THE ONE ABOUT THE STUDIO I RENTED
Another testimony to how necessity can drive one to make things happen. A few years ago, I was introduced to a website called, This Open Space. It’s a networking platform allowing people to rent out commercial spaces temporarily. For those on the other end you can find spaces for all your needs; a desk space for office use, an art gallery, a retail pop-up store, a yoga studio. The options are endless. I hadn’t thought about the website for a while and forgot about it until I desperately needed it. Not recalling what the heck it was called, I tried many key word searches until I finally stumbled upon it.
September past, I found a space at Greenwood and Gerrard. Walking distance from where I live. A space that is primarily retail, but was able to rent for a 10 hour period as a photography studio at a really great price I may add. When I went to see the space, I said yes, but afterwards had misgivings. I actually didn’t think the ceiling was high enough with its fancy lighting fixture. I needn’t have worried. Everything about the space worked out really well. I couldn’t have asked for better and would absolutely shoot there again.
What a great crew. Pierrette was on board as an assistant for the morning helping to steam the wrinkles out of the costumes and set up my new background frame. She was the voice of reason. The calming factor that day when things all of a sudden would get over whelming. No fuss, no muss. Practical to the core. Her professionalism from co-organizing the show carried over to organizing me. Thanks Pierrette!
Charlotte’s shirtwaist, thus her entire costume was complete. Kai, as always, did an amazing job on her hair. At one point Kai held up the long mass of hair and exclaimed, “What am I going to do with all this hair!!” In the end she made a hair pocket at the nape of Charlotte’s neck and packed away the excess within it. belissimos!
When Kai arrived, Pierrette had left, my set was ready except for one thing missing. I had planned to put some kind of floral arrangement on the plinth. After lugging a carload from the storage than another from my apartment to the premises, I lost the drive and the physical space to bring the roses I bought the previous day especially for this shoot. In passing, I had laughed about seeing a lush fern at the corner store (to which we [Charlotte] had already made umpteen visits to) and buying it just for the day. “Just ask if you can use it for the day.” Kai perked up. I heard numerous stories of Ryerson photography students doing such a thing, or buying a product for their shoot, then returning it the next day. But still I hesitated until both Charlotte and Kai chirped their encouragement. So I went next door and showed the owner my set and explained what I was doing. She was very nice about the whole thing allowing me to borrow the fern for the day. It was just the thing!
As Kai was doing her own hair, I popped off a few dozen single shots of Charlotte. Now she 100% fitted the vision I had in mind for her. With Her hair styled more sophisticated, she looked more mature. I love how she can be a chameleon that way.
Again Kai was donned in the same costume for the first shoot at Sarah Ashbridge Estate. But I vowed her costume would be the next one I’d complete. I found a painting by Julius LeBlanc Stewart, “Elegante au sofa”, that fit the bill and designed my own rendition of the outfit the woman is wearing. The skirt is almost done. Her shirtwaist not even started. I would prefer to do a fitting before I start it. I have a shoot with Pierrette in the coming weeks. Kai will be styling a wig for her, so I’ll get her to try it on then. Wait a minute…. I broke my vow. Kai’s was NOT the next costume I completed. It was Pierrette’s.
Watching Kai style her own hair seems just as effortless as when she styles someone else’s. When she was finished, Charlotte had a break, munching on the little feast we had as a potluck. I had asked everyone to contribute something to save money. I was going to order sandwiches and snacks from a website called Platerz. Another networking, website were one can order from multiple choices of restaurants and catering business throughout Toronto. The premise being all food would be ordered 24 hr in advance and delivered to your door. I was already adding up the costs in my mind of what the day would be, so I opted out in the end. Maybe some other time, because I really do think the website is a great concept.
I thought 10 hours would have been too much time. In the end it was just enough. We were out of there at 7pm on the dot. Kai was kind enough to drive me around the corner back to my apartment, albeit in 2 carloads. I was ever so thankful. Poor Charlotte was buried under the last carload.
“GROUP TABLEAUS” – THE ONE AT SARAH ASHBRIDGE ESTATE
Shooting at the Sarah Ashbridge Estate was the perfect place for the Anachronist project. For the first shoot, I fretted over a place that would be ideally green field, trees and flowers – without the trouble of traveling too far with tones of equipment. Funny thing is, it didn’t dawn on me until I walked by like I did so many hundreds of other times. I felt as though the property was welcoming us and if I were to personify, it was glad to have us there so it could relive the good old days.
