Posted on October 25, 2012
I took these two shots on Fuji Instax instant film while working on the FACE/OFF project that I’m shooting with my good friend and fellow photographer, Andi Howland. I’m shooting a sort of ‘project within a project’ with this old leather chair (that I was supposed to have taken to the tip weeks ago…). I’m shooting FACE/OFF on medium format film, but I do love the look that you get from this Fuji instant film.
FACE/OFF is a work in progress that should be finished by this time next year. The armchair project will be finished when I need the space back in the van…
Posted on October 16, 2012
I don’t enjoy flying, I’m a big man and I get uncomfortable, even on short flights. I also get bored. So, there’s nothing I like more, after a long flight, than to get to my destination and have a few refreshing beers to help me relax…
“Sunday 9th September ’12 - Arrive in Yellowknife.
We land in Yellowknife at about 2pm. As soon as we get off the plane I need a pee, Trevor says I’m like a child and tells me he’ll get the bags while I empty my bladder. On the way out of the airport I stop at a vending machine to get a drink, I select the first thing that catches my eye, maybe because it has the word ‘beer’ in it’. I take one sip and declare root beer to be the most disgusting thing I’ve tasted, Trevor agrees. The root beer goes in the bin.
A taxi takes us into town, the driver says not one word, despite my best efforts to engage him in conversation. When we arrive at the B&B there doesn’t appear to be anyone home, but eventually the landlady, Faith Embleton, comes to the door and lets us in. Faith takes us to our room and gives us an introduction, which is basically a list of rules – no shoes in the house, always use the extractor fan when cooking and no visitors, which I presume means ‘no prostitutes’. We unpack our stuff and go upstairs to find-out where the nearest drinking establishment is. Faiths answer is, to say the very least, horrifying – “Well, there’s plenty of bars in town, all within walking distance, and there’s the bowling ally just two minutes walk from here…but there’s nowhere open today, it’s Sunday”….Sweet Gentle Jesus, you can’t buy booze in Yellowknife on a Sunday! I could cry. Faith tells us that you can get booze if you’re having a meal, but the cost of your booze can’t be more than the cost of your meal. I think I’m going to have to eat a huge amount of pizza.
We walk the 5 minutes into town, the light here is amazing. On the way to The Boston Pizza Restaurant we see at least 3 people staggering down the road, drunk. The alcoholics in Yellowknife are obviously very good at forward planning. Over dinner we agree that tomorrow we’ll find a supermarket and stock-up on food. I’ll be finding a liquor store and stocking-up on beer, ready for next Sunday”
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Posted on October 11, 2012
“Tuesday 11th September ’12 – I’ve been complaining for two days that there’s no bacon in the fridge, as advertised on The Embleton House B&B website, I ask Trevor to address the problem with the landlady. He says he’ll sort it out when we get back.
We meet-up with a guy called Tony Foliot today, better known as The Snow King. Every winter Tony spends months building a huge ice castle on the frozen lake next to his blue and yellow house boat. Tony is tall and lean, at first I estimate him to be about 60, but I look behind his thick beard at his face, hidden under the brim of his cap, and put him nearer 50. He turns-out to be 49. We sit in Tony’s floating office and drink Black Bear beer, at 10% alcohol it’s more like wine, he offers to take us out for a trip on his boat. I imagine his boat to be a 40 foot Boston Whaler. The ‘boat’ is basically a three man canoe with an outboard motor. Beggars can not be choosers. Storm, Tony’s dog, looks like a scaled-down polar bear, he sits on the back of the boat, completely at home on the Great Slave Lake.
Tony gives us a fascinating waterside tour of Old Town Yellowknife, every houseboat is given a potted history – who lives there, who lived there, how much they paid for it and who had an affair with his wife. For the entire tour it rains, Trevor and I sit under a blue plastic tarp to stay dry.
We get back to Tony’s jetty after about an hour, he tells us that he normally charges for trips in his boat, but he won’t take any money from us. The three of us drink some more of the ferociously strong lager and chat, but I don’t take anything in because I’m trying to find the best light to get a portrait of Tony, but it’s too dark.
The Snow King drives us back to our B&B in town, we offer to take him for a beer, but he declines the invitation. A couple of years ago, Tony got drunk in the local strip club and someone videoed him dancing with one of the ‘entertainers’, he doesn’t drink in town anymore.
When we arrive back at our accommodation, the landlady is servicing our room, she tells us she’s stocked-up all the food, but not the bacon, because we haven’t been eating it. The freezer is full of bacon”
Both shots were made using a Mamiya 7II camera, 80mm lens and Fuji Pro 400H film.
