For this blog post I’ve returned to one of my most favourite places to photograph – Sugar Beach here in Toronto – and I’ve returned to one of my most favourite themes – finding and capturing scenes of interest from the seemingly mundane.
In my black and white art photograph Waiting for Summer, I wanted to emphasize winter beauty and a certain expectation of something yet to arrive. At first, you’d probably think this was a relatively drab summer scene that conveys nothing special at all, other than an abandoned beach. But if you look closely enough, you’ll notice the fine powder on top of the parasols, which should lead you to the conclusion that the “sandy beach” is in fact a layer of snow. When you realize this, you’ll perhaps understand the impression I wanted to create.
I love the way the beach chairs have adopted different solutions to cope with the harsh winter. The three clustered around the nearest parasol have decided to hibernate, but the seven to the left of the photograph have taken a more hopeful stance. They’ve lined themselves up on the edge of the beach, as if gazing longingly over the harbour (by Lake Ontario) at the patch of sunlight that’s broken through the clouds. I imagined people sitting in the beach chairs gazing out over the water – in warmer weather of course. The shadows behind the chairs do show that they’ve managed to find a little bit of sun on what was actually an overcast cold day. And I can just imagine the joy in their hearts at this reminder that despite the severe winter we Torontonians have had this year, summer will eventually arrive.
The American photographer Elliott Erwitt once said:
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
This expresses to me another reason why I love photography. When you see things in real life, you only really see them as they are meant to be. When you see a beach chair, you see a beach chair. However, when you freeze a scene (as photography allows you to do) it gives you time to take stock, and you see so much more. With a little imagination, even the mundane can take on a wholly different and much more interesting perspective.
Erwitt was a very inventive photographer with a love of the absurd (and of dogs). He was also never shy of courting the controversial. One of his most famous art photographs is of a smiling boy in 1950s Pittsburgh holding a gun (hopefully a toy) to the side of his head, whilst another is of a child with their right eye lined up perfectly with a crack on a car window that looks like it could have been caused by a bullet. Erwitt brought a definite sense of humour to his work as well. Check out his “Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade 1988” photograph. Two young boys stare innocently out of a window unaware of the monstrous, mad-eyed panther that is approaching them menacingly from around the corner of their building. Even though that photograph is in black and white, you’ll be able to tell that the panther is definitely pink, straight away!
Back here in Toronto, there are signs that spring may be on its way. Temperatures of late have been reaching the sizzling heights of ten below zero. Although I love winter for the wonderful artistic photography opportunities it affords me, and I plan on capturing as many of those as I am able I – like those forlorn beach chairs – am really looking forward to summer arriving. I will definitely be returning to Sugar Beach to show how different it looks without the snow and gloom!