Kai wasn’t able to join us for this second shooting day. I left work even earlier to get more out of the day. Just was we were getting started, mentally story boarding how we would work our way across the property, a SUV drove onto the property. Oh-Oh, I thought to myself. “ I really hope they’re not going to kick us out.” I said to Charlotte out loud. A group of three walked towards us, smiling, a good sign. They introduced themselves as part of the Ontario Heritage Trust. I had the pleasure of introducing my project, my model and myself. We exchanged contact information and although I promised to send them some photos from that day, I haven’t yet done so, I’m ashamed to say. Not very professional I know. I have a habit of procrastinating on this front. I really should make it a New Years Resolution.
What can make a shoot more perfect than adding a butterfly nestling on a flower for a drink of nectar. The Edwardians were big into nature. Botanical sketchbooks were all the rage especially among women as part of the fight to prove women too had a scientific interest in plants, but more importantly, for furthering their education. One very famous sketchbook by Edith Holden, “The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady”. Which was later made into a TV series.
Can you believe it? The same couple that disappeared under the willow tree the last time was under the willow tree this time as well. Each time we finished with one section of the property, I checked to see if they were still there. By the time we were done the sun as going down and our light was fading. No willow tree this time. Dang. Like, get a room! UGH! I don’t know if any of you are Jane Austin fans or have seen the 1980’s version of “Northanger Abby”, there’s a scene where Catherine is lead outside to the courtyard by a young African American boy who does cartwheels in slow-motion, much to Catherine’s delight. The scene switches back and forth from the boy to Catherine who in standing under dancing willow tendrils. This is the image I wanted to play with. So now you know why I was so desperate to have the willow tree on the estate to ourselves. Maybe this summer.
Charlotte and I had another onlooker, a woman who grew up in the area. She regaled us with her remembrance of the estate when it was surrounded with rose bushes and the oldest and last of the Ashbridge family member lived there before it became entrusted to the city of Toronto. She also spoke on her take of the Edwardian era and how men and women were more equal at that time. A derisive, “Ummm……” escaped my lips before I put a sock in the rest of what was to come out of my mouth. Let this woman have her ideals of the Edwardian era. Charlotte, thankfully, was more diplomatic, so I let her do the talking while I smiled and nodded. I am always so critical where the history that I know is skewed. My biggest pet peeve is when people link the Edwardian and Victorian era as one. ESPECIALLY ON PINTEREST! Get with it people. Do your research before labeling an article of clothing Victorian when it’s actually not. Hearing this woman talk about the property as she remembered it was delightful. Thank you, whoever you may be. It hurts to think of all those splendid roses now gone.
The fact that people are willing to approach us the pervious shoot and now, was refreshing. I love that others are interested in my project even if they are few and far between. They are kindred spirits. It gives me confidence and in some way breaths life to the project. I don’t seem to mind that it doesn’t float everyone’s boat. I myself am always the minority in society. In a good way.
Charlotte’s look was mush more realistic, I’m happy to say. Her skirt of 100% linin was complete. Along with petticoat and corset cover. Her shirtwaist was one I made for myself to bring home to Cape Breton for the summer, but she suited the short puff sleeves. We even had an Anne moment. Once again, Charlotte played her part beautifully. A fresh, young, confident Edwardian woman.
THE ONE ABOUT “GROUP TABLEAUS” – THE BEGINNING
The following articles marks a transition in my life as a photographer. With the amount of sewing and other preparations for one shoot, a lot of my time and energy is filtered on those efforts leaving little else for writing. Regardless, this hardly seems like an excuse. I’ve also been feeling my writing is stagnant. The same old thing. For now, I’m going to relate my recent experiences over the summer in my hum-drum way.
When the studio in Liberty Village was no longer available to me, I looked upon this as an opportunity to expand beyond my usual self portraits. Something I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while. A perfect extension to “The Anachronist” called, “Group Tableau’s”. It’s still an exploration of Edwardian life through the camera, only I have willing victims to play the roll. While in a cafe, one day, I fell into conversation with a young woman who worked there, finding a lot in common. On a whim I asked if she’d be interested in modeling for me. When she said yes, I fell to work making a costume for her. After Charlotte, I asked my hair stylist to model for me. From there, everything fell into place. It delighted me to see genuine interest and excitement from Charlotte and Kai. It seemed as though I was pulling teeth to find anyone willing enough. Hundreds of dollars and I’m sure as many hours later, I was ready for the first Group Tableau shoot.
