagine a business that would offer a combination of marketing options for niche retail companies in Vancouver. By using photographs to capture individualized details about them (their premises, people, products), I could then use that content to write weekly blog posts and update their social media — a kind of tailor-made form of storytelling, for small businesses.

Hence, Fable Creative was born.

*photo by Craig Sinclair

At first the whole thing seemed like a bit of a lark: a direction to head in because all the other possible life directions were leading me nowhere. But as I began to write and develop a solid business plan, I started to get excited. Like, ridiculously excited. Freelance graphic design and one-off photography gigs were always somewhat stressful because you knew that after that particular project, you needed to get yourself another project ASAP, or starve.

The beauty of Fable is that it builds an ongoing relationship with just a handful of clients. This option is more compelling for companies that understand the importance of social media & blogging but don’t have the time or inclination to do it themselves. It gives them the ability to not have to resort to stock photos to accompany sporadic blog posts… but instead use personalized photography and regularly written blog articles to showcase what’s happening, and to help create a dialogue between a business and it’s customers. It’s not a new idea, but I think my combination of photo, design, and writing skills can all work toward Fable offering something a bit unique in the marketplace. The bank must have agreed, as I have secured my start-up loans and funding. Exciting.

Did I mention that I’m excited?

I enjoy the flexibility of working from home and eventually I would like to relocate to somewhere that is sunnier. Running my own business will give me the opportunity to explore those options. And maybe travel too, finally – wootwoot!

One huge hurdle I need to figure out in the meantime is this “temporary” apartment. I’ve lived here for 9 months now (time flies!), and as much as I adore how charming it is, a bachelor suite was not made for all of this. Truthfully, although I don’t miss having a bedroom, I do really miss having a real office space, with a huge white board for idea-sketching and cork boards for pinning up inspiring stuff. Plus my pasty skin misses sunlight (as do my poor plants, who are one by one shriveling in these North facing windows). I feel like I’ve gotten almost everything I can out of it — it has been a great apartment, but it’s almost time to move on to bigger (literally) and better (figuratively) things.

So that’s the scoop. My life always seems in a constant state of change. But it feels like this is big. It took the tumultuous events of last year to bring about the desire to really build something awesome with this one. Exciting. Excited. Excitable.

Yes, all of the above.

 

Marathon Post… about a marathon

August 8th, 2011 by Chrissy

Hour pre-0: Roll over, look at the clock—guh. I’m getting up in 3 minutes to subject myself to 12+ hours of a photo marathon with real photographers. So excited! But nervous, too. Grab my 9th grade film camera, grab my current digital camera, grab a semi-comfortable pair of shoes (damn you worn-in shoes for dying a few days previous to this event!), and head out the door. No turning back now.

Hour 0: After bus confusion and wandering around lost downtown for a bit wondering what direction Nelson Street is, I finally caught the cushy community bus and headed toward Comox & Denman, to the Urban Rush Cafe—the official headquarters of this year’s Vancouver 12×12 Photo Marathon. I register. Am ecstatic to see that I am lucky number 7! Glancing around I feel a bit intimidated by the amount of GIGANTIC lenses there are, and fancy-schmancy cameras attached to them. Tripods, crazy compartmentalized bags, and every other photographic implement of destruction imaginable is present. Humbled. I struggle to remember how to even load film into my crappy Canon Rebel. Man, this is going to be a long day! Briefly consider running away unnoticed;  instead decide that although I have none of the expensive equipment, nor knowledge on how to use it, at least I have a relatively quick trigger finger in order to be the 7th person registered. I drink congratulatory coffee and celebrate small miracles.

First theme announced: Your Entry Number/Different Angle

And we’re off! Feeling refueled by the caffeine and excited by the process, I head out in search of 7 of *something* with which to photograph. I’m hoping for a parade of frolicking ponies pulling wagons of adorable babies but realize this is probably pushing it. Settle instead for standing under a string of seven balloons tied to a stop sign, and wait… ever… so… patiently for them all to line up perfectly. They do, and SNAP – commitment! Not at all sure if I caught the shot. Am suddenly painfully aware of how dependent I am upon the LCD screen preview on my digital camera.

Hour 2: Back at the cafe, excitement in the air. I wish that I had a chance to go to the previous week’s meet-up because everyone seems super friendly and familiar to each other. Feel a momentary pang of shyness. Decide to drink more coffee.

Second theme announced: The Usual Suspects

I head out again in the same direction – back down alleyways and through the residential areas. I think it might be cool to try to locate some pigeons and crows for this shot. Cannot find a single bird to save my life. Finally, I stop a homeless man who tells me a Canucks joke and chats to me about being a camera repair person in his former life. He is fascinating and so very sweet; he tells me I should go to the beach for birds— they like the garbage down there. I wish him well, and am off again. Finally spot two crows on top of a power line. Look through my pitifully small lens and wish that I had thought to rent something better. Wait again patiently for the bird’s heads to line up to show their beak profiles. In the split second between me pressing the shutter and it catching the shot, the birds move. This is ruined shot #1. This is the first of many. This game is harder than it looks.

