Africville – A Story of Loss

Africville and Mackay Bridge

I first heard of Africville while travelling through Nova Scotia and making the inevitable stop in the beautiful city of Halifax. The Provincial capital, Halifax dates back to 1749 and is a city with lots of character and history. There are great visual landmarks like Citadel Hill that has housed several forts over the years, and looks down protectively over Halifax Harbour, troops and cannons at the ready. There are also the remarkable stories like the Halifax Explosion in 1917, an unfortunate event to put the city on the map.

Africville Memorial
Memorial at Seaview Memorial Park, Halifax, Nova Scotia

I’d heard many things about Halifax, however, I hadn’t heard about Africville, which I came across when I explored the city waterfront. Down below the A. Murray Mackay Bridge, there’s a park with a plaque, a monument, a church and lovely view of the harbour.

This is Seaview Memorial Park, created to commemorate the settlement. Originally known as the Campbell Road Settlement, depending on what you read, it dates from around 1748. It was a small settlement on the southern shore of the Bedford Basin that housed mainly black Nova Scotians.

Africville - Seaview African United Baptist Church
The focal point of the community of Africville, Halifax NS

When the original Seaview African United Baptist Church was built in 1849 it was the focal point of the community of 80 residents and the surrounding area. By 1917 the Africville population peaked at around 400 people.

Africville Protest
Ongoing protest at the treatment and removal of the Africville settlement and community

The people of Africville were part of a community that struggled with a lot of hardship and prejudice throughout its existence and this is highlighted in the disgraceful way the community was eradicated between 1964–67. Houses were bulldozed as each family was moved out, the church was demolished in the middle of the night and the city used dump trucks to move people and their belongings from the site.

Africville - Seaview Memorial Park
A man sitting in Seaview Memorial Park watching the sunset

In 2010 the city issued the Africville Apology, provided compensation and renamed the Seaview Memorial Park as Africville Park, in commemoration. A replica of the Seaview African United Baptist Church was built in 2011 and this now houses the Africville museum.

East Coast Provinces – The Joy of Canada

Image of Murray Harbour PEI, as the sun goes down

Travelling around Canada’s East Coast Provinces – or Atlantic Provinces – is always touted is a must-do for tourists and residents at some point in their lives. The landscape, the history, food and the friendly people are the highlights that entice many people there. The East Coast Provinces include Newfoundland and Labrador Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

 

After living in Toronto for many years I made my first trip “out east” towards the end of last summer. The furthest I’d been in that direction until then was Quebec City so I was definitely venturing much further afield this time. It was still a great opportunity to see some of Quebec again – staying in Trois-Rivieres on the way out and Quebec City on the way back – but the real focus (no pun intended!) was on what was to be seen and experienced in New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia. Of course, you can’t cover everything in one trip to Canada’s east coast (well, unless you take a year or two…), so we had to be ruthless in cutting things out to make the most of the few weeks we could dedicate to it. In particular, Newfoundland will be another day.

East Coast Bay of Fundy
Looking out at the Bay of Fundy from Hopewell Rocks

I won’t go into a lot of details here but can say that it was all well worth it. Driving to stay in Fredericton we went through one of the most astounding storms I’ve ever seen, when we had hardly any visibility for 30 minutes. Solid black tumultuous clouds and tons of heavy rain cascading down on us. There had to be light somewhere at the end of that tunnel! Through Moncton and down to Hopewell Rocks at the north east end of the Bay of Fundy where the water is an enticing chocolate brown because of the tholeiitic basalt deposits there, and we were able to walk on the beach at low tide. The Bay of Fundy at Hopewell Rocks has the highest tidal range in the world so you have to pay attention to the access times to make sure you don’t get trapped!

 

East Coast Fields of PEI
Farmland in Prince Edward Island

On to the beautiful island of PEI with its vibrantly coloured farmlands, via Confederation Bridge. An excellent place to travel to, and more than one or two lighthouses to be seen. After travelling from Cavendish down to Charlottetown we headed on to Murray Harbour on the south-east coast, on the way discovering one of PEIs rare wineries. Rossignol Estate Winery sits comfortably on the south coast with a fantastic view of the Northumberland Strait. You can find more info about this at www.rossignolwinery.com

 

A great Ferry ride back to Nova Scotia and on to a base in Sydney for various treks, miners museum at Glace Bay then on to Halifax for a few days. Halifax was a great base for reaching different places including Lunenburg and Peggy’s Cove, but not Liverpool this time (I’m from Liverpool in the UK). One of the most striking things in Halifax itself was the Seaview Memorial commemorating the African Canadian settlement of Africville, which was demolished in the 1960’s as part of an urban renewal initiative.