In making a costume for someone else, I felt as though I was crawling out of a shell. The learning curve I went through within the next few months was a wonder to me. On instagram I follow many talented people who have taken structured classes, producing many an amazing period garment. At Stitch and Bitch I was praised and encouraged by Marianne, my friend and sewing teacher. ‘Cause you know, it’s nice to have that pat on the back from someone other than yourself.
One bright summer afternoon, for which I left work early; Kai, Charlotte and I wandered onto the grounds of Sarah Ashbridge Estate. What a beautiful day! Blue sky, sunny and not too hot. There was such inspiration – an almost story book feeling as I observed the girls (as I call them) interacting with each other. Leading up to the shoot, I was nervous about how well Kai and Charlotte would work with each other. I needn’t have worried. Before long, they were giggling and making up stories. In their play acting, whatever roll they made for themselves; sisters, companions, pupil and governess, their interaction breathed life into the shoot. We covered almost the whole grounds except for a very old willow tree which a couple had commandeered for themselves. Ugh. Get a room!
But there was something missing. The costumes didn’t look quite right. The girls were not wearing
proper under ware. No petticoat or corset covers, things that would give the correct period look. I blame myself as I told them I wouldn’t make them wear petticoats on such a warm day. So I made more petticoats and started making corset covers. At this time, I hadn’t made a shirt waist for Charlotte. The shirt waist I have on her is completely wrong for her body type.
I can honestly say, I probably won’t use these photos in a show because of so many of the above variables. With that in mind, it was a great start to the project with lessons learned. The best thing about that day? When we were all our twenty-first century selves again dining at Queen Margarita’s. Kai and Charlotte thanked me for allowing them to be models. I was flabbergasted! They, thanking me?! LOL! I told them then and many times since; I’m the one that has to thank them!
THE ONE ABOUT BITS OF SUMMER, 2017
Below are excerpts of things I did as The Anachronist. If they seem disjointed, you can refer to the post in the main part of my blog. I always like to pull out these little bits and file it where it should really belong. I hope things will be easier to find here as I write more blogs where articles become buried.
After drying off, I went to the car to stealthily change from my modern bathing suite to my new Edwardian walking suite. As I emerged from the car, I already had curious looks from those who were coming and going. It wasn’t until I crested the dune with the water ahead of me, that I completely felt myself in the here and….. then???? One of the “Anne of Green Gables” scene that pops into mind is when Anne and Diana are standing on a dune watching the setting sun on the water after the concert at The White Sands Hotel. “We are rich Diana…” Anne says to her bosom friend. Mom was such a trooper staying behind the camera, pressing the shutter button as I slipped from pose to pose. Photographing myself on the beach in my costume was a must for me. Even though I zigged-zagged around small jelly fish, skirts held up, I was stung in the end by a sneaky little bugger whose tentacles must have been long indeed or was swept speedily away by the current because I didn’t see it come or go. Turned out that picture of me looking for the F%^&er was one of the nicest images from that day. Take photos in costume at the beach…check!
The next morning, I woke up looking at an antique coffee table in my bedroom. “I know what I’m going to do with you!” I told it. I lugged this, my great grandmothers rocking chair, an old blanket that resembles a tapestry, my grandmothers Old Country Rose tea set, a jar of freshly made strawberry jam, much sought for tea biskets, milk and sugar up the hill in the beautiful morning summer sunshine. As I was dragging all this up the hill, I was complaining to Mom that I hadn’t seen Robert since we got back from PEI. Usually he pops in the day of or the day after I get home and we have many great adventures. Then ta-daaaaaa! Here he comes up the driveway. I run out of the house giving him a big hug and say, “Guess what you’re doing today?” I think he had something completely different in mind, but he wasn’t at all adverse to immersing himself in my project for the afternoon. He even came with me into Sydney River in search for the elusive tea biskets. *Shout out to Robert for helping me that day. I had so much fun. Especially when you took the camera off the tripod and for capturing most of it on video with your Olympus.* At one point he had asked if I needed (waving his had over my tableau) all of this exclaiming, “They wouldn’t have dragged all this out to have a picnic.” Excuse me? “Of course they would have!” I cried stoutly defending the Edwardians. I had a firm image in my head that was going to get out one way or another. In doing this shoot, I wanted to create more casual images. Life at home so to speak. The first of the snap shots. For it was in 1900 when the Brownie camera came out. Almost every household had it. Even Lucy Maud documented aspects of her life throughout her adult years in PEI and Ontario. Film would be sent to the Kodak plant for processing and returned with a new roll in the camera, ready to go. How wonderful it must have been to have the advent of accessible photography. I often equate these beginnings to those of digital photography. If I’ve said it before, the feeling is as true now as it was then.
