Day 4 – June 8th

It was decided that we would go to the next largest town, Ribeira Grand, to buy gifts and Edwarda a patio table with chairs. We all pitched in, 20 euros each. What a fantastic surprise this would be for her after everything she’s done and will do for us to make our stay comfortable.

The town it seems, has one main commercial drag of shops restaurants and other stores. The first store we went to was a gift store along with a . . . FABRIC STORE! There was some beautiful fabric there, especially one bolt of printed linin of soft blue colours at 28 and change euros a meter. I was not surprised, as linin seems to be consistently this expensive. It is a natural fiber after all. After searching their buttons for something for my Bib front skirt, I settled on a pretty navy blue taffeta ribbon that I will use to decorate a straw boater hat I have. The ribbon cost 1.50 euros per meter.

Further east is a beautiful park with waterfalls and an old mill. This appears to be the central park of Ribeira Grand lined with stones walls and oddly enough a tennis court. Its gardens are lined with hydrangeas and birds of paradise. Hydrangeas are the national follower here growing like weeds. They are one of my favourite flowers! After this we searched for a place to have lunch. There were signs directing you to the areas of interest including the community pools and restaurants, but there wasn’t anything that really tickled our fancy until we found a place right by the ocean called Azores Spot. The view was fantastic! Below were 4 chlorine pools including a wadding pool, one with a diving board, a kiddies pool and “C” shaped one that encompassed the rest, I’m assuming, for lane swims. A fifth pool was a large pool filled with salt water from the ocean. I hope to go back here before I go. I don’t think this will happen as there’s talk about going to a hot spring. Either way, whatever we do, I’ll be fine with it.

We got a taxi back although I was really tempted to walk back as it was one straight road minus the rotaries back into the fishing village.

Not much to relay from the evening. I dumped my DSLR photos onto my computer and edited some of the images. Local family members came to visit with a Portuguese style carrot cake. MMMMMMmmmmmmm….. The fishermen’s festival; in it’s second night, raged until well past midnight. We had caught some of the acts. One a traditional folk band singing the praise of the village and another of young things singing more modern songs accompanied by the local hip-hop dancers. Unfortunately, I can’t upload the video to my blog, so I’ll try to add in my instagram announcement.

Day 3 – June 7th

It was slow going in the morning. One by one we all got showers. Breakfast consisted of bread and a ricotta – like cheese, tea or coffee. When I arrived yesterday, it was one of those rare occasions where I had an espresso. I think it was this that gave me the energy to go all day. This morning however, I had an instant Nescafe coffee. In any country, coffee is still a necessity to start my day. Edwarda, the matroness of the house, made me a perfect cup. She is ever so kind and generous. But as the morning wore on, I was getting a little antsy. As the family was still preparing for the day, I brought out my pencils and sketch book to the balcony, perched myself on the step ladder against the wall and sketched the rooftops that stretched to the ocean horizon.

At around 10:30, Jeniffer and I finally got out of the house, walking towards the docks. It was perfect timing as the fishermen were coming in with their catch of the day. So many fish I’ve never seen before! Others I have, such as; octopus, manta ray, eel and squid. From the docks, we walked along the wall to see the coast line. On the ocean side there is a break wall of well-fitted boulders, no beach. To the left is a high cliff with houses perched on top. To the right, the land gradually rises to a high cliff with a succession of other cliffs one behind the other. With-in each cove are villages much like the one I’m staying in.

It does my heart good to be so close to the ocean again. Although my parents place is a 45 minute drive away from the Atlantic, I feel so blessed that the Atlantic Ocean is almost at my door step. The weather here is like a Newfoundland Summer. It’s not hot or tropical although there are tropical trees and flowers. I may have got some sun since being here, but not the tan I thought I was going to get. Despite to cooler spring weather, one can still get away with wearing a sundress.

I see more men hanging about than women. They walk down the street, sit on the wall or sit on their doorsteps taking in the day, talking with friends. They are even in the ocean in wet suites diving for sea-life that are closer to the rocks. Octopus, lappish – oyster-like shellfish – and the like. Today while I was sketching, I watched a diver across the street peel of his wet suit, a second skin, to show his lithe body underneath. Oh-la-la!!

