December 31, 2004

2004 into 2005


There's a Big Wall and Some Clouds and Trees
Taken with Kiev 88

I wanted to post a hopeful, life-affirming photo here today. So I just blew approximately 2 hours scanning new film, and digging through backup looking for a photo that I have never posted that represents a good feeling.

This is what I came up with. Hilarious! Well I can tell you that I was very happy when I took that photo.

Time to make the list. I hate resolutions. But I do like wrap-ups. And to my surprise this is the first year in the history of my life that January 1 actually FEELS like a new year or transition. In the past September held that position -- probably something to do with the seasonal change and more than half a lifetime of "First Day of School Syndrome."

Okay, I have one resolution: learn the proper usage of mdashes, colons and semi colons. I've got a book on it but I don't want to read THAT book.

2004 can be summed up as really great and really difficult and really difficult because it was really great but also great because it was difficult. Plus there was fear, fear, fear and change, change, change. I'm tired.

Here's last year.

Posted by Gayla at 02:04 PM



Taken with Kiev 88

Tonight I released my inner artist (it said so on the package) while working on my "A Western Portait" paint-by-number (imagine red rocks, a man on a horse, and lots of agave and opuntia in the forground) and simultaneously watching John Carpenter's "The Thing." Any art that can be done while watching movies is good art.

Put up some digi pics from a month or so ago on FLICKR.

Posted by Gayla at 12:46 AM

December 29, 2004

the other city


Vines II
Taken with Kiev 88

About a week and a half ago a friend gave me a really awesome book called "the other city". It's a thin hardcover from 1969 that features the photography and words of four teenage boys living in Brooklyn. The book was derived from a highschool photo project in which kids were given instamatic cameras and set loose to capture their lives and neighbourhoods. These four boys took it one step further so their teacher put this book together and assembled short captions with each photo taken from interviews with the boys and some writing they had done during the school year.

The photos themselves are terrific but the text is what makes it so great. The words are really straightforward and honest, in that way kids sometimes are. My favourite photo is from the "People" section. It depicts a young teenager standing in the hallway of a darkened house with his face pressed up against the glass of a door. His reflection shows in the glass. The text reads:

"When you grow up you get tired of a lot of the street games. They don't seem as much fun as they used to."

Posted by Gayla at 11:28 AM

December 28, 2004



Taken with Kiev 88

I took this one on a bright and chilly but warm enough to layer in fall clothes rather than bundle like a giant marshmallow in my BIG PUFF jacket day. Maybe it was a month ago. We walked for hours around the city taking photos. We stopped at the Art Gallery of Ontario gift shop where I bought two tiny books of photos by Jacob Riis and David Goldblatt. I like to look at the books but I never go into the gallery. Then we walked over to Baldwin Street where we sat and conversed at John's Italian Cafe while I drank a cappuccino. The bathrooms there are upstairs in what seem to be a part of someone's living quarters. There are two stairwells and the hallways turn in odd directions. It makes you lose your sense of direction. Then we walked some more but it was dark and I didn't take anymore photos.

Posted by Gayla at 11:36 AM

December 26, 2004

I'll tell them what the smile on my face meant


The Mailslot is Too Shiny
Taken with Kiev 88

I really wish I'd had colour film in the camera when I happened upon this doorway because the curtain print was yellow and orange.


Current Song Addictions:

- Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel -- I know, I know. The same Peter Gabriel who wrote Sledgehammer. I'm driving Davin crazy with it. But I heard it the other day and it struck me with it's life-affirming story about change. Now I am totally addicted. Plus my brother says it uses an unusual time signature so I feel somehow validated in that.

- Jesus Children of America and He's Misstra Know-It-All by Stevie Wonder from Innervisions. -- "Are you hearing, praying, feeling what you say inside?" Okay the whole album is awesome but I go through phases and this is my current one. All through the summer I was crazy in love with Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing. If you've got some holiday money from your grandma buy yourself this album. Hell, I got my copy for a dollar at the second hand store.

Posted by Gayla at 01:13 PM

December 23, 2004

The Trick of It


Taken with Great Wall DF-

I wanted to post a plant photo today because Noreen liked botanical photos --although I don't think she'd approve of this one. She'd say, "Girl, why did you waste a picture on that sad-looking thing?"

