November 19, 2016

Rest you Sharon Jones

Sharon Lafaye Jones performing at the Walker Theater in Winnipeg in 2014.

Rest in peace Sharon Jones you beauty! Only once in my life have I had the great pleasure of observing this powerhouse of a woman perform alongside The Dap-Kings. I saw them play the Walker Theater in the spring of 2014 and her presence made quite an impact on me! My favourite moment from that 2014 show was when she kicked off her heels and danced the most incredible dance while belting it out.

1956-2016; sixty years young. Much too young to go. Rest you SLJ.


November 17, 2016

Intensification

Experimental self portrait in a makeshift studio. Printed at home on 5x7"  Ilford Pearl. November 2016.
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"I am concerned with photography and since printing is fundamental to photography, it must be considered, but only as a craft. Printing is to photography what grammar is to literature. When I hear someone brag that they labored for three days in the darkroom to produce a print, my first impulse is to suspect them of being either a terribly incompetent printer or a totally inept photographer. I can't believe that any print is worth three days out of my life. People often make a mystique out of printing to compensate for lack of substance. 

I used to go to a gym and the guy who ran it had about five thousand dollars worth of photographic equipment. He would always say, 'Listen, what do you think of the Gazebo 17B and their f/4.18 lens?' And I'd say, 'What the hell are you talking about?' I never knew what he was talking about. But then I would ask, 'Well, Lenny, when was the last time you took a picture?' And he'd reply, 'Oh about two months ago.' And I'd say, 'What was it of?' He'd say he photographed a dog and then he'd bring in these prints of his dog. Somehow something got lost in the shuffle. Values got confused. This is a mistake that schools make also. You go to these schools and these kids all show you gorgeous prints of water running over pebbles. I'd rather see a not so gorgeous mistake of a brilliant idea, an idea that maybe the kid didn't even know how to solve technically. But who cares, because he's talking about something incredible. It's not the medium, it's the message for me.

Once upon a time I was a fanatic too. I would spend a lot of time on printing and get really hung up--do twenty prints of one negative trying to get some little corner right. Then somebody would come in and I'd say, 'Now here are twenty prints. Which one... can you see what I did?' And they couldn't see a thing. It would be this little blemish over here that had to be smoothed out. 

We all have to learn how to print. It's essential to photography. Take lots of pictures. Work in the darkroom. Print a hell of a lot and learn just by making mistakes. It's good to have somebody around who will lean over your shoulder and say, 'Listen, you should use a number four filter.' But essentially you just have to get into the darkroom and print. Once you learn how to make a gorgeous print, forget it and go on."

- Excerpt from Duane Michaels' 1977 essay titled 'Camera as Darkroom'. 

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In July of 2011, I was walking east up Rue St. Viateur in Montreal's Mile End neighborhood (where I was living at the time) and came upon an outdoor book sale happening beside the St. Viateur Bagel shop. My hands found this old cloth-covered book titled 'Darkroom' compiled by Lustrum Press and I suppose I was drawn to it simply for the reason that it was jacket-less. I despise book jackets. It was summer and I was chomping at the bit to begin my Fine Art degree in Photography at Concordia that coming September. When I went inside to pay for the book which was marked $1.00, I didn't have anything smaller than a twenty in my wallet but the shopkeeper insisted I take it for nothing. I remember walking across the street to the Italian coffeeshop and reading until it grew dark.

Five years have past since I first discovered the book 'Darkroom' and I continue to go to it for guidance and inspiration. In retrospect, this book marks a funny beginning to my courtship with Photography. To say the least, I didn't last very long in my Photography program. Sometimes I wish I had pushed beyond my inner battle of wanting to say something meaningful through my work but feeling intense pressure to crank out meaningless, bracketed still life's in a city bursting with faces of incredible looking people I'd rather focus on. Sometimes I wish I had just done the damn boring technical work instead of abandoning it. But this old ram chose a different path. I bought myself my first darkroom in November of 2011 and got to work in my own way at my own pace. It all lead me to where I need to go.

