Monday, 20 November 2017

Loving Monsters


“I don’t really care much for the idea of ‘normal’ –
that’s very abstract to me.
I think that perfection is practically unattainable
but imperfection is right at hand.
So that’s why I love monsters:
because they represent a side of us
that we should actually embrace and celebrate.”

- Guillermo del Toro,
Mexican-American Film Director

A change of pace this week: I recently spent a delightfully bizarre afternoon experiencing At Home With Monsters, Guillermo del Toro’s current exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto. (On display until January 7, 2018. Link.)

Del Toro is a well-known film director with a taste for monsters, ghoulies, and the macabre. I’m not a huge fan of his movies (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone, etc.), but I do enjoy his creative process and the byzantine complexities of his mind. He embraces the twisted elements of our personalities, seeing them as worthy of celebration. He feels we cannot fully embrace our humanity without also acknowledging our inherent nastiness. Or, as he puts it, “Inspiration is a monster.”

One of his passions is collecting art work inspired by classic horror films, as well as props from his own frightening movies. The AGO exhibit features objects from this collection, all set against intensely red walls. What fun it was to wander around the exhibit with my camera! (Non-flash photos were encouraged.) It was like watching a very scary movie, knowing you could squeal and squirm, yet ultimately walk away from the monster’s embrace.

Or could you? Could you really escape the power of these creatures? Are they really twisted images of our selves, waiting to take over our psyches? Perhaps one day I will write about the evils within. For now, enjoy these photographs from Guillermo del Toro’s fabulous mind.

The Pale Man's Hand
Pan's Labyrinth, 2006
(DDT Efectos Especiales)

Unrequited - The Monster's Bride
by Mike Hill

Dr. Frankenstein's Monster
by Mike Hill

Joseph Merrick, aka The Elephant Man
by Thomas Kuebler

Bust of Count Orlock
from Nosferatu, 1922
Artist Unknown

Escape, 2016
by Emilie Steele

The Faun
from Pan's Labyrinth, 2006
(DDT Efectos Especiales)

Horror Comic Collection
(Comics from The Beguiling, Toronto)

Horror Comic Collection - Detail
(Comics from The Beguiling, Toronto)

Dr. Frankenstein's Monster Masks, Gift Shop

Dr. Frankenstein's Monster, Gift Shop

Monday, 13 November 2017


“Mindfulness is nothing more than
the simple act of actively noticing things.”
- Dr. Ellen Langer, Social Psychologist,
“The Mother of Mindfulness”

Ellen Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard University and the author of eleven books, knows a thing or two about mindfulness. She came into my life two weeks ago as a guest of Krista Tippett in her November 2, 2017, On Being podcast (listen to the interview here).

She maintains that our experience of the world is determined by the words we use to describe that experience. Her favourite example is renaming work as play. Her research shows that this change of wording can lead to the activity being experienced as “delight” rather than “drudgery”. However, it is the attitude of mindfulness that accompanies the change of wording that makes the difference. And for her, the path out of mindlessness towards mindfulness starts with the simple act of actively noticing things.

Not through yoga or meditation, but by simply noticing things.

Sometimes the most powerful concepts are the simplest: be kind, be generous, be honest...and notice things.

And of course, noticing is one of the great pillars of photography. One of my favourite activities is simply taking my camera out for a walk and...noticing.

In that spirit, I commend the following ten photographs, all recorded in the last two weeks. The first five come from the backroads of Hastings County; the second five come from the ravines near Edwards Gardens in Toronto.

I hope you enjoy noticing them.

Ray Road, Hastings County

Ray Road, Hastings County

Fuller Road, Hastings County

Tuftsville Road, Hastings County

Highway 41, near the boundary of Lennox & Addington and Hastings Counties

Wilket Creek Park, near Edwards Gardens

Edwards Gardens

Edwards Gardens

Edwards Gardens

Wilket Creek Park, near Edwards Gardens