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Ghost Stories


Issha Marie Onoya

Portrait: Ian Azariah (Tintype Trike)

Portrait: Ian Azariah (Tintype Trike)

This image of myself, taken by someone other than myself, makes me pause. I hate getting my photograph taken by others. The pictures that come out are not a true representation of how I see myself, much less how I feel.

I do not know what it is that possessed me to attend the East Side Flea on a Friday night on a whim. I came across Ian's page by randomly browsing Instagram yesterday morning. I absolutely love and am fascinated by alternative photographic processes... so I went with the sole purpose of getting my portrait taken by him with his mobile tintype studio. I knew that regardless of the outcome, I would have an image of myself forever immortalized using a very old photographic process. But the outcome is so much more than what I expected. Because I was not expected to smile, I let myself focus on the lens... and before I knew it... one bright flash later... my portrait had been taken.

I watched the image develop right in front of my eyes... and when my visage slowly started to reveal itself under gentle agitation... I gasped. I see many things here. I see my vulnerability. I see my age. I see growth... but also uncertainty. I see my sensuality.

I haven't been this enamoured over an image of myself taken from someone else's lens since one of my best friends, Kevin, took the following photographs of me when he was a design student at Seneca College:

Ian's portrait of me is not the prettiest, most polished portrait of me, that's for goddamn sure... but it is the most real... and right now... I need real. And for what it's worth... I think I look beautiful here. Thank you, Ian.


Ghost Stories

Issha Marie Onoya


I have sent off Ghost Stories to be printed after sitting on my sample copy for a little over a month. I have decided to print only 50, with about 7 to 10 copies being sent off to my longtime collaborators.

I have been invited to present my work at the Object + Handmade show in December at The Aviary in Vancouver, from December 1 to 3. I will be selling those books there for $21. Unless otherwise prompted by an overwhelming public majority, it is highly unlikely I will be reprinting these; it is time for me to move on to my next project, and I have been holding on to this body of work for ten years.


Object + Handmade
The Aviary
637 East 15th Avenue
Vancouver, BC

December 1 / 19:00 to 22:00
December 2 / 10:00 to 18:00
December 3 / 11:00 to 17:00



Issha Marie Onoya

I sent my book of poetry, 'Ghost Stories', out for a sample print recently. It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Ten years' worth, condensed into sixty pages. Because it is self-funded, I couldn't really expand it to more than 60 pages. Maybe one day, I will do a more comprehensive, all-encompassing, expanded edition. Or not. I am ready to move on to its next evolution, whatever that looks like.

Here's a recent self-portrait. It's a companion piece to the final poems in 'Ghost Stories'. This one is a test shot; I have taken many since. I am brimming, once-more, with many half-formed ideas...  but I cannot wait to see where those ideas take me next.

I guess this series is a bit of a coming-of-age thing... a rediscovering and unearthing of femininity and sensuality - and what that means to me. I am embracing it all - the curves, the scars, the lines. Self-love and self-care is very difficult work. It can feel a bit selfish. It can feel a bit vain. Guilt often follows it. There is often a very tenuous, very thin line between genuine self-love and vanity, I think.

I no longer want to be afraid of my own power. But I am also very wary of it. Oftentimes I feel that if I wield it, it will be taken from me by force. I can be manipulated, if I am not careful. I will be made to think I do not deserve this. I will be made to think I am in the wrong. I fear it will be misconstrued as some sort of open invitation: for men - most especially - to feel like they are entitled to it. To me. And I cannot let that happen to me again. I do not want to be silenced, but I don't want to be hurt or harmed for making noise, either.


So what's next?

I don't know yet.

Terrifying. Strange. Beautiful.

Issha Marie Onoya

These images were shot with an experimental film called Snovlox. It claims to give your photos a winter feel, but to be quite honest, I see these more like fireflies than snow. It could be because these photos are taken at the height of summer here in Vancouver.

When I took these photographs, I had the poems of Warsan Shire and Naayirah Waheed in mind, and even my own poems as well (I had written a couple the night before this day trip). Carmel and I also had Beyonce's Lemonade on during the drive to this location, so the look of this may have totally been influenced by that album.

I will take these frames in the darkroom to print, but I could not resist scanning these ones for a first-hand peek.

Model: Carmel Amit

The Undoing

Issha Marie Onoya

Phantom Limb

I walk through groups of strangers and see you.
Double back, double take, shake my head, tell myself


It's today of all days, everyday.

Why now and not then?
Always it is not, but then, when?

I look for you in groups of strangers
wearing half dread, half not.
My stomach lurches every time.
My heartbeat a bellowing echo.

My mind goes through scenarios:
what to do, what not to do when...
like a pre-flight safety demonstration.

How To Put On Your Oxygen Mask.

Don't forget to breathe.

Breathe through the ache of letting go.
This undoing is painful work.
You must undo until there are only scars,
and strangers are only strangers.

- IM 2017



Issha Marie Onoya

I spent six hours in the darkroom this past Saturday and walked away with some really stunning results - for hastily-printed, dust-riddled RC prints, that is. I am just getting the hang of printing again! We were also taught how to tone our prints using selenium. Our darkroom is not the greatest, so we had to tone these prints outdoors. Apparently, the gases from the selenium solution could kill if not done in a properly-ventilated area. Something about the solution mixing with acid to form a deadly gas. Old-school photography is so freaking badass.