Today I woke to a delightful message alerting me that I was not required to come in to work until one o'clock in the afternoon. I rose at 6:30 and enjoyed a strong pot of coffee while listening to an old Bon Iver album and observing the front parlor fill with morning light. The air and light have finally shifted in Winnipeg. That golden fall light is fading grey and soft. Winter is beginning to reach her icy little fingers around unsuspecting bare ankles in the mornings. It is an oddly relieving sensation after the freakishly warm temperatures we have been experiencing over the last few weeks in Winnipeg. Ahhh, there you are you old Devil, I think to myself as I run barefoot for my sheepskin slippers under the bed. 

Eventually I slunk down to the darkroom to get down to business. While all Margot Pollo photography shoots are complete for the time being, I now stand at the base of daunting Mount Print. Last night and again this morn I decided to begin with the most challenging of the lot: print contact sheets from two insanely dense rolls of 120 captured on Sunday of a beautiful woman. Once in a while, my pioneer tendencies cloud good judgement and such was the case on Sunday. Lessons learned: Do not experiment with fifty year old film during a professional shoot. Period. Do not process fifty year old film with Rodinal. Period. Do not push fifty year old 125 speed film to 3200 because your negatives will come out blank. Ding dong Maria. The most important lesson gleaned from my groovy experiment is to  ALWAYS process old film with same-temperature chemistry across the board. Developer, stop, fix and wash at the same temperature. Duly noted!

Miraculously, the 120 rolls came out despite my insane efforts to push HP4 400 to 3200 while using my tried and true ba-zoiling hot stop and fix method. All that said, the J-E-L-L-O jiggler-esque negatives eventually hardened enough to sleeve and print contact sheets. They were so GD slippery I could barely hang the damn things. The contact sheets alone needed 5+ minute exposures with number 5 filters. I can only imagine how long the prints will take. Harsh learning curve. Once those contact sheets were through, I moved into less intense territory and began printing from my travel, family and wedding photo cache all captured from August to present. Busy times. Baby's back in the saddle. It ain't all smooth sailing in this print factory. I reread Duane Michael's essay to bolster my courage before glugging developer onto those risky business rolls. As wise Michael's says, "Take lots of pictures. Work in the darkroom. Print a hell of a lot and learn just by making mistakes." 

Amen to that. 

My old Developer awaits me in the basement. Thanks for reading my one-track print ramblings, whomever you are!

xo Margot 

November 12, 2016

Up to the mark, or nothing

Motion study at Birdshill Park; October 2016. Photo thanks to IDP.
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"Brahms conducted and composed for the Hamburg Ladies' Choir. According to Bella they rehearsed in the garden; Brahms climbed a tree and conducted from a branch. Bella adopted the choir's motto as her own: 'fix oder nix!' - 'up to the mark, or nothing'. I imagined Brahms carving a line into the bark".

- excerpt from page 137 of Anne Michaels' "Fugative Pieces".

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I woke early this morn and listened to a Bob Dylan record in the front parlor. I moved down to the darkroom to work at the light table and chipped away at a mountain of negatives and slipped them into sleeves. I drank coffee and listened to Barna Howard and Ladies of Soul on tape. I thought about the present state of the world and I thought about the chores that need tending to. I thought about this strange, sad doozy of week and decided to move forward. Hi Marj, I miss you but I am doing well. Me and hundreds of others; we all miss you. I found some nice muslin and made a floral print from an old stencil for a new photography project. Now it is hanging on the line in the backyard and the house smells of spray paint.

October 26, 2016

Sunflower Man



Self portrait courtesy of Go-Go-Gadget-Long-Arms. In the wild, MB; October 2016.
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How lucky am I to have found a man who will pull over for me while out on a Sunday drive. He takes out his pocket knife and I watch him and those long legs of his saunter into the field of tall sunflowers that caught my eye in the first place. Their heads droop on his shoulder as he bends to saw a stem from its place. One, two, three, four stems. He holds up my prizes in question and I grin in affirmation. That will do, I think to myself while watching him take long strides back through the ditch, up the hill and then drop the long stalks into the truck box like it is the most natural thing in the world. While watching him, I easily imagine little children at school plucking seeds out of the giant flower heads with small tweezers. Content and proud.