THE ONE ABOUT OUR ART SHOW, “SHE TRANSCENDS”
From July 2017 to March 2018, Pierrette and I embarked on what all artists dream of, an exhibition that marks the growth between Hobbyist and Artist, Girl to Woman, emerging artist to…… Ok…. so we’re not established. Yet. But this is only the beginning.
After a rainy afternoon and in Toronto Pierrette Masimango, a fellow photographer, met me at the Pour House on Dupont St in the Annex. She wanted to meet to propose we launch a photography exhibition with two other people, pulling our work together for Women’s International Day on March 8th.
March 8th was not our opening party as we had hoped it would be, but our closing party. The Journey in between was miraculous and a tremendous learning curve from beginning to end. I will not bore you with everything we learned. Perhaps that will be another post. However….
Our first lesson, much to the disappointment to all our hopeful hearts, was – not all galleries are akin to the emerging artists plight especially when there is commission involved. One such gallery praised our work, but turned us down simply because photography didn’t sell. Pierrette had submitted our proposal at 5pm. We heard back from them at 9am the next day. Then we found Art Square Gallery where many people I know had shown there before.
Although we had two of our artists bow from the show, Pierrette and I were determined to carry on. Pierrette presented her work, “Dear Diary” in a narrative of childhood memories. She had found a beautiful child model that looked like Pierrette at the same age. I had finally brought my project, “The Anachrosnist” into the light of day finding frames to suite each image even finishing my dress, with Mom’s help, in the eleventh hour.
The photos that follow are a token of the closing party for those of you who were unable to make it that evening. Thank you to those who came opening night, closing night and in-between, and for all the wonderful comments in our guest book.
THE ONE AT LUCY MAUD’S HOUSE – PART 2
I couldn’t help but feel a little pride in how things were going so efficiently right from the gecko. Joanne and Jeremy arrived at my apartment building at the scheduled time of 7:30am and exactly 12 hours later Joanne and I unloaded the car. Along with Joanne and Kai, I asked someone else to join my team. Jeremy, a co-worker, was enlisted to shoot documentary style video throughout the day.
A week before the shoot I noticed Pinterest had added a new feature in which you are able to create a subcategory within a board. I only found this out because they sent a survey asking how I liked it. There are a few kinks they have to work out (especially in the transition from internet to mobile ap), for instance, when you’re in the main board, you should be able to continue to select images you want in the subfolder by clicking on each picture. Once the subfolder is created, you can’t check additional images within the mother board, you have to pin them as usual to the subfolder. In my case, I found this counterintuitive. There was too much time taken up scrolling and saving. I unfortunately couldn’t take the survey again to mention this. Hopefully, there’ll be another one soon.
The goal was to take advantage of the beautiful natural light in the bedroom as would have been done then. To fuel my ideas, I saved to my Pinterest subfolder compositions of women in front of windows, which had a silhouette or rim lighting effect. The last time we were at Maud’s; I had regretted not taking advantage of the morning light. However, I can’t remember now how the light looked and where the it was at that time in May. We made a careful note this time, however. The bedroom windows face southeast, the front of the house then faces north. I can’t recall in the second journal if Maud had ever mentioned in which direction the house was. Thank goodness we were there in the morning this time, chasing the sun as it went from the back to the front of the house taking advantage of the natural light until we no longer could.
Amongst the other donations of Edwardian clothes from Joy, there was a wonderful nightgown with a beautiful eyelet yoke. Because of the authenticity of these clothing pieces, the bedroom photos seem to be so real, capturing the time even when looking at the images in colour. It’s because of this I’m so pleased with these compositions in particular. Although Kai was late, we had shot in the bedroom until she arrived, around 12:30. By this time I changed from my nightgown into my under things. After my hair was done, we did the same kind of compositions but I’m dismissing most of them because I realized how unflattering this particular corset is. I put boning at the top, which flattens my chest instead the other way around. NOT a good look. My next sewing project will be a shorter corset, one that stops just below the bust, or at least has more support.