I learned a few things about my aunt over the last couple of years that slightly altered my way of looking at my family background and people in general. Around the time of her retirement I discovered that she liked to do lots of graphic design work on her computer for fun. And when I told her I was taking a lot of photos she said that she had wanted to be a photographer. I always thought my artistic inclinations were another characteristic that made me an alien in the family. It goes along with my long-term feeling of having just dropped out of the sky. I just never seemed to fit in anywhere or with anyone. I don't know why it didn't occur to me that I come from a line of repressed artist types -- people who completely deny their artistic interests as useless folly.

I honestly believe that every single one of us has a creative side because we're all feeling, emotional beings and creativity is ultimately simply an expression of who we are and what we feel. And of course there are lots of ways to be creative; from cooking your meals to programming. When I was on the cusp of entering University and questioning a lifetime in science, everyone kept telling me I had to make a choice between art and science because they're opposites that can't exist together. It took me a long time to realise that that's not really the truth. We're so hopped up on binary opposites. You're either or this or that. This is over here and that is over there. I sometimes wonder if what we call artists are just people who have a stronger drive to express themselves in a specific way. Or maybe it's as some people say, that art is nothing more than edited creativity.

I'm glad my aunt found a way to express that part of her. I just wish she would or could have been open about it. We humans worry so much and put far too much stake in what other people think is appropriate or right for us. We listen to the voices in our head -- the voices of hurtful, damaging and sometimes well-intentioned but misguided people who tell us to set aside our dreams, ambitions, desires, little pieces of ourselves. We're told not to be weak, that we feel too much, are too sensitive, need to grow up, should suck it up and move on. The trick seems to be to sort through all the muddle and contradictions and figure out who we are and what we need underneath or outside of all that. And then to pursue it before it's too late.

Posted by Gayla at 10:47 AM

December 22, 2004

My Aunt


My Aunt

This has been the best year of my life. This has been the hardest year of my life.

I had the worst bought of insomnia of my entire life last night. I did not fall alseep until sometime after 6:00 am. I woke up just after noon hour, minutes before my brother showed up with the news that my aunt, my mother's sister, the only relative on my maternal side (my only family) that I had a relationship with, died in her sleep last night.

I knew this was coming. In fact when my brother showed up I knew what he was going to say. I just knew. She had lots of health problems. The women of my maternal side are tough bitches with weak constitutions -- I'm not exempt from that.

My aunt and I had our differences -- mainly about my mother who I do not speak to. Disassociating from your mother, regardless of the situation, is unforgiveable in many cultures.

I always felt a connection to my aunt. Now that I'm older I see her flaws, and I disagree with some of her perspectives on life, but I have always admired her. She left Barbadoes all on her own, with no support system at age 25 and came to Canada in order to make a life for herself. Her stories about being one of few black people in Ottawa at the time are fascinating. She took care of herself, she made a lot of good choices. But you can't really escape pain by shifting locations. My instinct has always been that she carried hers deep inside and it weighed her down. She was my connection to my past and my family's past. I asked her lots of questions and she answered although there was one time when I saw that it was painful for her. That was the first time I really started to get it.

I don't know what I'm going to do.

I'll miss her.

Posted by Gayla at 02:38 PM

December 21, 2004



Taken with the Kiev 88

In case you haven't heard, it's friggin' freezing outside. I for one have avoided going outside over the last two days because my delicate constitution can not withstand the harsh conditions. On days like this I wonder why, why, why did my people come to this freezing country? Thankfully today isn't as bad as yesterday being only minus somewhat rather than minus insanity. Susan Hay was on TV yesterday afternoon reporting temperatures of -42!

Anyway I am possibly on the verge of wrapping up this book which goes to print on December 24. Some press guy will be cursing my name when he should be at home getting drunk on peach schnapps or something equally foul. Sorry dude. I don't set the dates.