At some moments within the house when it seems to me a bee hive of activity with Portuguese droning in the background, I’ve find solitude on the balcony. Here, there’s a white lap dog called Mofley, who loves attention and begs to be petted and near you. Marty, Jeniffer’s brother-in-law, is convinced the dog is going to get depressed when we all leave. In stead of 12 people in the house, there will be only 3.

That night, Jeniffer, the girls and I went back to the docks to do a photo shoot at night. I’m so glad to have brought my new light-stand, speed light and umbrella with me. It was a fun night and I got some good shots. I hope I’ll have another opportunity to do this before I go.

Day 2 – June 6th

There was a fine drizzle when I arrived, 18 degrees and very humid. I walked into the airport only to find no one was there to meet me. I was devastated. I arrived in a strange country that wasn’t strange, because in ways it was like Newfoundland (minus the palm trees) with tall rolling mountains, my data wasn’t working in the airport, but luckily I was able to log onto their wifi, reaching Jeniffer via whats app. I was so grateful, my little panic ended. A taxi that cost 18 euro’s was very pleasant, passing breathtaking landscape. I chatted with the driver who fortunately knew some English; he asked who I was visiting – family or friends and where I was from so we got along ok. When we reached the town, the driver stopped to ask for directions. We followed another taxi into the village and was directed down a street to number 34. I was all in a tither, forgetting to tip the guy.

“Can you stay until I knock on the door to make sure it’s the correct address?” I asked. My luggage was not out of the taxi at this time, so it’s not like he had a choice. Jeniffer’s brother-in-law answered. I said Jeniffer’s full name even though his face was vaguely familiar, but wasn’t sure. He admitted later that he was going to pull a joke a on me, to say this wasn’t the right address, but thought better of it because he saw the look of sheer panic on my face. Good thing! I think I would have broken down and cried!!!

Although I was yawning my head off, I couldn’t sit still. I was given the option of taking a nap, but as the day was just getting started for the family, I was willing to do whatever anyone had planned. After being asked repeatedly if I wanted to have a nap, 4 of us got a taxi into the city, Ponta Delgada, for 12 euros. The driver dropped us off at a botanical park with winding trails, exotic trees, ponds and caves. Even though I brought my camera, but for now, was soaking everything up. It wasn’t until we got to the Museum of Religious Art, a beautiful building, that I finally brought my camera out.

I’ve learned that stores close at noon, the hottest time of day. At this time of year, however, midday is not hot and the city was still hopping. I’m sure as summer wears on, it will get hotter and there will be a need for siestas. We stopped for lunch, a little place that was nothing special. Only half the menu was on offer, though my meal was well seasoned. If I had found the restaurant on Google maps, I wouldn’t have given it a great review. We stayed in the city until 3 or 4pm, getting a taxi back. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the landscape. It’s about a 10 minute drive from one side of the island to the other.

When we came home, I took an hours nap. That’s when the fire works started. Rabo de Peixe is in the throws of a fishing festival. Apparently on the weekend, there was a ceremonial fisherman’s dance where the men would dance up the streets to a band. On queue they would click their pom-pom castanets. I missed this, but Jeniffer showed me a video taken on her phone. For the festival, the street was festooned with flags. Some houses had their front rooms converted into a beautifully dressed wedding-like background with religious memorials such as saints, crosses and banners. From then on, I started paying more attention to the culture around me. The fireworks were continuous throughout the day. The evening ended with visitors, a family with twins. As I didn’t speak the language, wanting to be polite by being present in the gathering, I drew portraits of them both.

Little by little, I made it to bed. My bedroom is shared by 4 other girls, yet I have the top bunk all to myself. Surprisingly, I slept in as late as everyone else, but was the first to get a shower.

Portugal – Sao Miguel

Day 1 – June 5th

This morning, almost the first thing I did, was go to the bank to get money exchanged into Euro’s. My friend had said they use cash for everything in the village where they are staying, Rabo de Peixe. Although I had been looking up this information online, I saw mixed information or information that was only relative to the area people went to. I learned that you cannot use your usual debit card, but must have a euro debit card or a debit card that takes Portuguese currency. VISA and MasterCard however are accepted. I had made sure I put enough on my CC to use it. Perhaps if we go to larger cities, I can use it there. In the end, I marched myself to the CIBC branch in the Beaches and exchanged more than $400 Canadian into more than 300 Euros. I have to admit, I felt a little unsteady on my feet after the whole ordeal, wondering if it was enough. Well, It’s going to have to be. But I wish I had known about the cash before hand.