Somewhere along the way, I realized I hadn’t taken off my nail polish the night before. On a break I tried Goo-Gone, but it didn’t work. Thankfully, the nail polish was chipped and faded, so perhaps this will make for easier editing. That being said, I was still angry with myself for being so negligent. NOTE: perma-pack nail polish remover.
When Kai arrived, I asked Jeremy to record her doing my hair. He warned me on Friday he only owned one battery. Not more than half way through, his battery gave up the ghost. Throughout the rest of the day, he had to charge it on and off. It was my hope to catch the entire day. Instead he filmed 1 to 3 minute segments. I will have to really on his expertise hoping he captured fun, interesting and important tid-bits. Jeremy was none-the-less, very professional and I can’t wait to see all of the footage.
Now that my hair was done, my time in the bedroom was not. There was one last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to take reflections of myself in the mirror. It didn’t work for a few reasons. The biggest reason, I hadn’t fleshed out the composition even though I saved a few ideas to my subfolder. Two, the dressing table was actually a burrow, so there was no legroom underneath. I thought, if this indeed was the type of dressing stand Maud had, how very inconvenient it was. Sorry Maud, but there it is. And, three, the mirror was not on the wall. It rests on the top of the burrow, which was not the right height requiring much uncomfortable and unflattering bending. What was actually funny about this scenario was that Joanne and Kai had a very involved conversation of how the composition could actually work. They would ask what I thought, but somehow, I couldn’t manage to get a word in until I looked at the clock, which told, 2pm. It was getting late. We had to move on.
On with the show. The stairs was another composition I really wanted to do. There were many different attitudes in which one can come down the stairs. The bane of these shots were the prominence of my double chin over my collar as I looked down the stairs. I’m jealous of women who have beautifully shaped necks and chins. Can one do ANYYTHING to exercise this section of the body? At one point, I was advised to jut out my chin, but I felt so ridiculous doing this that I couldn’t keep a straight face.
Before we wrapped, as Jeremy puts it, I wanted him to take a video of me walking through the gate and up the walkway into the house. But I wanted him to do this from behind, from the sidewalk and then in front. In the first shot, I looked like Rachel Lynd in the Sullivan adaptation of “Anne of Green Gables” marching to ask Marilla, where on earth Matthew was going in his Sunday clothes smoking a pipe! Those who cherish this version will know exactly what I’m talking about. Kai was very helpful in making suggestions like standing up straight but leaning back a little to exaggerate my posture, not to swing my hips or move my shoulders too much. All these instructions made me wonder if I should take deportment lessons. Clearly the corset can’t correct your posture completely. Women really must have walked with books on their heads.
Working with a team is an amazing feeling. It’s a different sense of accomplishment then working by yourself. I’m grateful to have a great bunch of people to work with. To acknowledge my thanks to them, I took them to the Hobby Horse Arms in the town of Uxbridge (a place I highly recommend) were we all enjoyed a bite to eat and a drink. On the way home, I could have fallen asleep quite easily, but the chatter in the car ride home on many different subjects kept me awake.
Even though I had the house this day, it was also open to the public. Spying a couple on the sidewalk while my hair was being done, I asked Jeremy to invite them in. We chatted for a bit before they toured the house and chatted again when they returned downstairs. She grew up in Sri Lanka, but now lives in Australia with her husband who is from British Columbia. They were doing an Anne tour, having just come from PEI. It was great to see such a huge fan! She was all a flutter about seeing all the landmarks, there and here in Ontario. The second couple was not so enamored, at least they didn’t seem like it and they didn’t at all seem impressed with me in costume if I could discern their funny looks correctly.
I was so exhausted upon arriving home from the euphoria of the day. I went to bed at 8:30, turned the light out at 9pm, slept until 7:10am. That being said, this has been the best Anachronist shoot yet, bar none! When looking at the photos I realize the phenomenal amount of confidence I’ve gained from this one shoot. I believe in myself. I believe in my team. Together, the day was like a dream come true. How often can one say that? I will live off of this wonderful feeling for a very long time.
Many Thanks to The Lucy Maud Society of Ontario
“It’s delightful when your imaginations come true isn’t it?”
LM. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
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 – September 26th
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.