Last month, when I said I was "done", I meant that I was done designing. There has been plenty of work since then. The sad part is that I haven't had a chance to thoroughly clean up my gardens and have done very little in terms of winter preparation. I did the stuff that was absolutely necessary and left the rest. At this point my plants are basically on their own. I still have two packs of bulbs waiting to go in the ground! It's safe to say that, that won't be happening anytime soon unless I get out there with an ice pick and start chipping at the ground. Thankfully I have special tricks that make up for my negligence.

Posted by Gayla at 12:51 PM

December 20, 2004

Fleurs des Terres

fleurs des terre

Fleurs des Terres
Taken with the Kiev 88

To whomever rang the buzzer several times at 3:00 am just as I had FINALLY managed to fall asleep after hours of desperate trying because I HAD to get up early to meet a deadline and REALLY needed the sleep and had been in total pain up until that glorious moment when I finally did manage it, only to be abruptly torn from my slumber and unable to fall alseep again for another hour or so:

Thanks a-fucking-lot. I CURSE YOU.


Oh, I almost forgot. A week ago, right in the middle of Sunday afternoon... well not even the middle really, more like around lunch, a.k.a After Church, I heard the word "fuck" uttered on CBC television.

That made me very happy and giddy. Canada is great.

Posted by Gayla at 03:46 PM

December 19, 2004



Taken with the Kiev 88

another view.

Posted by Gayla at 03:04 PM

December 17, 2004

Jimmy's Fine


Jimmy's Fine
Taken with the Kiev 88

When I was taking this photo a man came up and asked if I was using a Hassleblad camera. I keep telling Davin that I'm going to get mugged for this cheap Russian knock-off but I suppose the joke will be on the mugger when they find out it ain't worth much.

Posted by Gayla at 04:47 PM

December 16, 2004

Behold, Katsup


Behold, Katsup
Taken with the Kiev 88

We didn't really go on family vacations. We went to my step-father's, friend's, mother's cabin, once, and camping at Bissel's Hide-a-way (I'm spelling this wrong) a few times. But twice we drove out to my step-father's grandmother's house in the tiny town of Merlin, Ontario. In a previous post I described the religious environment I grew up in, but this woman HAD RELIGION on a whole other level -- the no dancing, no TV, no folly level. I was used to hyper-religious people but she kind of scared me. Plus my brother and I found shotguns in the kids' guest bedroom closet, and that's just unusual.

On these trips we'd spend a week, or a few days (I don't know cause I was on kid time. Could have been a month for all I know.) driving around along wheat and tomato fields visiting strange second-cousins and old spinster aunts who lived with cats, spiders, and pre-war decor that I mistakenly took for Victorian era (and crazy witchiness without the paganism) because I didn't really know what that was except that it was old -- and this stuff was older than anything I'd ever seen.

These people of way-in-the-hell-over-in-that-direction-Ontario had lots of funny ways. I think this was the first time I really understood that geographical and cultural differences can exist within short distances -- even among white people with the same last name. On my first day in Merlin, my great-grandmother sent me over to the Knechtels to fetch a bottle of "katsup". I was used to being sent to the store for cigarettes and a 3-litre bag of milk. I didn't know this katsup thing. I vividly remember wandering down the orange aisles thinking "What is katsup?" and "Why does everything start with the letter k?" But later I discovered "THE BEST PARK RIDE EVER" (my brother and I still talk about it with a tone of awe), and Harmon's HOT FIRE-PIX, so it was okay and I could live with the other stuff.

Posted by Gayla at 11:33 AM

December 15, 2004

I Swear Part 2


I Especially Like the Corrugated Fencing. And the Yellow.
Taken with the Kiev 88

What does it mean that even though I have plenty of non-screwy photos, my impulse is to go for the ones from the screwed-up back?

I'm having a perfectly shit day.

