From Cadaques

I haven’t been taking a lot of photographs recently. I’ve been feeling like I need something new to explore with the camera, but while I wait for that to arrive, it’s given me reason to revisit my archives. There are a lot of images there for that I like for any range of reasons, but I have never worked with them to any finished form. So recently, I have been working at creating collages. I like the way that layers of things allow you to look at them for a long time and continually see different things make new discoveries. I like how it allows different compositional impulses to work at the same time – symmetrical and asymmetrical, static and dynamic. I love the sense of play in the process of creating them.

This image was created primarily out of images I took on the way home to Barcelona from a day out in Cadaques. A combination of light-noise shots derived from long exposures of the road and traffic, and dark silhouettes of road-side trees. There’s also a shot of some trees from Beijing in the mix.

I printed this image and hung it in our school community art exhibition. It’s sale has helped to generate raise funds to support our student service groups.

I like the feeling here of the coolness of a fading twilight, the ghosts of dancing shadows.

How does it strike you?

Eat the Frog, Part III

I posted a while back, a script that I had written even earlier that I use with my students for a number of purposes. I’ve used it to teach them how to write and format screenplays, we’ve used it as an audition piece, as an acting exercise, as a directing exercise, and as a sample of how an idea goes through the different processes of treatment, outline, screenplay, shooting script, and storyboard on the way to becoming a film. But until last year, we never actually made it.

Last year, we decided to film the script as a project that would introduce some new members of our Filmeisters club to the skills and procedures of filmmaking. The filming of the project went pretty well, I think, and the students started to understand some things like why films are seldom shot in chronological order and to think enough about the quality of light to wait a month and a half to shoot a scene for the seasonal shift to put the sun where we wanted it at a time of day we could shoot. And where in the past, students might have used music they didn’t have the rights to use, on this project, we reached out to Leftover Cuties, whose music we loved, about using their songs on the soundtrack and were given permission. I posted stills from the shoot in an earlier post. There’s been a lot of good learning.

One of the other things we learned was to record sound separately from the video. Video cameras tend to auto-level the sound they record, so they try to make the traffic in the background of your shot the same volume as the dialogue the actors are speaking. Recording sound separately gives you much cleaner sound and records (mostly) only the sounds you want to hear. However, by the time we got to editing, I didn’t have time to teach the editors how to synch up the separately recorded sound and work with it, so we had a couple of false starts on the editing and then summer came and whole thing got sidelined.

Almost a year later, I sat down on our April break and got out the all the footage from the film again, and started to edit it. There were still some audio problems to fix, but thankfully the actors were still here (which is not always the case in international schools – actually two of the supporting actors had moved to other schools, one of which is in Sweden), so we were able to do some dialogue replacement and a bit of foley to clean up the rough bits.

When I wrote the script, I wrote it as an acting challenge, to give student actors something more real to play than the big, jazz-hands parts that populate school musicals. I wanted to write something where the story wasn’t so much in what people said as it was in the way they said it. When we started filming, I realized that one of the most important scenes for me is the opening one between the two boys. When I wrote it seven or so years ago, I had been aware of homophobic attitudes in the boys at the school where I was working. So I really wanted to write a scene where the boys considered the possibility of one of them being gay in a sincere and accepting way. Where one boy’s perception that the other might be gay wasn’t a punchline or a shot. However, if the lines were delivered in the wrong tone the whole thing would come off as exactly that. In the filming, the actors changed some of the lines, which changed some of the subtleties, but overall, I think the scene plays as I intended. I hope the larger audience will see it that way too.

I am really grateful to have the opportunity to work with students who are willing to put in the work and the hours it takes to make even short films. For the courage of the students who are willing to act in them, especially when they are asked to play something close to their real selves and real emotions. I love how much I learn about these students when we work together this way. I love how talented they are and how much they develop so quickly.

I hope you enjoy the film.

The Geography of Now


Monna is running her Geography of Now eCourse over at She’s got us thinking about where we are from – not just the physical geography, but the social, emotional, spiritual, historical, ancestral, sum of places, experiences, people and things that have made us who we are. This is what I wrote.

i am from
the dark and still
of night
starlight and
crescent moons, the
aurora borealis one
freakish summer when she
dropped her shimmering
skirts to the 43rd parallel
and danced a

i am from that node
where thoughts graze
like sheep and breed and
tumble and spit and cry,
scream for attention
catch sight of themselves and laugh
curse and sigh
pick themselves up and
get on with it

i am from in between

i am from the kiss
of natural light
the soft glow the
golden whisper
that magical hour
when the serious sun cuts
its rays loose to linger before bed
the sky full
of sourceless light
accomplishment without ambition
the photography of mind
and paper and
yes, too, of screens;
i am a cinema of dreams

Hanagasa Dance Festival, Part Two

Ito, Japan. October 2014.

Admittedly, I have never paid much attention to clothing or fashion in particular. There were some small boutiques in Gracia, the neighbourhood of Barcelona we used to live in that created some noteworthy designs, things I liked as art pieces as they hung in the window displays of the stores. Clothing that conjured characters and suggested fictions, clothing for a parallel world recognizable as our own and yet unfamiliar at the same time. But more than anywhere I’ve been, Barcelona included, and with Paris perhaps, as a close second, people in Japan dress. Clothing here, whether traditional or contemporary, or even cosplay, fits and is structured so that I have become more aware here than anywhere, of cuts and shapes and lines and textures and colours and patterns. And movement. Perhaps it is the filmmaker in me, but I am always fascinated by the movement.

Hanagasa Dance Festival, Part One

Ito, Japan. October 2014.

We traveled to Ito for a quick weekend away, ultimately made quicker by the coming of a typhoon, but as we got off the train and began to find out way to our ryocan, we found that the street we needed to walk down had been taken over by a parade. So we wheeled our big suitcase down the sidewalk and fished out our cameras along the way. When we got to the hotel, we found a flyer for Hanagasa Dance Festival. The man at the reception pointed to it and apologized to us. It happens only once a year, he said, we’d just missed it.

Extraordinary Ordinary

Yokohama, Japan. September 2014.

My partner Monna is offering an e-course over at, called The Geography of Now. It’s a six week course with an exercise every day in noticing, photography and what Monna calls “skinny prose,” a form of narrative verse. Today’s exercise is one I used to use with my photography students. The idea is to take 10 or more photographs of the same object in order to find an extraordinary way of seeing an ordinary thing. It’s a good exercise, worth doing if you’ve never tried it.

For tonight’s exercise, I thought about my favourite wall in Yokohama. It’s not an entirely ordinary object I guess. It looks like there was ivy growing on it at one point, and now the remnants of it are plastered to the wall like footprints or snake tracks. I’ve photographed this wall before, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to really explore what continues to draw me to it.

{I used the same Instagram filter on all of these photographs so that the primary difference between them is perspective.}