THE ONE WITH THE SWING – September 26th, 2017
For a while, I wavered between real and fake fauna to decorate the rope of the swing. I researched online what the cost difference would be. In the end, on a lunch time trip to Value Village I found beautiful paper roses and fake berries for $.99 each (whatever happened to the “cent” sign?). When I was downtown, I went to Michaels and discovered greenery was half price, so I bought two chain linked garlands of Ivy and baby’s breath. Perfect timing and problem solved.
It was absolutely imperative, though I had already did test shots, that I have everything 100% ready before my hairstylist came, so I set up the evening before, decorated the Swing, did a few test shots and felt confident in knowing that this was going to be an easy shoot.
The next day, I waited for my third stylist, Kai. She was freshly home from visiting Russia and had great getting to know you conversations when she finally arrived. Her lateness, I can absolutely relate to having had similar issues only a month or so before. Her Samsung phone was on the fritz and died during the night, so she didn’t wake to her alarm, but to her cat. She called and apologized profusely, and though I tend to be not he forgiving side, I knew she was 100% genuine.
In my wait for her, I took some photos of myself with my hair down, a more natural look and feel, and in some cases I seem more at ease than with my hair up. Perhaps because one then feels more prim and proper. More lady like. Try as I might, I could not look or feel as relaxed as I did before when I curled myself up on then swing with an original book of poetry by Robert Service, “Songs of Sourdough”. I also had with me my stereoscope and steroviews. I love these, but the shirtwaist I’m wearing was becoming more and more damaged as the day when on. There’s no way to hide my bear elbow, not even by Photoshop. Though if you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Kai is into all the things I’m into. She’s taking an adult point ballet class, horseback riding in Caledon, waltzing, Lindy Hopping and Charlsting with the best of them. Even in Russia. She loves vintage and was very excited to do my hair, though I admit I was doubtful at first because her Model Mayhem profile didn’t advertise this side of her profession. When she was done, we exchanged contact info and hopefully I’ll have her again for my next shoot. Whenever that may be.
THE ONE AT LUCY MAUD’S HOUSE – PART 1
“Sunday Aug. 6, 1911
Royal Hotel, Princess St.
“…..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.
EXCERPTS FROM “HOME SWEET HOME”
The Following are excepts from “Home Sweet Home” Dating back to July 19th, 2016. I wanted to bring to light these experiences again instead of burying them deep down in my main blog where they just disappeared. Plus there are organized better in a category where they should be.
…….Peter’s Field is one of my favourite parks to go to aside from Groves Point on the North Side. It’s full of paths that weave in and out of fields, forest and harbour shoreline. It was once an estate to the McLellans, but originally owned my an X-American, David Mathews, who fled from jail for having attempted to assonate George Washington. Yet another American who discovered the beauties of Cape Breton. Thomas Crawley was the second owner of this estate, embellishing the gardens before it came into the hands of John Stewart McLennan in 1900, a native Cape Bretoner, he took over his fathers coal mining business, becoming a staunch politician, a hobbyist archaeologist studying the ruins of the Fortress of Louisbourg, bought two newspaper companies and was interested in botany.
This trip, I had pre planned a photo shoot here, which is why I brought a costume – my brown linen/cotton skirt, corset, two shirt waists and a petticoat, the later two borrowed from my friend Joy who generously lent these and other pieces to photograph. Also equipped with an Alien Bee studio light, my Paul Buff battery and light stand, I was to continue my “Anachronist” project on location. On our walk, I took photos as I usually do, but kept an eye out for spots that would work for backgrounds.
Another “Anachronist” opportunity came along that week. Each year, Mom and I go to Point Micheaud Beach up St. Peters way. But this year, I wanted to go to Gabarus. It’s a tiny community at the point of extinction yet is populated my mainly fisherman and has a historical value. In the the early to mid 1700’s when the English took over the Fortress of Louisbourg, many American Loyalist signed up to fight against the French. Some American troops landed in Gabarus setting up camp, scouting a way to the fortress on land through bracken and swamp. From Google earth, you can see a minuscule logging road that connects both areas. Apparently the access is through Kennington Cove.