 

East Coast at Peggy's Cove
Lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia

Travelling back up from there we took a circuitous route stopping at Tatamagouche where we came across the small town’s own brewing company sitting with open shop front on the main street, then on to Miramichi in New Brunswick before heading back to Quebec.

 

Packed a lot in there, I think!

Powwow Days

Traditional Fancy Shawl Dancer

I had the joy of visiting the Grand River Powwow last weekend and what a great event it was! Its a few years since I’ve been to a Powwow but I was quickly reminded of what a colourful and vibrant experience it is.

Male Fancy Dancer at Powwow
A male Fancy Dancer dancing in full costume

Billed as the Champion of Champions Powwow this is an aboriginal multicultural event organized by volunteers from the Six Nations of the Grand River and it takes place on the Six Nations Territory near Brantford, Ontario. Since its original meeting of just four small families many years ago this annual event has grown to attract thousands of visitors each year. Over a hot July weekend the many competitors and vendors are able to highlight traditional and modern arts, dance and music.

We went to the powwow on Sunday afternoon and one of my first thoughts was to wonder how we were going to survive the searing heat but as I glanced around I wondered more about the competitors in full regalia and ready to dance the afternoon away. They deserve a prize just for being there!

With dance, competitions going on throughout the afternoon there was plenty to see and hear, though just looking at the costumes was an event in itself. The range of designs and colours were amazing. I’ve included some shots of just a few people here but really the variety and complexity was staggering.

Fancy Shawl Dance at Powwow
Woman in traditional clothing participating in a Fancy Dance

 

Certain costumes are meant for certain dances. An example would be the jingle dance where women wear dresses decorated with metal cones that jingle as the women perform a healing dance. There’s also the fancy shawl dance where the shawl gives an impression of colourful butterflies in flight and it can be quite graceful. Then there’s the men’s fancy dance, based on the war dance, and which is a fast energetic dance performed in elaborate costumes that feature large feather bustles, beading, bells and more. While dancing fast they also have to anticipate the final beat of the music and come to a dead stop. I saw it happen and was quite impressed with their quick reaction. You can see these dances at any powwow across the continent.

Aboriginal Headdress
A man wearing a traditional aboriginal headdress

Enjoy the pictures and if you get a chance, try to attend a powwow. You’ll get a great impression and some understanding of aboriginal cultures, and of course, a wonderful welcome. I’ve pasted a few links below where you can find little more powwow info.

http://www.powwows.com

http://aboriginalcanada.ca

https://www.facebook.com/GrandRiverPowwow

 

Portraits and Headshots

Portrait of Young Girl. Portraits and Headshots

You can’t beat taking portraits and headshots of people who are comfortable in front of a camera, if not loving it! Being relaxed, looking straight through the camera, or even not giving it too much attention at all, can go a long way in creating impressive portraits and headshots for any occasion.

Mother and Baby. Portraits and Headshots
Camera curiosity

 

I think some of the key elements to photographing people include knowing what they like and how they want to be seen but also how to to help them feel comfortable. Taking the time to talk about likes and dislikes, expectations (what do you want do with your portraits and headshots?) and being in familiar surroundings can go a long way in helping people to relax and make it a positive experience all round.

Family portrait. Portraits and Headshots
No camera worries here

 

Different backgrounds can help set the mood too. These can be plain so as not to distract from the subject, or can they can act as props to help reflect something about the person.

At this time of year outdoor photos are a particular joy with all the developing colour and warmth of the seasons providing a lovely backdrop for any portraits and headshots. I’ve included a few samples of my photos here (different backgrounds) and you can see some more in my “People” gallery. I’m now taking bookings for spring and summer portraits and headshots, with an emphasis on outdoor settings. For pricing on the different packages you can click on the “Contact” tab at the top of this page and send me your details.

