Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I always find it interesting how when I'm involved in a project it focuses my thinking so that suddenly I am noticing everything around me that pertains to it. Yesterday I was at a meeting for English language arts teachers and we were talking about response. I thought of my participation in the 2009 - 365 photos challenge and my blog. Both the photos and the writing are forms of response. And I realized how much my mind is primed for certain kinds of photos - what I bring to the picture. Today I had a hard time deciding on which photograph to post.

I knew that many people would be posting photographs of Obama - and I, like many, took pictures of my television. My response to a world event, wanting in some way to participate on a larger basis. I watched my Twitter friends commenting on the event and joined in the discussion, the sense of wonder and hope that the world may be feeling a little brighter. Text to world - How would the text seen and heard on television affect my vision of the world? Another response to this text - I called my daughter and asked her to join me at the television. This event was too big to witness alone. I needed the face to face contact with someone to share.

Taking out my garbage this morning I saw two large crows in a nearby tree. I snapped a photograph. Here was a great example of text to text. In my head I heard the song There were two ravens... This is an old Renaissance song which I have heard sung by Daniel Taylor among others.

There were two ravens sat on a tree,
Down a down, hey down, hey down,
They were as black as black might be,
With a down.
The one of them said to his mate,
Where shall we our breakfast take?
With a down, derry, derry, derry down, down
I don't think I would have taken the photograph if I did not have that experience. So now the photograph and the song are paired in my head.

I finally settled on a photograph of children building a snow fort.
Day 20: Snow Fort

It brought back my time teaching - when snow forts were both positive and negative aspects of schoolyard play. There was always the joy of building but there was also the need to possess and the children were not always good at sharing their fort. I guess forts were always made to keep people in and keep people out. But in this photograph, at least, the children were playing peacefully. Here I brought my experiences - the response to the photo - text to self.

Response is not the reason I started this project - but it is interesting to see how different aspects of my life and experience find their way into my photographs and writing.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Reflecting on the Experience

It's only day 10 of the 365 day challenge to post a photo a day and I am really enjoying it. My eyes have taken a new focus - looking in a new way.

I just read a blog post by Bud Hunt. He talks about his experience last year. His post led me to an old post of D'Arcy Norman who started the challenge last year. A number of things in his post resonated with me.

He talked about how to become a better photographer - one point being that you examine photos you like and try to imitate (isn't that what we do when we deconstruct ads, images etc. with students to understand the codes and conventions in order to help them become better communicators). I already find myself looking at the photo gallery and asking myself why some photos work and others don't.

He talked about "mindful seeing"
"I mean the act and process of being deliberately thoughtful about what you are seeing. To see what you are looking at. It’s something that doesn’t happen automatically - we go through life filtering what we see, reducing input and stimulus to the point that we aren’t as distracted by visual stimuli. Mindful seeing is the process of turning off the filters, of seeing your surroundings unfettered and unobstructed."
This seems to happen naturally for this challenge. To find a photo a day, I find myself looking in a different way - shadows, silhouettes, even shelves of books become interesting to look at. And I find myself looking more and missing less.

And more from Norman's post
"When viewing the world without filtering, even the most boring and banal subjects can become wondrous and interesting. We are constantly surrounded by interesting things that we normally don’t see textures, lighting, patterns, shapes, objects, groupings, even messages."
Even without the camera my eyes have started to focus on those things.

I hope to transfer some of the mindfulness on the visual to other aspects of my life, which is too often in fast forward as I multi-task. My head is too often filled with trivial details of todo lists, shopping lists and other things and not often enough focused on the present. So each day now, I take time to select my photo and reflect on it - to respond to it as we ask children to respond to their reading - and tell my stories. And so far slow good.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

365 photos and more

I have joined the group 2009/365 photo sharing on Flickr. It has made me think about a number of things. I am looking at things differently. As I view some of what others have posted, I am starting to see the ordinary as unique. A number of people have posted photos of their breakfast and I realize each of these tell a story. And that is what I want to concentrate on as I post my pictures. What is the story each tells...

I started to think of the breakfasts I shared over the holidays and how each represents different aspects of my life and the different cultural habits I share because of my parents and where I was born. The croissants and espresso - so French, so much part of the Quebec culture in which I live. The Montreal bagels and smoked salmon - my Jewish heritage. And my everyday mix of healthy cereals with skim milk - an acknowledgement of my my aging body and attempt to keep it functioning well. So these may be featured in future photos. But it's not just about the story but also about the composition. I started to think about how to make each of these photos visually pleasing - which dishes to use, etc. Photos I have seen of things on a table made me look with new eyes at the objects around me.

I am going to start a new blog - with my daily photos. It will be a new kind of journal - a peek into the different aspects of my life from the mundane to the frivolous and everything in between. I'm looking forward to this adventure.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Seven Things

I decided to follow Kathy Cassidy's example and write seven things about myself without being tagged. As someone who hates chain letters ( I guarantee I will break the chain and risk all those terrible things that are threatened), the notion of tagging someone with a meme is not much more appealing - more like appalling. But it is fun to let people know more about myself - put substance to the one-dimensional web presence.

1. I am passionate about music - I own many recorders (from sopranino to great bass - a recorder that is about as tall as I am).

Just some of them are pictured above. I play duets with my partner, play in a recorder orchestra, play Baroque music with friends and play in a quartet. Then there are the many concerts I attend. I also go to music camp, CAMMAC, for a week every summer.

2. I love to travel - use it also as an excuse to write. I don't write often enough, but when I'm on the road (or the seas, or the rails...) I take the time to journal and describe my experiences - the last few trips I've written travel blogs.

3. I'm not as adventurous as I would like to be. I'm a risk-taker in terms of trying new things in my career - but I like the security of home and have never lived outside my city.

4. I bought my first computer in 1983. My husband had died way too young in November of the previous year. A friend had recently purchased an Apple II plus - I was intrigued. I needed something to occupy my thoughts. I bought a Franklin Ace (64K and showed upper and lower case on the monitor!) and it sat on my desk for about 2 weeks before I dared to turn it on. Took a course and was hooked. I would put my kids (at the time - aged 1 and 3) to bed and then stay up and play - Logo, an early adventure game... I took my first online course in 1987 - no Internet yet. That was a feast for my brain - I could have adult contact via our online messages while I stayed home with my young children.

5. I love to play with words - my kids groan over my puns. I'm addicted to Boggle and Scramble on Facebook.

6. I have two cats who know how to get the best of me. They are Cornish Rex (sometimes I think they are Cornish Wrecks as they wreak havoc in the house) - supposedly less allergenic. They have been called everything from rabbits to rats - but we love them.

7. Here in Canada we had a wonderful morning show - Morningside with Peter Gzowski. My 15 minutes of fame - I was a guest. There was a panel talking about technology in education. I represented the constructive (and constructivist) view of using computers in schools. That was about 10 years ago.

So if you read this - I hope these words will have added a little colour and painted a slightly more vibrant picture of who I am.