Welcome the second Friday of guest bloggers. You never know who you’re going to meet – it might be another writer, a painter, a musician, a chef or simply an interesting person one of us has run into.
Hedda Armour has been a friend of mine for so many years I can’t (perhaps, more accurately, don’t want to) count them. Suffice it to say that it’s been a lot, a whole lot. She’s an amazingly creative person – singer, writer, photographer, to name just a few. Her first love is photography but I think she could do absolutely anything she puts her mind to. Her knowledge and skills and talen just blow me away.
Please, meet Hedda Armour and her work…
For the past 8 or 9 weeks I’ve started each day by writing three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness, for my eyes only – stuff. I won’t call it prose, although some of it may be. Those familiar with The Artist’s Way know that isn’t the point; the exercise is meant to provide a repository for all the small, petty worries and complaints that would otherwise clutter a potentially creative mind. So, no matter what the day brings from then on, I feel I’ve accomplished one important act. Another thing I’m almost fanatical about is having a good healthy breakfast. Then I can face whatever comes my way with equilibrium, or at least a full stomach.
As much as possible I divide my photo shoots between indoors and outdoors, although I don’t like to take my gear out in the rain too often or for too long. I shoot with film as well as digital and have several “novelty” cameras that inspire me to manipulate my images in different ways. Most days are good days – I play with my photographic toys, get some images I really like and my equipment works beautifully. A bad day is a day I show up at a location I’ve staked out only to find I haven’t enough film, the light’s all wrong or I’ve forgotten to bring fresh batteries or didn’t anticipate which lens I’d need. That’s bad enough, but when my plans are interrupted by housekeeping or bureaucratic tasks that need to be attended to NOW (income tax returns, dental appointments, laundry) I really struggle with impatience. I cope by listening to music, hitting the couch with a good book, sorting through some photos for inspiration, calling a friend or making soup – something I find very peaceful and grounding.
I dream of having a studio. In the meantime, I work in my very tiny apartment, so I welcome small jobs. For those, I mount a large 70s style copy stand (pictured) with hot lights on my little kitchen table. I love working with the copy stand. I really get lost in the process, and feel a deep love for my equipment, particularly my trusty old Pentax film camera. Besides having complete control over the subject, I like the ritualistic aspect of working manually and of making the commonplace unique. I can isolate or enlarge or get really up close and personal with all sorts of images. This is work that could probably be done much more quickly with Photoshop or some other photographic software; but I enjoy the hands on aspect of the copy stand so much that I don’t imagine I’ll be moving to full techno mode any time soon.
If I’m doing anything as grand as portraits, I have to move furniture and create backdrops with screens and drapes. Once the tripod and portrait lights are set up, there isn’t much space to move around. It’s not a scenario I’d want my insurance provider to see, that’s for sure!!. Outdoor portraits are easier in some ways, as long as the model is flexible; there are so many variables outdoors – lighting, location, weather, other people – yet the options are endless, and there’s so much more space.
Lately I’ve been getting ready for a course in photo encaustic collage (painting with hot wax). We’re expected to bring lots of images to enhance the wax creations and I’ve been having lots of fun using my printer and scanner to create different views of the ordinary. For example, I’ve made colour copies of cut flowers and close up images from family photos and even of my lingerie!
In terms of a perfect day, sometimes I’m pretty easy to please. The other day I was walking through the neighbourhood – this time prepared with a little point-and-shoot – and a home-bound proprietary dog gave me a perfect portrait, its worried little face posed just so for my camera. Along with those 3 morning pages I felt I’d had the best day, the Universe was smiling and so was I. You, dear readers, are the first to see this photograph.
I love jazz. Probably because my work tends to be very controlled, and (unlike the spontaneity of the dog portrait) usually very structured, I really like what seems improvised and free-form about jazz. I do recognize there is a structure, but at the same time I see the possibilities, the diversions. Jazz, to my ears, is like taking chances: let’s try this and see what happens. There’s a balance, a trust, a fearlessness and rhythm that I would love to experience in my photography. Sometimes it happens, it’s just something you feel, when you know you got it, what you saw is now captured, stilled, and you can play it over and over again. If I could be anything other than a photographer I’d really like to be a jazz pianist.
Confession: this could almost be classified as a “dirty little secret” although it’s neither dirty nor small: before I die I’d like to take a workshop with Lynda Barry, one of my favourite cartoonist/writers at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. Her courses don’t come cheap but I think a 4-day class with Lynda Barry would influence the way I photograph. Call me crazy, but call me. I can take pictures.
I’d like to leave you with three favourite expressions. The first is from Angels in America by Tony Kushner, and I have it posted where I can see it on my desk: “Respect the delicate ecology of your delusions”. Our delusions have a delicate ecology, to be sure. And we don’t respect them often or enough. The second is credited as an African proverb: “Until lions have historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” This saying reminds me to think critically. We are exposed to so much information all the time that it’s easy to accept as truth whatever fits with our particular way of thinking. It’s good to stop once in a while and ask, “is that really true?” “how do you know?” The last expression always makes me smile. I don’t know its origin yet it’s got a universal ring of truth to it: “The person who says it can’t be done should not interrupt the person doing it”.
Thanks for this opportunity to unpack what I tend to take for granted. I hope you enjoyed my take on things. May you live well and with love.
Hedda Armour is a Vancouver photographer who has recently thrown off the shackles of paid employment for a life of free-floating anxiety and endless creative vistas. She is a graduate of Vancouver Community College’s counselling program, and is studying Spanish in her spare time. Her work has shown at numerous Main Street coffee houses and businesses and in 2008 partnered with her daughter in a photography exhibit in Toronto. She is a long standing member and director of The Drift (Main Arts Drift Society). She has very short hair, a likewise attention span and a big hearty laugh. You can see more of Hedda’s work at www.thedrift.ca