I made it to the airport in plenty of time, taking an Uber X. Traffic bottle necked in areas, but nothing to worry about. The fellow was a new driver to Uber so as we got closer to the airport, I had to direct him into the correct lanes. SATA was not open when I finally found where they were located, but there was a queue. I managed to get through with my camera bag as my “personal bag “ and another bag I use for my tripod and light stand.

At brunch yesterday with Janet, she asked if there was an itinerary. Jen and I had talked about things that we wanted to do. She arrived in Portugal earlier than me, so I ‘m sure she’s not waiting for me to do things. Nor do I expect her to. Some things on my bucket list however, are:

– Take pictures of Jeniffer’s nieces
– Go to church
– Swim at a hot spring and in the ocean
– Hike

Jeniffer also talked about going to a new site like Pompeii and doing an island boat tour. Lol. My friend from work asked if I was going whale watching. I told him I can go whale watching when I’m home. Seriously though, I’m ok with doing whatever because I have more time than I had in Iceland and secondly, I’m going to be staying in a little fishing village; right in the thick of a Portuguese community. Listening to all my co-workers talk about their “resort” experience always made me feel the “experience” of a new country was lacking and (I love you guys!!!xoxo) fake. Why go a beautiful place only to have specialty built experiences within the resort and never feel what it’s truly like to BE in that country. That’s not how I want to spend my money.

We were late boarding, but once we were all on the plane. Things were efficient enough. There were 2 screaming babies beside me belonging to very young parents. But, God bless them, they did everything in their parental power to keep them quiet knowing how bothersome they were to other passengers. These things happen of course. You can hardly expect to be on a plane without one, though you may hope against hope. All this screaming however, resulted in a mild migraine the next day. When the babies had quieted down, I thankfully managed to get a catnap. Myself, and others in the seats close by were forgiving enough when the plane landed.

The One at Lucy Maud’s House or Day in the Life – Part 1

“Sunday Aug. 6, 1911
Royal Hotel, Princess St.
Edinburgh, Scotland

…..Abbotsford is most interesting and crowded with relics. I should have loved to dream over them in solitude. But that might not be. The rooms were filled by a chattering crowd, harangued by a glib guide. I wondered if Scott would have liked this – to see his home overrun by a horde of curious sight seers. I am sure I would not.”

After reading this excerpt from “The Selected Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery”, I wondered if Maud would have minded the take over of her house for my photo shoot. If she was looking down on us, I hope she saw how happy we were to be there.

In my journal I wrote, “The experience far and away exceeded the success of the images.” Here is a lesson to all: DO NOT look at your images so soon after the event. Especially if you’re so incredibly exhausted from the ordeal. To all you ladies, DO NOT look at your images so soon after, especially if you’re PMS’ing. I hated everything about them! I hated the dress I spent a grueling amount of time on. I couldn’t decide if they were more like a photographer taking behind the scene photos on a movie set, or what! I couldn’t put my finger on it. What it was about them that rubbed me the wrong way? I looked over them again the next day, pleased that they were growing on me. So much so, I started the editing process finding the perfect formula for split toning a soft sepia effect.

At Casual Tuesday’s, Rob described them as, “A Day in the Life”. He liked the direction I was going and didn’t think there was anything wrong with the behind-the-scenes look. This is why some of us girls call this day, Photographers Anonymous. It’s nice to have someone else put your thoughts into words. In the “thrill of the moment”, to use one of Maud’s phrases, none of this occurred to me. I was trying to create the same style of portraits as in previous studio shoots. Only, I wasn’t in the studio. I was in a historic house with artifacts all about me, in my costume, trying to be an Edwardian woman. I physically became part of this historical environment feeling as though I completely belonged there. In that sense, I hoped to have captured lost moments in time.

I’ve only had an assistant once for The Anachronist Project. Even though they were very helpful, over the years, I’ve preferred to do things on my own. On this shoot, however, I was told on no uncertain terms that I must have an assistant. A wise move. Long before the shoot, I asked my friend Joanne, who said once before she wanted to learn more about using studio lights etc. As my hair was being styled, Joanne laid out and hung up all my costumes with shoes neatly lined up (it occurred to me, a portable/collapsible garment wrack would have come in handy), carried all the camera equipment to the second floor landing, and would have steamed my skirts, had the hand held steamer been working. Because I was still very excited and flustered, she was my eyes behind the camera. Although I composed each scene, she would press the button on the remote.  I took my time making sure I felt right in the image. I should say, correct in the way I stood, looked, made sure my hair didn’t deflate. Together we’d review them discussing other options. Best of all, Joanne offered to drive there and back again. When all was said and done, I was an over cooked noodle exhausted from the days leading up to this.