Public service announcement: I swear. I swear all the time. At this point fuck is a fairly average part of my vocabulary. I like the word. It's a good word. When I was a grade schooler and thoroughly indoctrinated into christian fundamentalism (it didn't stick) I didn't swear. I couldn't even say hell. Kids at school made a game of trying to entice me to swear. But they didn't understand. They would say, "Come on. What's the big deal? It's just a word." But they didn't understand that I was already going to hell for the sins of pride, parents who not only swore, but drank and did drugs!!, watching cartoons on Sunday mornings BEFORE Sunday School AND preferring to stay on the couch watching "Uncle Bobby" over going to Sunday School, watching the Smurfs (tools of the devil), being forced to listen to the devil's music by living in a house with people who listened to heavy metal and The Eagles (Hotel California is HELL!), possibly enjoying the devil's music, collecting Wacky Packages, and having watched both Gremlins and E.T. I'm certain there were countless other reasons why I should be sent directly to the fiery flames of eternal damnation immediately upon death. The last thing I needed to do was up the anty.

Slipping a fuck or two into my regular language feels good. It's a nice reminder that I CAN. And that despite a really good effort on all parts neither Sunday School, weekly bible club, nor Bible Camp stuck. I made it out with my sanity intact. Hell ya.

Posted by Gayla at 03:17 PM

December 14, 2004

Abandoned Folly


Abandoned Folly
Taken with the Kiev 88

Went to the bookstore yesterday but nothing I wanted was in. I ended up getting Dorothy Allison's "Bastard Out of Carolina". There's something strange about reading a book well after seeing the movie adaptation. It has stripped me of the ability to use my imagination to picture characters and scenes since they've already been presented for me visually in another format.

But I'm still enjoying. If one can enjoy reading about the semi-autobiographical misery of another fucked up childhood.

Posted by Gayla at 09:02 PM

December 13, 2004

Hi-Rise Land


Taken with the Kiev 88

Still loving the screwy photos taken with the broken back. It's just coincidence that all the best subject matter ended up on the broken back. I could do without the problems.


I put up a couple of photos on Flickr. They're from our Apartment Lobby Holiday Decor walk but minus the Holiday Decor part. Once again I wish the default sizing was bigger. I loved how people had been scratching their names into the old apartment name decal. And Darwood Hurts is just brilliant.

Incidently the wall (above) is a part of a broken down parking garage attached to a broken down hi-rise. I used to be really obsessed with this building -- taking night walks past it just to stand below the behemoth all aglow. These old hi-rises equally fascinate and disturb me. They were built to be classy modern dwellings but through time and neglect devolved into miserable boxes for holding people. Notice I did not use the word "house". They don't seem to do that very well.

I am always interested in class and as a part of that find interest in the way objects, buildings, and even entire neighbourhoods lose and gain class status through time. These buildings will never be uppercrust again. But they're sitting on prime 'lakeview' real estate so eventually as this neighbourhood becomes more and more gentrified someone will find a way to displace all the poor people living in them, knock them all down, and turn them into condos.

As I watch the landscapes in this city (especially in this part of town and along my beloved tracks) swiftly change into condo/townhome/loft/toft LAND I wonder what will happen once all these crappy psuedo-post-modernish messes start wearing down.

Posted by Gayla at 12:07 PM

December 10, 2004



Taken with the Kiev 88

Every once and a while I like to go back and see what I was posting a year prior. Today I found this posted December 5, 2003.

Posted by Gayla at 04:21 PM

December 09, 2004



Taken with the Kiev 88

SPACING magazine issue 3 release party tonight at the El Mocambo. Some of my photos (I have no idea which ones) will be projected.

I was so disappointed that this photo was ruined by the broken film back. It's so messed I didn't even bother to clean the scan.

I'm not sure if the car is driving by or parked though. It's not like me to allow contemporary cars in the frame. I can't stand them in my photos. I'll usually stand and wait until it's clear or not bother at all. Without the car (and the troubles) I would have really liked this one.

I've been so silent lately it's freaking me out. I'm still suffering great difficulty "Making the Sentences." I'm thinking a lot about the holidays and how much I really loathe this time of year. I don't have any pressures or strangeness but I do have a lot of bad memories of holiday seasons long past. They are really strong and present in my mind this year and I'm trying to sort out exactly why. My interest in participating in the hoopla is so minimal I feel like an observer standing on the periphery watching human culture play out like a movie around me. I'm so much more content without it.