Mom drove as I styled my hair in the car without hairspray, but with many bobby pins, which held for a while. But the wind being as frisky as it was lead to many escapee tendrils. Though in the end it made my hair look very authentic for the period in such a landscape. My poor boots faired just as well. Buttons decided to participate in the escape plan. Luckily I was able to find each and everyone that popped off, sewing them on later. When I got back to Toronto, the staff of Gadabout were so good in helping me find matching buttons for free. The boots were a little too big, but worked well in any case. When posing, I had to be careful my skirt covered the boots from the ankle up. Not for modesty sake, no. The tongue and the sides flapped about when I scurried from camera to sitting position. I really have to get a new battery for my remote timer.
I wish I had more time at Gabarus, but there was a large fog bank that rolled from over the hills, bringing with it a damp chill. One shot I wish I got would have standing in front of the water holding the back of my skirt like the woman in the photograph I found on Pinterest . Yet another would have been me stepping in the water, or standing next to the warf lined with lobster traps or the lighthouse. Alas, I need all day and to either be alone or with a proper assistant. Maybe it’s just as well, what I thought to be an ache from the hard mattress I was sleeping on turned out to be a pulled shoulder muscle from swinging my big ass camera bag over my shoulder. The only consolation for spending 4 hours in out patience on a beautiful Sunday afternoon was having a hot doctor look after me.
Peter’s Field Again
My last afternoon was spent in Peter’s Field, in costume with my hair pinned up. I repeated to myself, “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me. I’m just going to do it and have fun.” It’s a well used park but thankfully there weren’t too many people today. Just those walking and chatting. Those who crossed my path were polite enough to wait until the photo was taken which is a nice reprieve to the crowds of clueless Torontonians who don’t know what the hell is going on (or just don’t care) and walk through you photos. There were some who were curious. One gentleman thought I was photographing a wedding.
I wore a different shirtwaist and so glad I did because, phew, was it hot! My suite case when I opened it back in Toronto was almost as bad as a week old gym bag. Nothing a dumping in the bath tub of luke warm water won’t fix.
THE ONE WITH THE MOON
The second shoot was a little more artistically creative. Maybe even a little more fun. There are many photos from the Edwardian era that could be considered some of the first photo booths that were set up in traveling circuses or fairs. Of these many are individuals, couples, friends or children sitting on a moon. I’m sure the moon was wooden and it was perhaps on a stand with a black background and some sort of seat behind it. Both my moons were made from cardboard, the first one being too small. I also made cardboard primed white, glueing cotton batting to them, making them look fluffy. When I discovered the first moon was too small, I made a much larger one, almost twice the size, but had to make it into three separate pieces, held in place by gaffers tape and three wooden dowels for support. Though the clouds could easily be hung between two light stands on a poll, the moon itself was hung on a large boom that could easily be moved this way or that. A stool was placed behind the moon, the cloud in front and there you were.
Before the shoot happened, I put an ad on Facebook to have people come and have their portraits taken on the moon for free. The. I probably would have been too exhausted after my own shoot to take pictures of other people anyways.
My second hairstylist, Xandra arrived on the scene earlier than I had anticipated. I wasn’t even finished setting up, or getting dressed. I didn’t even steam my clothes. My excuse was that were I gone to a fair, and walking around all day, my clothes would be wrinkly then as well. The day before Xandra came to the shoot, she practiced the style I chose on a mannequin. It was the style I originally wanted. So beautiful graceful and authentic, I felt so much closer to the time and therefore more into the shoot itself. We laughed at the movies filmed for that time, where women would take one pin out of their pompadour and whoosh, it would gracefully fall to their shoulders. Yeah right. When I got home, it was a completely different story. I think I counted close to 20 bobby pins and spent much time in the bathtub with my hair submerged.
As it happened it was the second time I locked myself out of my new apartment. I figure going around Toronto with my hair in an Edwardian couiff is going to be almost a regular thing for me, so I might was well kill time at Tim Hortons and Ceili Cottage for mac and Cheese and beer while I wait for my land lord and get use to it. Not the locking myself out that is.
THE ONE WITH THE PROJECTOR – AUGUST 12, 2017
The first studio shoot that started it all is based on Edwardian photo shoots with painted backgrounds. Where in the heck, do you find a painted background that is 10 or more feet long and wide? In the states, though to rent then would be an arm in a leg. To find a way around this, I decided to project an image behind a white fabric where it’s projected through so I wouldn’t be caught in the projectors light.