Weeks before the shoot Kai and I talked about a more relaxed hairstyle for being in the house. As a single 36 year-old  woman of that time, I would not be permitted to wear my hair in a braid or halfway up because I was an old maid. Such an horrid term for a lady who can’t or in my case, does not want to get married. Thus, Kai styled my hair with a wonderful abandon of curls gathered on top of my head. “I’m going to do your make up!” she exclaimed after my hair was done and removing cooling eye patches to get rid of my bags. I had brought my own make up of course, but what she did was far beyond my menial application of basic foundation; blush, eye shadow and lipstick. Kai blended two tones of foundation, something clear, then lightly dusted my face with blush to give an overall natural effect. Throughout the day, I couldn’t help by caress my face. My skin was oh so soft.

Tess and Barbara, volunteers of the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario, poked their heads in from time to time to see how things were going. I’d like to think they were a little excited to finally see what my project was about. They were very kind and wonderfully relaxed with the whole ordeal. I was pleased they trusted me enough to leave us to ourselves. Of all the time we had, starting at 11:30 with hair and starting to shoot sometime after 12, there wasn’t enough time in the day. However, both Tess and Barb let me know that I was welcome to return to finish my shoot. Somehow, I don’t think one more day will do it. I feel one more day in costume perhaps, but I told Barb, I wanted to build a gallery for them. Take photos of the rooms use my costumes to dress them up a little bit. We discussed other things, but these I won’t divulge until they come into fruition.

Now that I have had time to sit with the experience and “live” with my photos, I have more confidence in them. The next time we descend upon the house will be more organized, we’ll arrive sooner, work flow will be more streamlined, I will have more homey aspects to the images like an apron, partially stated embroidery on a hoop, that kind of thing.  “Next time”, however, will be the dead of tourist season.  So things will have to be sorted out. I’m going to Portugal in a week you see. Then I go home mid July. Summers are very fickle indeed.

Keep watch for my Portugal posts! I’ll be staying with my friend, Jeniffer and her family in a village on Sao Miguel. It’s only now sinking in.

The One With the Chair

A few days before Christmas vacation, we were handed our Christmas bonuses. That weekend, when walking in my old hood, The Beaches, I noticed a new antique pop-up store next to Ends. Needless to say, I went in to see what treasures could be found. It was destiny to have found a beautiful Victorian chair and a mid 1930’s sewing machine. Destiny? At that time I was wondering what my next Anachronist shoot would be. When I saw the chair in the window, I knew immediately what that shoot would become. In the case of the sewing machine, my 1950’s Omega was on the fritz. Quite the regression, I agree, but it works wonderfully! Each was bought at an amazing price, including delivery.

More recently, a girl, who also uses the studio space, and I went halves on a storage locker a block away. How convenient! Slowly we’ve been filling it up with things like chairs, fabric backgrounds, fake flowers and other things. I have a feeling our little 5×5 storage unit will soon be full enough upgrade before too long. Especially at the rate I’m going because on my way to work one day, walking up Pape Ave I found rolled up, slung over someone’s fence a beautiful area rug. There’s a large red (like Cool Aid) stain at the back and a small bare spot, but otherwise in excellent condition and thankfully not too large to prevent me from carrying it. So into storage it went. Along with a a new pair of IKEA faun coloured curtains bought at Value Village. The three most recent arrivals made up 90% of my set for this shoot.

It’s dangerous having a storage locker. It has become an excuse to go shopping for things that you think will do well on a set. When shopping at antique and second hand stores I’ve begun to ask myself a list of questions; How will this purchase fit into the look and design of your shoots? Does this object look authentic period wise? Is “X” amount of dollars really worth it for this purchase? How often will you use it? Are you buying for the sake of buying it, or will you use it? I’m sure there are many more questions I ask myself as I gaze in stunned contemplation around the store. My general rule, if it’s something amazing that you just can’t pass up, buy it! If it’s on the sidewalk in good condition, take it! Back to the subject at hand.

