Sometimes, you try something new without a single plan in your head... and it ends up being your favourite photo work to date.
Not a very successful still life experiment, but an experiment nonetheless.
I am listening to the Modern Love podcast while editing my latest in my steadily growing tropical fruit series and came across what I wrote for Modern Love's 13-year anniversary. They asked readers to submit their love stories in only 13 words. Here's mine:
It ended where it began: railways. So much still there; everything left unspoken.
While my excerpt did not get published, this was a good exercise for me. Writing this was also very integral to my healing.
I am reminded of where I was half a year ago, and even two and a half years ago. A lot sure has changed. I am very much changed.
When my mum was pregnant with me, my dad - with much hyperbole - claimed that all my mum ate/ever wanted to eat/voraciously demanded to eat was lanzones. He would find their peels, stems, and seeds all over the house and underneath the bed they both shared.
In Philippine culture/superstition, it is said that the child would take on the qualities of whatever food their mother craved/ate the most when pregnant with that child. Lanzones (or langsat in Malaysia) is a spotty, pear-shaped fruit roughly the size of a large kumquat, with a suede-like exterior peel dotted with dark spots that look like jersey cow's spots. The peels sometimes emit a sticky sap - white and bittersweet - and its fruit is the colour of a moonstone - translucent and milky white. The fruit is perfectly sectioned, much like a mandarin orange. Its flavour is unlike anything I have ever tasted (spoiler alert: it is ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS), but I would say its flavour is like a cross between a lychee and orange blossom water. Each moonstone-coloured section may or may not contain a seed; if you happen to accidentally chomp on a seed, it is usually soft - not hard - and can be quite bitter.
I am not entirely sure if I fit any of this fruit's qualities, but because the story of my mother gorging herself on only lanzones when she was pregnant with me became pretty much a running story my father would keep telling me as a child, this fruit bears near-mythological significance to me. Now, after over two decades of not having any lanzones, I came across it at my workplace, and had my first taste after a very, very long while. I got very emotional eating it; this fruit, along with a handful of other tropical fruits native to the Philippines, makes up most of my childhood sensory memories.
I bought the last 300 grams of the stuff and brought it over to my partner. My heart leapt with joy when I witnessed his eyes roll back in pleasure as he tasted it. The closest description he can come up with to describe the taste of lanzones is [and these are his words] "It's like... if a grape and an orange had sex". Hahaha!
Anyway, sharing the lanzones with him is a huge deal for me. In the few relationships I had over the course of my life, I have always let my culture drift quietly into the background - mentioned and talked about only anecdotally. I have been so guilty of treating my cultural heritage as a novelty. What can I say? I am a product of my colonizers. I have long since taken this very important part of me seriously, and while I have generations of learning and rediscovery to catch up on, I can at least use my culture's food as a bridge to that path. And the great thing is... I have found a partner so willing to share in that journey with me. I love that about him.
I have been trying so very, very hard to perfect the panna cotta. It's been a three-year project so far. I think I have it almost to my liking. It's not quite there yet, but this flavour combination is AMAZING. Strawberry and shiso. Thank you, Meredith, of The Salty Cookie Co. for the idea!
Recipe when I have perfected it. 'Could be another three years. SIGH.
'Been thinking a lot about what it is I really want to say, and what kind of work I am interested in making. This is the result of my thought process. Gender, sex, what queer-ness means to me. I do not exactly fit in these heteronormative boxes... but am I allowed to call myself queer when I am only just beginning to discover the fluidity of my sexuality?
I am in love again... but he is not your typical male. He is... something else... and I love that about him. So if not him... and if I have sworn off the typical CIS male... suddenly, the world of possible partners for me has just opened up and... I feel very at home with that idea. The same things will apply if things with him do not work out: intellectual chemistry, pheromones and chemical compatibility, value systems... etc. etc. etc..
Who knows? Right now, queer-ness is more me than just "straight woman". Let's see where this takes me and my relationship with my lover.
Someone very dear to me gifted me a new camera for my birthday.
This camera is a game-changer.
I am now the owner of a Canon 5DS-R.
This is my first experimental shot with said camera.
I had grand plans for some major self-care stuff today. I bought some new modifiers and was going to do a new self-portrait. I was going to pick up a pint of White Chocolate & Pistachio ice cream and buy myself flowers. I was even thinking about dragging one of my best friends out to get a burger and a strawberry milkshake. And then finish the day off with Netflix and some chocolate.
But here I currently am, holed up in my ridiculously tiny apartment sick as a dog, wishing someone would deliver me some spicy soup. It would seem winter has finally caught up with me, and after evading this bug for so long, it has me in its horrible reins, and I could not be more miserable.
I was in denial when I woke up with a headache, stuffy sinuses, and a raw nose; 'thought I could somehow shoot my way through this darned sick feeling. I set up my lights, set up my props, and shot away, but gave up halfway through my studio hour feeling mighty dizzy (and FREEZING). I did manage to get a couple of shots, one with anthuriums (you can find that image here), and one with these beautiful pink proteas I snuck through the border from my most recent trip to Seattle. I got to fulfill one of my self-care tasks today, at least: I got to make art. My self-portrait will have to wait.
I am having a terribly tough time outside of this bug. It's that same nagging feeling of having these very loose roots but not having enough financial freedom to get myself rooted somewhere that feels like home. Something has to change. I don't know what yet. I am not entirely sure an uprooting will change what I am feeling here... but it sure will help in a big way... I think.
I am delirious right now so I should end it here. Time to hunt through my fridge for something that will resemble Self-Assuredness, Certainty, and Home. Perhaps all are there; I just can't seem to see them in my horizon yet.
In light of all the Women's Marches happening in and around the country and the globe... here are the women who made my 'Ghost Stories' possible.
They also happen to be some of my closest and dearest friends.
Who run the world? Girls. Obviously.
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.
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
637 East 15th Avenue
December 1 / 19:00 to 22:00
December 2 / 10:00 to 18:00
December 3 / 11:00 to 17:00
My first attempt at video.
And with this final series, I end Ghost Stories.
Release date in November.
Model: the incomparable Laura Cullen, who is like a sister to me.