To begin with I tried a sheer fabric, but the image was not crisp and clear enough. There was too much tanslucance. So I cycled to King Fabrics one day before a test shoot and bought a thin piece of white poly cotton. In my quest for white fabrics, I realized many of them are not a true white. Many have a hue of one colour or another. One fabric jumped out as first being really cheap, then really hideous. All I could think of was all the post editing issues mainly getting rid of a green hue from all the images. Why put yourself in that position to begin with? Ends up, the fabric I bought was not wide enough. Off to Designer Fabrics at Queen and Shaw where they sell double width fabric. Not in the same day of course.
The interesting thing in choosing a background to be projected, is to pay attention to where the light in the image is coming from. I say this, because I chose a picture of a trellis I took on Toronto Island with a wave of foliage draped over it and a spray of roses and peonies at the base. The light that day was coming from the top left, so placing the light and at a particular strength was very interesting. There was much experimenting sometimes as late as 10pm.
Containing the light and blocking out natural light was fun. Each time I came I’d laps into a routine of pulling down the blinds, covering the doors with a black-out material and finally climbing the stairs to wind down the black-out curtain over the garage door. The studio is higher on one end then the other. To block out even more light, I had pieced together rods and light stands, stringing along it a voluminous, black muslin dividing the office and the studio. The light at this point was minimum and working well.
Three test sessions later, the shoot happens. I’ve hired a hairstylist and have an assistant for the first time ever. Alanna is an accomplished hairstylist and has done many photo shoots, but I didn’t explain myself well enough to convey what I actually wanted (which was the Gibson Girl pompadour) and in the end improvised. The result was very elegant and thanks to Alana’s ministering hands, lasted throughout the entire shoot. Thanks Alana.
And what’s next? Hopefully a few more studio shoots. I recently bought a Greecian column that was generally seen in Edwardian portraits with ferns upon them and women leaning on or beside them. By chance, a store in the building where I work was having a moving sale. I bought it and bolt a pinstripe fabric that may work for period clothing. Needless to say the column portraits will be next and then hopefully I can find the same good luck in finding a chair or settee to borrow.
THE IDEA – August 12, 2107
For some reason I thought I had already wrote an article about my project. But when I went to look for a link to send to someone, I found that I didn’t. How disappointing. For those who don’t know about the project let me first say that Rob gave me the idea when I was printing an image for one of the Beach Photo Club contests. One of the other members of Casual Tuesdays or Photographers Anonymous had popped into the studio to pick up some equipment and asked what the prints were for. Rob told her I was an anachronism. Nither she nor I knew what that meant, but now I know it means a juxtaposition in time. For example me in a a 1940’s polka dot dress with a necklace of pearls at The Local in Liberty Village with the Olympic Women’s Westling on the TV’s above the bar. Who does that? And I don’t mean women’s wrestling.
From then on, I adopted the term for myself and developed it into a continuous project where, Moi (to use Miss Piggy’s term) dresses in period costume and take self portraits. I had planned three different backdrops for studio shooting. Two of which have been enacted already and one more to go. As you know I’ve already done some on location shoots when I was home in Cape Breton in Gabarus and Peter’s Field. The last background is based on an idea from a painting dating back the eighteenth century when Madame Du Berry commissioned a painting from Watteau of a woman on a swing with her lover looking on and no doubt, up her skirts. In my research, I ‘ve since found that many studio’s in then Edwardian period have photographed women on a swings. For this, I plan on buying many fake flowers lacing them through the rope of the swing in the studio. There’s some astro turf that I might use or, I may use the mottled green muslin for the floor as well, if it’s along enough. I’ll have to try both.
There is one other set I’d like to build, but I’m afraid it would be way over my budget. While still living in the Beaches, I had picked up a roll of floral wall paper that looked as though it would have decorated an Edwardian home. My first idea was to adhere it to canvass so I can roll it up and take it with me wherever. I’m told the glue will not stick to the fabric. Then someone suggested S1 Studios Toronto for set rentals. One would actually rent a blank frame in what ever quantity you desired, supports are extra and you have the option of building said set yourself or hiring someone to build it for you. There are daily or weekly rates. It’ll be worth it to rent everything for the week to get your moneys worth. But then I thought, there are so many beautiful historic houses already furnished for the part. Why not solicit to these places, so I’m currently drafting a letter to do so.
The following posts are about the journey for that look, feel and authenticness of an Edwardian portrait, though I’m working digitally in modern circumstances. All my life I’ve been told I’m from another time and here is my chance to explore my old soul.