When looking back at these photos, I love how the colours are so soft and graceful. The background, the curtains and the first two costume changes worked well. When the image is changed to sepia, it’s a cohesive image. That being said, some of the images do well with an autochrome treatment. Something I’ve recently discovered in the many hours of pouring through Pinterest.

A while back I had asked my friend and sewing teacher, Marianne from Costume Witch, to help me with dressing and keeping an eye on the general all around look of my costume to ensure there was nothing sticking out, the train of my skirt was nicely laid out, in short, that I looked presentable. She worked in the costume industry for some time on film sets and plays, eventually opening a costume store. We’ve been Stitching and Bitching for many a year now, helping each other out with fittings, asking advise and just hanging out having fun.

I’m extremely happy with this shoot, but not as much as I was with the last one. Perhaps it’s because I’ve realized, unless I do the shoot again with hair down and in my under things, or re-do the moon making it out of ridged insulation board, The Anachronist Project is swiftly coming to a close. From here on in I’ll be shooting on location. My much anticipated shoot at Lucy Maud Montgomery’s house I hope, will be the crowning jewel. To prepare, I’ve begun to read volume two of her selected journals. Throughout the summer, I’ll be hitting, picturesque parks, beaches, gardens and wooded trails here in Ontario and home in Cape Breton.

There are a few ideas for what comes next floating about in my head. The main goal of this project is to create a museum-like photography exhibit. I was hoping to get a spot within Gallery 44, the Members Gallery, but sadly that did not come into fruition. It doesn’t do to dwell on rejections, but I can only think, this body of work is not contemporary enough despite the following definition from Foto Relevance: “A relevant definition of the word contemporary is happening in the same period of time, of/or, in the style of present or recent times.” Hmmmmmm……..in the style of present or RECENT times. Since I’m using modern technology, wouldn’t this count as contemporary photography? Like I said it doesn’t do to dwell.

The One with the Plinth

Lately, I’ve been revisiting (ok, binge watching) all the “Friends” episodes and realized none of the episodes had titles. On Netflix however, they’ve title them. For example: “The one Where Phoebe Runs”, or “The one with Ross’s Leather Pants”. So this blog is lovingly titled, “The One With the Plinth”.

The story of how I got the plinth is this… Where I work on Carlaw Ave in Toronto, is a plethora of interesting businesses. One little boutique shop was moving from one hallway to another, selling some of their merchandise and displays. To my joy, there was a waist high, black, plaster column, for $20.00. How could I say, “no” to that? It was weeks later after having it in front of my desk, beside my desk, in the board room, etc., that I finally Ubered it and myself to the studio in Liberty Village.

The photo shoot happened some weeks past now, but for some reason I’m still going over the photos. Oh believe me, I’ve started to edited them. Even printed and framed 2 portraits. I have many successful images from this shoot that mesmerize me. I  going to let modestly hit the fan here and say, I feel this shoot is the best one yet.

Designing this set in particular, was quite fun, especially the task of affixing the ivy and berries to the plinth. In the end I’ve managed to have things look natural. I have to admit buying and collecting these items aren’t remorse purchases as one would think when you make up the excuse, “Yeah, I can use this for my sets!”. They have been used again and again, becoming interracial supplies that make up a repertoire of props and designs. When Nadia exclaimed, “It looks like a painting!” after taking one shot of the background, I knew this shoot would turn out well.

My hairstylist, Kai came to the studio with a more Gibson Girl look in mind. It completely blew me away. She is an amazing person. Having spent the morning with me, she had another job in Mississauga doing make up for a group of acrobats. When I hire her now, there’s no discussion. It’s not necessary. She knows what I want and what will look good. And I know she enjoys the fruits of her labours when I send her photos of the finished product.

For one hopeful reason, I won’t mention because I might jinx it, I’ve started hunting for antique frames. For those who follow me on Instagram, you would have seen them already. The feeling I got when the image was in the frame sent shivers through my whole being. It sounds silly, but there was a visual connection, a remembrance of seeing myself thus. This feeling was completely different from looking at an original photograph of a stranger from that time. I don’t quite understand it myself.

Be sure to check out my third Instagram account, The Anachronist Project. If you’re not already, please follow.

Stay tuned for my next blog, “The one with the Chair”.