Posted on October 8, 2012
For most of September, while I was shooting the ‘Life on the ‘Knife’s Edge’ photo-essay, I kept a diary, for the first few days I was extremely strict about updating this journal on a twice daily basis. By the middle of the trip it was down to once a day and toward the end of the final few days I was relying on Trevor, every couple of days, to supply me with a running-order of events so that I could make a half accurate written recall. I’m going to publish a few of the entries in ‘The Yellowknife Diary’, in no particular order, see how they go down. I’d like to publish the entire diary, with a selection of the 1000′s of photos I took, as a book, but I have a very definite ‘look’ that I want to go for, a look I’m not sure anyone would buy!
Writer, Trevor Gibbs, and I didn’t always work together while we were in Canada, but that was always the plan. In fact, on some days we had no idea where each other was – this is one of those days…
“Saturday 22nd September ’12 - I drive back to Rea today, 100km north-west of Yellowknife along the crappy highway 3. It’s my birthday, the weather is clear and bright and I’m alone, the only thing in the passenger seat of the car is my camera bag. The drive takes about an hour and a half, I stop a couple of times to photograph skid marks and graffiti on the road. The last time I drove to Rea was with Trevor and it was pissing it down with rain.
I drive in to Rea, through to the lake on the far side, even in the sunshine the town looks like an open prison I once visited in Bolivia. I park-up by the lake and get out to take photographs, the sand at the side of the lake reminds me of the surface of the Moon. As I’m clicking away a local aboriginal man pulls-up in a large white pick-up truck, he sits watching me for about a minute then gets out and walks towards me. At the same time I see two other younger men, both local, walking straight at me from the opposite direction. Where the f**k did they come from? I’m screwed. The older man asks me what I’m doing, I tell him, I’m taking photos. “It’s a beautiful view”, says the man. I agree, and for some reason, tell the three men it’s my birthday. For the next 30 minutes the trio take it in turns to tell me about how cold the winter is, the need to hunt for food because meat is too expensive to buy, the ice road north and best place for me to refuel the car. The older man tells me about the total alcohol ban in the town. We all look down to the ground at the same time at the empty vodka bottle and then smile at each other. After half an hour we shake hands, I’m wished a happy birthday and a safe drive back to Yellowknife. I get back into the car and drive south. All the way back I feel bad for thinking those three men were going to rob me.
Lunch at The Range Bistro (how they get away with calling this place a Bistro is a mystery, it’s no Bistro!), I have Poutine, or as we know it on the Isle of Man, Chips,Cheese and Gravy. There’s a bit of a kick-off when a man comes in and refuses to take his sunglasses off, the waitress takes not one ounce of shit from him and he ends-up being asked…told to leave. I have a beer with my lunch, seeing as it’s my birthday…”
Black and white shot made using a 3 shot multi exposure in a Holga GCFN camera and Fuji Acros film. Colour shots were made using a Mamiya 7II with 80mm lens and Fuji Pro 400H film. All films were developed at Peak Imaging and hand scanned using an Epson V700.
Posted on October 3, 2012
During my 3 weeks in Canada I was asked, at least five times a day, the same question – “Why/what/who are you photographing?”, and every time someone asked me, each time I was asked to explain my motives for being in The Northwest Territories with a bag full of cameras and 150 rolls of film, I’d find it almost impossible to explain. Toward the end of the third week, maybe a little bit ‘late in the day’, I decided that I needed a mission statement, something coherent. Most people assumed that I was in Yellowknife to photograph the Northern lights or the vast wildlife in the area, so I needed to be clear – “I’m taking photos of people and things. You, being local, take everything for granted, like the colour in that wooden house or the sexy tattooed chic who works in that restaurant. You can’t see it, but the rest of the world loves this shit”. No more questions.
These photos are just a few random images from the project I’ve just started with writer, and good friend, Trevor Gibbs (he never asks me why I’m photographing the lines on the road). These are just a taste of what the project is about. I’m going to need to go back to The NWT a few more time, after a couple of weeks in Yellowknife I realised that this is just the start of a longer term photo-essay…which is good, because I fell in love with Yellowknife the second I stepped out of the airport.
Technical notes – all images were made using Mamiya 7II and 645 Pro TL cameras and Fuji Pro 400H film. I did take 20 rolls of Kodak Ektar 100, but I didn’t use much of it. The title image was made using a Holga GCFN and 400H film. I had all 116 rolls of film processed at Peak Imaging in Sheffield and I’m now in the process of scanning the lot using an Epson V700.
ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT PHIL KNEEN. PLEASE DO NOT USE, IN ANY WAY, WITHOUT PERMISSION