October 18, 2016

Moons of October

My sister and I on Home Street. Winnipeg, MB; September 2016.

My sister is a knock out.

Portrait of a lady called Boots.

Celebrating Erin's joy to have found great love in Gareth.

Winnipeg Bachelorettes out on Home Street.

Granny Tammy teaches young Atlas all the tricks in the book! Morden Legion #11, Manitoba
A picture of Iain speaks a thousand words. This funny developer fluke frame had me at "let me fill your bath".


Back Alley cut for Gus. Shot this out of the truck window.
Graveyards are for lovers. Grant & Rebecca at Jay & Becky's wedding. Winnipeg, MB; September 2016.
Portrait of my friend Evan. I stuck my tongue out and flipped him the bird as I shot this portrait. 
My sister in law to be, Rebecca.
My brother in law to be, Conrad.

Marissa, Stef, Izzy and Erin. 




October 11, 2016

Ring Those Bells

Self-timer self portrait of two kids in love. Camping edition: Beresford Lake, MB; August 2016.

My tall drink of water and I are engaged to be married! Yahoo! The memory of a sweet proposal and a lovely ring on my finger tell me so! This time of year is a good time to reflect upon life's bounty. I am so grateful for the experiences in my life that have led me to where I am. Thank goodness for this man and his beautiful spirit. I can hardly believe that we get to work alongside one another and laugh with each other forever 'n ever amen. Oh the things we are going to build in this lifetime.

Life is good.

Ich habe genug!

October 7, 2016

The Sorceress & her Sun Shoes

Tiny cars driven by old geezers / Baby G holding his baby g.
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Lately in my dreams, I have been seeing in still picture. Sometimes I look at images I have captured in my past, or the photographs I am currently working on bringing to life in the darkroom will dance around the forefront of my mind. Sometimes when luck has it, I get to look ahead--at the images I have yet to capture but will in good time.

This past evening while observing Andy Shauf croon on stage firsthand, I took one snap of him full flash and another without. Then one of the pianist and eventually one of the bassist's left Beatle boot trying to decide which pedal to hit for the last song of the night, "Wendall Walker". As I framed up those boots, I remembered I had already taken their picture once before.

While life is good and busy, photowork seems to trump any and all other activity. I work at school and then come home and work in the darkroom when the spirit leads. Sometimes it feels like pulling teeth, the process of intention and its dance partner, old follow through; getting down there and setting up the flow can be paintful. But when it happens, it is for good reason. The pleasantries of a quick-found work rhythm far outweigh the angst of entering the darkroom in the first place. I guess I have come to the conclusion that I have too much work and need to slow my intake to a trickle.

WINTER IS GOOD FOR CATCHING UP.

Wedding season has closed for the time being and it feels really good to rest the rigs. The Kiev gave a hearty hurrah (as if on comedic cue) as her parts began to literally pop off with each slap of the mirror. Ahhh yes. Rest. Time to rest old girl. In the coming year, I hope to focus my camera on more experimental editorial lookbooks and many, many more Down Home family portraits. Time to volunteer with big kids!

As I age, the clearer the realization becomes that my print work is my own. It's not technically clean or beautiful compared to some, but it's my hand work directly connected to my brain which is throwing the switches up there and ultimately putting ideas down on light reactive magic paper and it doesn't get much more damn truthful than that. Sometimes I wish I had more gumption to get up and go, do more, but I'd rather be at home. No fear of missing out.

In other news, after a long time apart a new stencil is carving itself out on the old glass top. It's long and lean. A personal philosophy spelled out in longish hand. While working on it in a blind rage the other evening, I lay down the blade at one point and uncapped a Sharpie and began drawing my usual lady in profile, in a dress, holding a hanky and wearing strange 90's sun shoes. Clearly, it is time to start drawing again. I have forgotten how. The sun shoes and weirdly proportioned toes and fingers tell me so. Every time I pass through the Piano Room I laugh with a single glance to the work table and that funny lady lying there. So Mote it Be!