Hour 3 – Feeling a little sad about my missed shot, I start thinking about how we take for granted the ability to curate our work. How often people don’t understand that out of the 30 great shots that you post on Flickr or Facebook, there may have been 300 others that weren’t. quite. right. It’s a strange feeling thinking that people will be able to see your glory and all your mistakes in this project. No retakes. No trash bin. I’m again humbled when I think of the giant lenses and professional photographers no doubt currently taking masterpiece shots of prancing pony parades and flocks of choreographed seagulls.

Third theme announced: Human Nature

After the bird fiasco, I’m feeling the pressure to do something better with this particular theme—it can be interpreted in so many ways! This is where the challenge lies. I just have to carefully decide what direction I want to take it. I remember seeing a bunch of shoes hanging from wires in a back alley about an hour back, but cannot remember where, for the life of me. Spend the next 45 minutes wandering aimlessly looking for shoes, unable to shake the idea to see other possibilities. Funny how your brain will sometimes fixate. Finally locate them… thankfully they do not move at the last second.

Forth theme announced: Reliable

By this time, my feet are really beginning to ache. I contemplate taking off my shoes and just walking barefoot. Decide instead to stop at Shoppers Drug Mart for emergency Band-Aide triage kit. Oh, good god there is still 8 more hours left. What have I signed myself up for?? I take a picture of my feet. At least they are still attached to my body.

Fifth theme announced: My Greatest Wish

My greatest wish… ? I wish for a shopping cart and someone to push me around in it. And a popsicle made of Strongbow. The odds of this combination happening also seem slim, so I decide instead to find something simple. It feels a little like a cop out, but my feet are killing me, so when I spot the fluffiest cat I’ve ever seen hiding under a bush, I think he would make a perfect wish (No Pets building for me, boo!). He sits patiently waiting for me to compose the shot (an obvious pro photographic subject) ready, set… press the shutter, cat MOVES. Mother$*#@er!!! Curse out loud, in manner similar to sailor. Pet adorable cat to console myself, despite his obvious leanings toward sabotage.

Six theme announced: Odour

After grabbing a bite to eat and a couple of beers, everyone seems refreshed. Odour seems like a great theme—everywhere I look today I’ve seen fragrant things: flowers, dumpsters, porta-potties atop flatbed trucks. Decide in the end to shoot some people crossing the ‘Finish’ line of a bike marathon. Wonder if any of these things will make any sense once printed without the aid of artistic explanation? Decide to risk it anyway.

Seventh theme announced: Echo

Man, these themes are getting tough! My creative brain is throbbing much like my feet, although the beer and band-aids helped immensely for at least one of those issues. My friend Craig talks about his idea which admittedly is pretty awesome, and rides off to capture it. I wonder if it’s possible for me to finish the rest of this marathon without actually moving from my chair? Curse you, footwear. I think of all the cool shots that might visually echo… reflective surfaces repeating, over and over. Head back to Shoppers Drug Mart to see if I can find a hand mirror. I buy it, but am used to knowing how a shot will work on my D80, with the 18-135mm lens. Through the film camera, the shot doesn’t seem nearly as good, but I do my best, anyway. Not sure if this one will come through. Drink more beer. Congratulate myself on strenuous tasks already completed today, like breathing and walking upright.

Eighth theme announced: Trapped

I’ve gotten a chance to talk to a few more of the participants. Funny how you see the Photo Marathon lanyards from across the street and nod and smile knowingly at each other. They understand your pain. They know your exhaustion. Fellow troops in the trenches. By this time Denman is starting to get insane with the amount of people heading downtown for the fireworks. I take my picture and then wander down to the beach. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day! On the way back to the cafe I see another marathoner taking the same picture that I did for this theme. I wonder how many duplicates of any given subject there will be?? It’s kind of great to know that similar things catch your eye. It will be interesting to see the different takes on the same idea.

What’s this? A beer? Don’t mind if I do. No longer feel quite so glum about my inadequacies in the lens-department, due largely in part to being slightly tipsy and mentally exhausted.

Ninth theme announced: Take it to the Grave

After sitting on a park bench in the sun with my friends Ryan and Ruwan, eating burgers and bitching about first world problems, we discuss the day’s events thus far. I love how clever my friends are. They were organized and brought props. PROPS! I didn’t even think to bring a tripod… or shoes that actually fit my feet. Clever. Lessons learned for next year.

Beer time?