 

Young Girl by a Lake. Portraits and Heashots
Standing by the lake
Portrait of Young Girl. Portraits and Headshots
Look into my eyes

Speaking as a person who loves to take photographs I have to admit to being just a bit camera-shy when it comes to standing in front of the camera myself. Somehow, I just don’t seem to have the same degree of comfort as I do when I’m creating images and there’s often an element of self-consciousness that’s hard to get past. That’s probably an unfortunate admission to make as it could make it harder to coax an unenthusiastic model to give it a go if they know I think like that. However, it’s not all a desperate loss as I find even I can overcome my fears and it really is a matter of practice or a case of mind over matter. What’s the worst that could happen?

 

Self-portrait. Portraits and Headshots
Self-portrait of the camera-shy

To see examples of some of the different types of portrait photography you can click here.

Frozen

Yes, frozen would be a great way to describe the last few months! Winter’s great but even around relatively warm Toronto the temperature didn’t rise to zero once throughout February. A long run of sub zero temperatures has kept the landscape and people well frozen. Cold to the bones.

Walking in Winter
Young woman walking outside in the winter snow

 

Going outside, even when well wrapped up meant having to be organised ahead of time and working to a tight deadline. I went down to the lakeshore in Etobicoke a few times and it was beautiful but brutal enough that I could feel the exposed skin on my face painfully freezing after just a few minutes. Taking my gloves off to fiddle with my camera meant that my fingers got painfully sore pretty quickly though sometimes I wouldn’t notice it until they were almost numb.

Of course, this is all tempered by the fact that it’s a brilliant time to be outside – great scenery, plenty of winter activities, and really refreshing! This shot above is one of a set taken on one of the aforementioned forays down to the lakeshore, heading into sunset, when the sun was really bringing out the colours and the brilliance of the snow.

At the Foot of the Falls
Snow and icicles at the foot of the American Falls in Winter

 

And of course, there was the news that Niagara Falls was frozen. My first thought – doesn’t that happen every year? I find it’s much more photogenic in winter and usually make at least one winter trip down there to see how it’s going. I must admit though, this year was spectacular, with much of the American Falls frozen over. The massive crowds milling around there were also proof of the attention it was getting.

Ice Patterns
Patterns in ice on a window in winter

 

And then, there are all the patterns and colours in the landscape. Ice can create all sorts of eye catching features – icicles, patterns like those in the image above and a great sheen over the top of white, white snow that crunches delicately when it’s broken. Yes, I can’t resist putting my foot through it. You can see some more great shots taken by people around the city at BlogTO.

Still, the good news is that the temperatures are now starting to rise and we’re about to lose the minus sign. It’s funny how anything around zero starts to feel warm and the coat gets unbuttoned, scarf might come off and it feels like spring is here.

Winter Outdoors

Winter outdoors is certainly something you need to prepare for, especially when you’re living in Canada. A climate of extremes, from 30 degrees in the summer to -15 in the winter (that’s in the more moderate Toronto area and not counting the humidity or wind chill), the weather is always the making of a wide variety of outdoor activities.

Sunrise over Frozen Lake Simcoe
Winter outdoors – Sunrise over frozen Lake Simcoe

The kind of outdoors activities that the cold winter kicks off can be quite intriguing. It’s not all skiing, skating and tobogganing, but they do set the stage. I was up and out early one recent morning and took a drive to Lake Simcoe, about an hour away, to see the sun come up across the frozen, snow-covered lake. I’d passed by there a few days before (near Bradford West Gwillimbury) and had an idea of what to expect but I was nevertheless a bit surprised to see the amount of activity going on from well before dawn.

For a good number of people this is primetime for a bit of ice fishing and the place was bustling. Making their way to the lake in their trucks, many bring their snowmobiles, fishing equipment, supplies for the day and of course, there are the numerous fishing huts already out on the ice. Watching all the people in their snow gear (mainly or all men, and a few kids), heading off into the darkness on their snowmobiles or in a snow bus is quite mesmerizing, in spite of the freezing cold temperatures. The shot I took above, shows a hut near the edge of the lake, lit up by the lights of a 4×4 getting ready to head out, just as some light started to appear on the horizon. The sunrise was exceptional that day, with lots of burly clouds lightly illuminated by the brilliant rising sun.