Here are some scans of my favourite prints from this weekend's session. The scans do not do these prints justice. The dynamic range from these prints alone are something to behold. I LOVE BEING BACK IN THE DARKROOM!!!

Of course, prints like these cannot be obtained if you do not have a good negative. I have good negatives. Yippee!

Without further ado...

Exposed 11.1 seconds with a 10-second burn treatment on the bottom right corner. Contrast filter at 3.

Left to Right: Untoned RC print versus Selenium-toned RC print. Notice what it did to the blacks. Unbelievable. I love toning. I cannot wait to explore this method further.

This one was my favourite print of the day. The dynamic range in this photograph is unbelievable. It looks unreal. I lucked out when I shot this; the light was incredible, first of all, and definitely gave life to all the textures in this space. Exposed 13 seconds with a contrast filter of 3.5.

Ghost Stories

Issha Marie Onoya

I am very pleased to announce a book that has taken ten years to complete. 'Ghost Stories' is a collection of fragmented narratives and photographs (mostly film, some digital) taken between 2007 and 2017.

I started the layout of the book in April, and though some of the images have yet to be fully realized, it is a little more than halfway finished.

It will be self-published by me and its projected release date will be in the late autumn/early winter of this year. 

And now, a sneak peek:

It will feel good to finally put this out there in the universe, after keeping most of it secret for so long.


Issha Marie Onoya

One of my best friends (and current primary film-shooting partner), Jen, suggested we make an excursion to the dilapidated and abandoned Riverview Mental Hospital. I developed this film a couple of days ago and here are some of the frames that came out of this impromptu and spontaneous field trip. There definitely exists a very eerie energy around the place, but make no mistake... this place --- this vast expanse of unused land that houses all of these decaying structures --- is so hauntingly beautiful. I could stay here shooting all day. 'Wish I had the upper body strength and ninja skills needed to break inside these massive, abandoned buildings. I can only imagine what they look like inside. I have heard of underground tunnels and labyrinths that exist within those walls and I want so very badly to see them.

I plan to return with a few more people. I smell a series in the making.

Without further ado...


Issha Marie Onoya

I am currently taking a darkroom refresher course this summer, and I've forgotten how fickle developing your own negatives are. It isn't the best darkroom either; it is dusty and small and there are a lot of flaws in the way it is set up. I kind of overdid it with the photo-flo because I accidentally dropped my wet negatives on the floor as I was starting to hang them. MAJOR FAIL. The result is a dusty negative that might be hard to print. OH WELL. You win some you lose some. 

And the streaks? That's the silver. This film I developed is 13 years old, and it was not stored properly. The effect is pretty cool, actually. Expired film is a bit of an unpredictable beast, especially if you don't know how it's been stored prior to [your] receiving them.

Model: Jana Nixon

Model: Jana Nixon

More to come, as I re-discover this medium!

What You Should Know About Your Sensations

Issha Marie Onoya

'What You Should Know About Your Sensations' (digital image test, 2014)

'What You Should Know About Your Sensations' (digital image test, 2014)

My grandfather was not a perfect man. I remember the way he carried himself when I was a child - always quite the intimidating presence, smelling faintly of pomade and aftershave.

I was never close to the man when he was alive. I remember many little things: him quizzing me with such intensity over my multiplication tables... and being rewarded with dried mangoes or my favourite cheese puffs when I did a good job. He was quite the severe man - at least, from how I viewed him as a child - and overly pedantic, hardly affording his grandchildren the usual doting kind of affection that those lovey-dovey-fuzzy-sorts of grandparents often do.

I went to his funeral in the Philippines back in 2011; all of it is a blur. I vaguely recall going through a number of his personal belongings, but an old notebook of his captured my attention. Inside it were carefully-written lyrics to love songs. Once in a While was a song written by Michael Edwards and Bud Green, and was popularized by many classic crooners including his favourite, Nat King Cole. Why he went through this exercise of copying over these lyrics into his pocket notebook, I will never know, but I had unknowingly, unintentionally... made up the idea that my grandfather, in all of his severity and his seriousness, was a romantic at heart.


I wrote a 5-part poem that I aptly named The Fall sometime back in 2010. I had fallen in love with a man who lived clear across the country from me. He would be my partner for almost six years later that year, but, like some love stories, we simply could not work together no matter how hard [we believed] we tried. So it ended.

Below are the final lines of The Fall. For me, this is how it feels to fall in love. Perhaps one day, I will be fortunate enough to feel this way again. Perhaps I am like the love-lyric-toting-side of my grandfather... and given the cynicism I am often known to carry... I am alright with that.

I have, since, come to deduce
that the act of falling
is almost always met
with the sort of silence that speaks
of a profound and biting sense of clarity;


backed also by
                        the gentle rustling of skin and fabric;
                        the subtle crackle
                        of statically-charged particles
                        held in perpetual suspension;

the faintest of sighs.

Happy Valentine's Day.