Tenth theme announced: Second Chance

I debate trying to recreate the echo shot, hopefully get it right this time, but the light is waning, and I know that pretty soon I’m going to be screwed. So I tried instead to find one more street subject. I locate a tattered couch in an alley. My already shaky hands are generally adept at messing up shots in the sunniest of conditions; henceforth, it’s unlikely that I will get a steady picture, sans-tripod. I wish I could shoot “Second Chance” tomorrow, with a new roll of film and a better camera. Again, unlikely… I’m now imagining difficulty moving my limbs in the morning.

Coming into the home stretch!

People galore, downtown! Seriously, I am normally claustrophobic, so the steady and constant stream of bodies down Denman Street is starting to make my heart pound and my hands sweat. Then I see some policemen ride down the street on giant, gorgeous Clydesdale horses, and the Hare Krishna’s following — dancing exuberantly with trumpets and tambourines. This is the best. day. EVER. Is there always this much cool stuff happening around here?

Eleventh theme announced: Not for Sale

By this time all I can think about is my limited light options and lack of tripod. I head into the thick of the crowd at the beach just to try to catch the last shred of sunlight. Line up the shot beautifully. This might actually work! I realize after the fact that I set it on the wrong shutter speed. Dammit. This one is bound to be insanely overexposed. Oh, hello camera— have we met before? I apparently have no idea how you operate. I silently vow to teach myself better photography skills, and hope that my roll of film mysteriously goes missing during the developing process.

Twelfth theme announced: Expectation

We are all rejuvenated knowing that the torture adventure will soon be ending. This has been one of the most interesting experiences I have had in a long time. It’s been so amazing to come together with a great group of creative people, of all levels and backgrounds: from film novices like me, to seasoned professionals—bound together by the appreciation of the photographic medium. I can only imagine what goes into organizing an event like this; everyone did an incredible job! Although we are all tired from today, I can only imagine that this is just one of several really long days that have been put in by the entire 12×12 Vancouver team. Bravo, you guys!!

The final exhibit is in a month. I’m both excited and nervous to see it. I realized after this weekend how much I depend upon automatic settings and trial-and-error in my own work. I’m not sure what the final result will look like, but even if I get 2 decent shots from the film I’ll be thrilled. I can’t wait to practice over the next year, and *fingers crossed*— I’ll get a chance to participate in this event again in the future. Vancouver is a special city, and to have an opportunity to meet amazing people, drink beer together, and be collectively creative? You can’t really ask for anything better. (Except maybe ponies).

 

 

 

Manifesto

July 19th, 2011 by Chrissy

Life is good. It’s uncertain, but I still feel strangely content. I’m not sure if that is some sort of emergency mental autopilot that takes over in times of stress, or if truly I just know inside it will all work out. I have no idea how, but I’m trusting it will. It’s the best I can do at the moment.

With all this busing around in my spare time I’ve gotten a chance to do a lot of thinking. Looking back on where I was, and where I am now, and honestly – it’s all pretty great. If I go back only 6 months, I am so far ahead of where I was. If you are ever feeling shitty about life, just look back a few years. Inevitably you will probably be able to say “Thank god _______ happened to me, because if it didn’t, I never would have found __________!” (I hope you fill in those blanks with: I inherited that marshmallow factory, and, how good I am at tap dancing!).

A friend remarked to me recently that I seem like an eternal optimist. Which is only partly true. I think in the back of my mind when I am most worried about how scary life can be sometimes, that is when the optimist switch gets flicked, and I start to look at ridiculously small wonderful things all around me, as a reminder that despite it all – life is pretty outstanding.

I’ve begun to write down a bit of a personal manifesto for myself. Loose rules of thumb that work for me and ultimately help me to become a better, happier person (especially when I’m feeling like a mediocre, negative person). I write it all down in my Wonder Woman sketch book. What started as just a few statements has now descended down the page and around the corner. Here are a few snippets:

  1. Enjoy what you already have – get to know it before you move on.
  2. Use it up (toothpaste, shoes, and ideas).
  3. Listen. Really.
  4. Have very specific dreams.
  5. Reevaluate often.
  6. Always have something to bring to the table – if not creativity, cookies.
  7. Take care of what you own (mind, body, spirit).
  8. Do your best. In everything you do, no exceptions (love, life & laundry)
  9. STOP MARKING TIME.
  10. Go outside.
  11. Stop living life wishing things were different… change, or change your thinking.
  12. Always have a jar of pens. Sketch often; jot things down.
  13. Never trust your memory.
  14. Nothing exists until it needs to.
  15. If you don’t have anyone to go with, go anyway.
  16. Drink water.
  17. Guilt causes resentment; avoid both at all costs.
  18. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  19. Don’t be afraid to fuck up. Don’t be so hard on yourself when you do (and you will)
  20. Talk to as many people as possible. It’s good practice for making friends.
  21. Make opportunities for yourself.
  22. Notice the details, they are what make life interesting.
  23. Try.
  24. Baby steps will lead you there eventually, no matter how daunting the journey.
  25. Be kind.

