When I looked back at my photographs from 2014 the urban ones didn't seem as cynical as I thought they might be. On reflection, I think it's just less overt.
My Vancouver photographs seem motivated by the contradiction between an idealized version of Vancouver and the reality on the ground (which is perhaps a clever turn of phrase given how that idealized vision incorporates towering condos).
Looking at the photographs (yet) again, I concluded that even the ones appearing to be a straight-up representations of an idealized Vancouver are still questioning that ideal in some way. Consider this photograph:
It’s a view of an attractive townhouse entrance. But my interest lies in the contrast with the tower sitting above it. The towers are striking, but their scale is alienating when experienced from the ground. The homes in the sky are financially out of reach for most people.
The questioning appears in other ways. Vancouver, like most Canadian cities, is very young. Yet, there are signs of decay and neglect. Rather than acquiring character buildings simply wear out. They are disposable.
There’s more to be written about the Vancouver photographs in future posts. But I want to touch on how the Prairie Waters and Prairie Modern photographs also question ideals.
The prairies are often imagined as a pastoral ideal. In practice, the it's criss-crossed by a grid of roads. I can just as easily see it as a vast food manufacturing operation. I think of the Prairie Modern photographs as both representing and questioning the ideal.
The Prairie Waters photographs question an ideal in a different way. People might not consider the shallow lakes in central Alberta beautiful. Certainly they don't attract visitors the way the Rocky Mountain parks do! But mud can be beautiful if you look at it in the right way. So, they question the ideal of conventional beauty.
While I may be questioning an ideal, ambiguity arises because there is also genuine affection. I unabashedly love the open spaces of the prairies. Vancouver may be flawed, but it’s an easy city to love. Green stains on concrete can be seen as verdant or decrepit. I'll write more on this ambiguity in a future post.