Today on my lunch break I braced myself against the first biting lick of cold while bolting southwest and then turned on a dime to duck into the shelter that is Martha Street Studio. I spent my time at the enormous light table in the upstairs studio. Again, it was a call from the Universe to get back to the drawing board. Work on those hands and feet, woman!

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Morden Corn & Apple Festival / portrait of an unimpressed Brownie McGee 
More Tiny cars and old geezers at Morden Corn & Apple Festival / Grant & Lu
A float of old inductees / Nephew Atlas and Uncle Iain reading 
Rebecca and Arlo in my living room / Atlas enjoying an airplane ride at the carival
A bride and her nephew / Petkau drive

September 11, 2016

Margot Pollo goes to Portugal


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Lisbon / Grandola, Portugal; August 2016
Canon E0S-3 / Delta 400

September 5, 2016

Do the Boogie Woogie



How many moons since I last wrote? Too many lovely moons to count. I am sitting at my desk in the middle of mine and Iain's home. The room housing the desk is a pass-through room between front parlour and kitchen. The workroom as I like to call it contains a glass topped work table, a light table, a desk and a piano. Soft light. No plants like it in here. Today is Labour Day Monday. Feels like New Year's Eve a little bit. My anticipation builds as the day flows on.

Tomorrow morning I begin a new position as an Inclusion Support worker at a Montessori school situated in Winnipeg's Exchange District. Children's House Montessori was established on Pacific in 1967 making it the oldest Montessori school in Winnipeg. The building has a neat energy. It is a positive, safe and fun place to learn, to observe and to guide others in their quest. I am really looking forward to getting to know more children and their families throughout the coming months. Last year at this time I was embarking upon my first year as a Teacher of Montessori. 15 little chickens in my care. Art Coordinator. It was a wild and frustrating, hilarious and tender, energizing and exhausting time. Learning Curve in full effect essentially.

It is a fantastic switch in mentality to anticipate something rather than fear it. Empowering!

Below is a sample of some new print work, fresh out of last night's dip. Tony Chestnut! What a hoot of an experience. Jill had a new vision for this season and invitmed me to frame up the magic of her Winter 2016 collection. It's a rough and tumble collection of clothes made for hauling ass in. I would say this is Jill's most gritty and quality collection yet. It gives off a strong front at first but the looks soften as you begin to notice the details. Ceremic buttons made by Lane Delmonico Gibson (!!!) that close the delicate backs of the hardy coveralls (available in wool or Army Duck), little double collars on a long column of a dress made from the loveliest soft knit, funnel sleeves on the boiled wool cardigan that reminded me of the Tinman! So many details in this story it is silly! I love and appreciate the many opportunities to push my skill set in new directions. Thank you Universe.

Six models, six looks worn in their own way.

TIMING
CHEMISTRY
MAGIC
WILL
LUCK



July 30, 2016

Eagles and Animal Crackers

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I am nearly set to leave for a two week journey with my longest running nanny family. We will be holidaying together under the Portuguese sun in the breadbasket of the Alentejo region. 7km from the Atlantic Coast. No complaints here. On Thursday I was looking after the twins and Efram surprised me by asking out of the blue if we could print a photograph he had been thinking about since the last time we spent time in the darkroom together. I always give them free reign of my contact sheet binders, as I quite enjoy their perspective of what makes a "good" photograph. The fact that Effie chose such a special negative to work with made my day. We started with the Golden Eagle and then moved on to Noam's choice negative. He titled the final print "Three Muskateers Eat Animal Crackers on Megan's Back Porch". I dig it. Have a look. I exposed the paper and they did the rest. As always, their wonder over the magic of the developer filled up my soul and made me wonder what on earth it would be like to teach my own children someday. They killed time between two minute exposures by reenacting their favorite scenes from Scooby Doo zombie edition and doing pushups on Uncle Al's rug. Ha! Perhaps I need to take a page from their book.

Here lies some new collaborative work. Meg, Efram, Noam edition; hand printed collectively on July 28th, 2016 and scanned at home on July 30th, 2016. Enjoy!

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