Where am I going to be in a month? Will I have found a new amazing job? Will I be working at an in-between position until my dream one comes along? Will I have met some new friends? What new music will I have discovered that I now cannot live without? Time will tell…

26. Time = Perspective.

These Wanderful Days

July 7th, 2011 by Chrissy

Hurray for long summer nights and t-shirts after 10pm! Although it’s only sporadically been like this lately, I’m enjoying it the days that the sun pops her head out. The quick-change cycling in weather makes it somewhat difficult to effectively wardrobe plan— unless one leans toward carrying a steamer trunk around with them constantly (which obviously makes WAY more sense than an average backpack).

My little North facing apartment gets bright, but never sunny, so I’ve been spending a lot of time recently in the back garden when it’s nice out, or down the street at Douglas Park. I’ve been sketching and brainstorming and reading books on successful job hunting techniques (currently their successful-ness has yet to be effectively tested, but I haven’t given up hope… yet). Also, the Game of Thrones series – SO GOOD.

I try not to dwell on my lack of employment all that much, because truth be told, it could crush me, self esteem wise. Postings are pretty few and far between, and the inundation of graphic designers in this city doesn’t help either. So each time something IS posted, there are 200 people competing for the same job (and if we are talking about Craigslist, it’s likely a $14/hr job that involves design, cake decorating, marine welding, and general accounting. Oh, and animation. Never forget the animation).

One thing that has been a sparkling beacon of glee for me lately is my working to develop an ongoing feature with fantastic local blog www.vancouverisawesome.com (which I will henceforth refer to as VIA, mostly because I’m lazy about typing sometimes). Originally when I contacted the website, it was with the intention of inquiring about volunteer opportunities. I figured, if I’m not finding work I love (that pays me), I might as well help out where I can. And VIA is a great non-profit that has done wonders with bringing together people who want to focus on the positive aspects of this city. I’ve loved the premise since I first discovered it a long time ago, and it has just continued to get better and better. Art reviews, community events, pictures of pets, music suggestions, and just general amazing-ness, allthewayaround. Check it out, if you haven’t. It’s got something for everyone, literally.

Anyway, long story short, when I contacted the blog to see if they needed help manning tables at events, or doing general office help, I explained a little about myself and then at the end of the email added a link to my blog. And from there, Bob Kronbauer (who is so incredibly nice and well, awesome) checked out my portfolio, and the Bittersweets and contacted me, asking if I would be interested in doing something for VIA. Uh, heck yes?! The project is pretty much what I’ve been doing already (documenting details in the city) – but now it will be exposed to a wider audience (gulp). Since I got back from Banff I’ve realized there is so much of Vancouver I have never seen. My unemployment combined with boredom has encouraged me to hop on random buses and see where I end up. It’s mostly to spark my imagination for potential jobs (Art Galleries? Manufacturers? Subway Sandwich Artist?) but sometimes it was just for the adventure. Now, I can take a bit more methodical approach to consistently getting out there, whilst still being creative in my own way. But it still feels scary, vulnerable.

I haven’t been blogging here as much lately; trying to plan the VIA project combined with my desire to keep this personal blog as upbeat as possible (it’s a downer bitching about the discouraging nature of job hunting), I just haven’t had much of a chance to write. But I’ve been taking a ton of photos. Hundreds and hundreds. And now that the Wanderful feature (which is the name of it, btw) goes live today, I don’t have to keep quiet about it anymore, for extreme superstitious fear of jinxing myself. So hopefully my choosing random neighborhoods in Vancouver, exploring the shit out of them, and documenting via pictures will inspire me to write more, all the way around :)

On other cool, yet unrelated fronts – I snagged a ticket to the Vancouver 12×12 Photo Marathon event that is coming up on August 6. I’m pretty excited about it. Film (gulp, x2)! 12 frames. 12 themes. 12 HOURS. There are 60 people who compete in the event, and it’s a huge range of photogs – hardcore professionals, to hobbyists like myself. Once the day is over, they develop the film, and then everyone gets together for an evening where the shots are displayed and awards for specific categories are given. I myself have not shot film since my Emily Carr days, so if they award a “Only took 7 hours to load her camera” prize, I’m totally going to SCORE!

Also, Summer Live happens this weekend, which is a cornucopia of free concerts and events taking place in Stanley Park to celebrate Vancouver’s birthday. Dan Mangan, Neko Case, The Zolas, New Pornographers, and about 9000 other incredible artists are going to be there. So that’s something to look forward to, as well. Did I mention it’s free? FREE.

All around, so much fantastic stuff going on! I have a feeling this is going to be a pretty productive summer. Now fingers crossed for continued beautiful weather and good thoughts for happy, gainful (soon, please) employment!

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