I say there's no pressure but that's not entirely true -- the pressure to participate is always there even if only self-imposed. The pile of Holiday cards that have been sitting on my desk for a month are pressure enough. I feel like if I can't extend a real, thoughtful, meaningful sentiment then what's the fucking point? What's the point of mailing out a pile of cards that says, "Happy Holidays! insert signature here"?

I've been thinking about this too:

"and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive."

-Litany for Survival by Audre Lorde

I also like this one:

"I have come to believe over and over again, that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.... My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.... and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us. The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken."
Audre Lorde (The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action).

Posted by Gayla at 12:00 PM

December 08, 2004

Keep Off


Keep Off
Taken with the Kiev 88

I have nothing to say.

Oh I forgot about "Apartment Lobby Holiday Decor." Check them out at the larger size. The default flickr size isn't big enough.

Posted by Gayla at 11:31 AM

December 04, 2004

Returning Returns


Returning Returns
Taken with the Kiev 88

I posted a photo from the long ago Toronto Photobloggers meeting. This was the only photo I took. I wish I hadn't opened the back of the camera. The entire roll is red and crazy.

Posted by Gayla at 12:58 PM

December 03, 2004

New Age Karaoke


New Age Karaoke
Taken with the Kiev 88

Mr. Risk and I went to two book stores the other day. At the first, "Another Book List", I purchased three books. The first "Talking Back" by bell hooks couldn't have come at a better time. I've endured a real flip-flopping of emotions in the last two weeks. When Zee told me months back that it is common for people to experience depression after writing a book I dismissed it because I imagined that the depression would come as a result of feeling directionless after working so intensely on one thing for a long period of time. I had so many plans for things I would do when the book work wasn't dominating my life anymore. I thought surely I would not experience this directionless.

I was wrong.

It's not about feeling directionless at all. And I wouldn't call what I'm experiencing depression. At least not for me. Writing the book was really hard in the beginning. I struggled with intense feelings of fear. The fear was really abstract stuff that I would never rationally imagine possible. It was fear of punishment, of what it means to have a book published, and moving past boundries that had been established for me long ago. There was fear of too much pride, fear of being punished for being too prideful, and inversely fear that I wouldn't feel any pride at all. There was also a fear that when one makes a book people assume that the writer sees themself as an authority and a fear of how people would react to that... and on and on.

I was discussing all this stuff with Mr. Risk the other day and he pointed out that the word 'author' suggests authority. It's in the word! It's right there in the damn word! No wonder people get so twisted up by it.

So now that I'm nearly finished this book and have some space to breath all of these emotions are exploding out of me. I feel really great but I also feel really scared. I'm having intensely violent dreams in which people are attacking me, cutting off my fingers, etc. One minute I'm excited and expressive, the next minute I'm introverted and silent. I'm having a great deal of difficulty articulating. I like to refer to this phenomenon as "Can't Make the Sentences." I can't make the sentences. This self-imposed silencing is something I experience whenever I've been too expressive. Payback and punishment for expressiveness is inarticulateness and silence.

When I opened up "Talking Back" the other day and the very first words in the book were about these very problems and difficulties it was such a relief.

"It has to do with revealing the personal. It has to do with writing -- with what it means to say things in print. It has to do with punishment -- with all those years in childhood and on, where I was hurt for speaking truths, speaking the outrageous, speaking in my wild and witty way, or as friends sometimes say, "do we have to go that deep?""

These are issues I have never heard anyone talk about before and I had felt isolated in my weirdness throughout the six months of intense work. I knew it, recognized it and understood it, but I still felt so isolated in it. This is why I think speaking honestly about our lives is important. Because ultimately although our lives are uniquely our own, there is also nothing that hasn't been experienced in a similar fashion by someone else, in some way, at some time.

Posted by Gayla at 11:54 AM

December 02, 2004



Taken with Holga

Here's one from World Toy Camera Day. I'm a little behind.

Posted by Gayla at 12:41 PM

December 01, 2004

Talking Back


Hometown Tour: E. I. McCulley School
Taken with Great Wall DF-

"And openness is about how to be well and telling the truth is about how to put the broken bits and pieces of the heart back together again. It is about being whole-- being wholehearted."
-bell hooks "Talking Back"

Posted by Gayla at 11:55 AM