July 30, 2016

Eagles and Animal Crackers


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!


July 23, 2016

Photo Essay: Meeting Lula Browning

Nice to meet you Lula Browning Colvin. Born to Rebecca & Grant on July 16, 2016.


Dear Lula, these photographs are for you and yours, captured with real deep love. It is important to know what wonderful people you have been born to. Near and dear they are to both U. Beetle and I for so many reasons it is hard to know where to begin the list. I look forward to running free with you in the country in the time to come and watching you grow in the present. As your wise mama says, "day by day". I can't wait to observe your parents introducing you to the Sugar Shack. My heart swells with pride at the thought of you knowing that special land intimately in your own way.

Bless you sweet child; wind in your sails as you traverse this wild and wonderful planet, those bright eyes shining all the way!

Love, A. Madge

Ps. All photos shot on the old faithful Kiev 60 on Portra 400 film. At first I was disappointed I had loaded my camera with colour in lieu of contrast. Then I saw the film and knew it was better this way. Lovely to be content working with colour scans after a long time apart.


July 19, 2016

Welcome to PJB's Classroom


Here lie three scans from the modest mountain of my great grandfather PJB's negative collection. Three examples plucked from a very slim pile of doubly (or triply) exposed negatives. Old, strict Peter was a hawk eye and technically sharp. Or else he was very, very good at editing his own work. Or perhaps majority of his work was lost or dispersed in his transition into old age and forgotten beyond death. Or perhaps he wasn't as prolific as I make him to be in my mind and the negatives in my possession are it. In that case, I shoot a hell of a lot more than he did. 

Based upon the fact that majority of his negatives are 6 x 9 cm, I imagine him shooting on a Voigtlander Bessa folding camera or something of the like. When I am bent over my light table in the basement and thinking about PJB at work in his own darkroom, I become abuzz within (if he even had one that is, as I am 100% unsure upon whether or not he even printed or processed his own work. Never have I seen any original prints). There is something so powerful about handling hundred year old artifacts. Being around old things has always energized my soul in such a way that nothing else can hold a candle to.

My goal is to eventually finish printing my own contact sheets of every single negative from his collection, but the work is slow and daunting at times so sometimes I scan a few to get an idea of what I am working with and to feed my passion for the project like a slow, satisfying burn. Life work. Eventually I will present my own children with a thick binder of contact sheets alongside the preserved negatives of their great, great grandfather. At this snail's production pace, I better live to be 102, no less. When I grow discouraged about not devoting enough of my personal time to bringing his mind's eye musings to life, I try to remember that I have time and repeat the wise words of South African embroidery artist Hendrik Stroebel to myself as a mantra.  I do not limit these wise words to only the PJB focus as they have an ultra affirming and calming effect on my work as an artist as a whole.


Back in the saddle I go hi-ho. Until that glorious day when I am finally ready to hang the hand printed work of Peter JBR with pride, have a look into his classroom in the interim. I like the look of the environment, though I have a strong suspicion there was no Tom Foolery in his classroom. These images must have been shot in the early 1920's as he was establishing his teaching career in rural eastern Manitoba (most likely captured without a thought in the world about where these images would someday end up). Someday, I will have a one room school house on my land and I too will capture photographs of my pupils at work. I hope one of my granddaughters will like them enough to explore the narrative in her own space and time.


Tot Lot

Atlas, myself and a new cat photographed around Easter Time in Morden, Manitoba; 2016. Photo thanks to Iain Petkau / Pentax 67

'Been thinking a lot about kids lately. What good is this world without the hilarious observations of children? They are showing up in my photography work left and right these days. No complaints here.

July 18, 2016


Doo-do-dooo do-doo-dooot dooo.

Andy Shauf's new album The Party on repeat over here. In celebration of my thirtieth birthday back in April, my sister and brothers gave to me said record along with a wizard of a mop by Norwex. My witches broom now sits sadly in the corner, trumped. There is something about Shauf's latest album that pierces the target of my soul. I like his funny voice that easily carries his tune with depth and emotion, those easy melodies, not to mention the strings, piano, horns and most excellent bass and drum rhythms altogether. Holy smokes! I can hardly wait to hear his real live voice at the Park Theater on October 6, 2016 in Winnipeg.

I write from my old faithful metal desk. I've hauled this ladylike desk all over the country over the course of the last decade. This morn I woke early to wish Iain well as he left for work. Puttering in the house I did, tending to the plants and laundry lying neglected thanks to a four day cottage getaway with my family; all the while drinking coffee slowly. Good mornings, these kind. I am set to print textiles at Martha Street Studio in the coming hour. Margot Pollo for Thought Shapes, my sister's shop. Check it CLICK here! It's been a real treat not to mention good practice for the illustrator in me to come up with stencils and designs for Erin. Sometimes she suggests things to make or directions to go and other times she encourages free reign of anything I can come up with to silkscreen onto a top. I love printmaking and the process of zipping that goopy ink loaded on a sharp edged squeegee over a wood-framed silk screen lying on top of whatever the heart desires to print upon. Magic! Flood, zip.

Part deux: I wrote that first section a few days ago. Before Lula Browning was born. The healthy babe of dear friends of mine and Iain's arrived on Saturday, July 16th, 2016. Praise be to the waxing moon. I heard the great news and proceeded to whisper her name to myself a trillion times that day. Lula, welcome dear one. We have been waiting for you. I just came up from the darkroom. It is one in the morning. Iain snores contentedly, the dishwasher runs at this ungodly hour and I am drinking an Original 16. It's not very cold but still very enjoyable. The last negative I enlarged and printed was of a couple I met on the coldest day of winter shot in February of 2016. I was cycling down Notre Dame Avenue in the late afternoon that day on my newly built winter bicycle (Jessica Alba had been reconfigured into a ghastly snow plowing machine by the gentlemen of Natural Cycle. Much to my chagrin, the studded tire is presently on the front wheel. I rode it today thanks to a flat on my temperamental but lovely Mercier. It is mid July. Terrible! I'm sorry Alba, I'll slick you up sooner than later). As I was cycling, an interesting swatch of light hitting the tiles of a neighborhood community center caught my eye. After composing the shot, a jaywalking couple caught my eye. I walked over to meet them as they climbed up to the curb and we got to talking. I swear to God that was the coldest day of the year and this dude--Amber Dawn's sidekick (I never caught his name)--all he was wearing was a bulky Winnipeg Jets zip up hoodie. It was -35 C outside. My hands were aching from the forty seconds they were exposed to the wind while shooting. I asked for their portrait and they happily obliged. I didn't have any cigarettes for them and we went our separate ways. In retrospect I wish I took Amber Dawn's address down. Hindsight is always 20/20. I knew it was a good portrait when I shot it. She adjusted her leg into him in such a way that the photo nods to the seductress. She reminds me of a beautiful serpent. Mysterious and tempting in black and white.

Belles of Art City's Winnipeg Social; corsages et al. Winnipeg, MB; April 2016.
Photo thanks to Amy Zach.
Printed at home in July on Ilford Pearl, 8x8"