Friday, February 14, 2020

Making A Statement On Racism With Toy Photos


Go back in your mind to the early 19780s in Ontario Canada and imagine a little boy watching TV and stumbling across a show about two cousins who fight a comedically corrupt mayor and bumbling sheriff by driving fast around their county in an orange sports car with a fancy flag on the roof.

I bet you imagine that kid falling in love with that show.  As that kid I can tell you that the Dukes of Hazzard became one of my most favourite shows on TV. The car, known as the General Lee, was my favourite vehicle.  I also knew that the fancy flag that dominated the roof was a confederate flag, but at the time it didn't bother me so much.

Growing up in Canada I had no real concept of racism.  I knew slavery was a thing, but I thought it mostly died out during the Civil War.  I also knew about Martin Luther King Jr and the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s.  However I wasn't exposed to racism on a daily basis, so I assumed, surely, the "greatest nation on earth" would have solved that problem by now.

Sometime along the way I picked up a model of the General Lee.  It was a memento of my favourite show from my childhood, and I thought nothing of it.  It sat in its see-thru box on a shelf in my office for years.

Fast forward to 2008 when I moved to North Carolina, USA, with my wife, and we started settling down and raising a family.  Living here,  it slowly dawned on me that the "greatest nation on earth", who I thought had solved its racism problem a long time ago, didn't. 

After Trump's campaign made it OK for people to be openly assholes again some folks in my area started driving around trucks with big confederate flags flying on the back.  Then in Virginia the Klan held an open rally and waved that flag, right along side the swastika, killing several people in the process.  I couldn't live with my assumptions that racism wasn't really a problem anymore.

Racism is alive and well in America, and the confederate flag was one of its biggest symbols*.  I was no longer proud to have that flag on a car on my shelf anymore.

This was extra unfortunate as, with the flag removed, the show and the car is actually quite fun, and as a toy photographer I really wanted to make images with it.  It is a sexy car, and would look great on camera.  However I could not reconcile the idea of taking a shot of a car with such a famously racist symbol on the roof. Even if I didn't actually show the roof in the frame, the flag was so iconic it would come to mind for anyone viewing my image. (I had actually considered Photoshopping a different flag onto it, but that still didn't feel right.)

So fast forward to January 2020 when I needed a car to shoot for the Photography Scavenger Hunt.  I wracked my brain for ideas, and as you can imagine, the General Lee model on my shelf kept creeping into my mind. 

Over the few months previous I have been watching some tutorials on tested.com about how to age and rust up cars using paint and other techniques.  Finally it clicked how I could shoot this car.  Make it old.  Make it rusted.,  Make it abandoned in the woods.

So that is what I did.

Now that car, with its racist symbology, isn't a shiny object of envious desire with a proud owner.  It is a relic.  A rusted, beat up, shell of a car that no one loves anymore, abandoned and forgotten. Waiting for the natural world to reclaim it.  Just as racism is an outdated pathetic, rusted out idea that that needs to be abandoned and forgotten. 

That is how I ended up shooting a car I've loved since childhood as an abandoned hunk of junk, and appeasing my conscience in the process.

Fuck racism.

*  There are so many reasons that the confederate flag is such a problem. Those that fly it have serious issues with understanding history, logic, reason, and what patriotism means. Being racist is just their biggest offense, and the only one that is unacceptable.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

One Toe, Two Toes, Three Toes, Broke


As I posted on Facebook on New Years Eve:  I may have the worlds first Scattergories injury (tho others want to claim it as a hockey injury, but really its a much less unique accident while walking while staring at a cell phone injury).


So at 7:30-8ish PM on New Years Eve I was lying down in the guest room of my in-laws house up in Ontario Canada.  I was relaxing and watching a recorded NHL game: Rangers vs my beloved Maple Leafs.  It was close to the end of the second period when my wife texted me from the first floor living room saying the rest of the family was about to start playing Scattergories (one of those word based party games).

Since I had a few minutes to go in the period I decided to watch the rest as I went down stairs.   I got to the 3rd last step when suddenly my feet kicked out from underneath me, my phone went flying, my butt went thumpy thumpy, and I slid down the rest of the stairs to the bottom step.  At which time I took stock of the situation. Most of me felt surprisngly fine, but my right foot hurt.  I slipped off my sock and saw that my middle toe was no longer facing the same direction as the rest of the toes.

To top it off sometime between my foot slipping and me arriving ungracefully at the bottom the Rangers scored on the Leafs.  Literal insult to injury.

So shortly after I got to my feet, my wife drove me to the emergency room of the local hospital.  X-rays confirmed that I indeed had two broken toes. (My first bone break ever - I am so proud) One had a simple crack, the other misshapen one was broken clean in half.  The doctor straightened the middle one, taped me up, and sent me on my way.  He did suggest that I go see an orthopedic surgeon to look at the middle toe.

So we went back to my in-laws house.  The annoying thing was that the emergency room didn't have any orthopedic boots in stock, nor crutches (very small town), so I had to use my hiking boots as a supporting boot.  The next day was New Years Day so I couldn't buy a boot, but fortunately I was able to borrow crutches from my wife's cousin.   So armed with mobility we headed off to complete our plans for New Years Day, which was visiting a photographer friend who wanted to get some portraits of me for his series of beard portraits,

The next day, Thursday, we drive home the 12.5 hours back from Canada.  Once home I booked an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon for Monday, and ordered an orthopedic boot off Amazon.  I was soon back in a hobbling but mobile state for the weekend.

The emergency room gave me my x-rays on CD-ROM, so a family doctor friend offered to drop by the house on Friday to take a look at my x-rays for a second opinion.  Once I downloaded a viewer for the images I quickly realized that I actually had a third broken toe.  So the 2nd and 4th toe had cracks, and the third was a clean break.

The orthopedic surgeon looked at my foot on Monday and his first comment was "Yep, you broke 4 toes."   Its a well documented myth that vaccines cause autism, but apparently every time I see a new doctor I break another toe!  After closer examination it was determined that the 4th "break" was likely an old injury, or an x-ray smudge.

Never been more relieved to only have 3 broken toes!

So surgery was booked for Wednesday (yesterday). 

For surgery prep I was basically told to keep my foot elevated at all times, to reduce swelling.  This basically means I spent a couple days lying on the couch and lying in bed.  Before this I was able to go downstairs to my studio basement and get some creativity in.  Staying still has been a challenge.

So the surgery was pretty simple, and pretty unremarkable as things go. I left the house at 9:30, and returned at 2:30.  I was under general anesthetic for about an hour. 

The surgery was to have a pin inserted into my middle toe to keep it stable to give the bone a change to heal cleanly.  However it also means I am basically not allowed to put any weight on my right foot,  and keep it elevated as much as humanly possible.

Annoyingly I am actually less mobile that I was before the surgery.  This is actually mentally very hard to deal with. Previously I could get into my studio and be creative, and do things.  Now I am stuck upstairs, and really limited to the bed or the couch. 

I  described it to my wife as it feels like the exact opposite of depression.  When I was having depression episodes I had all the desire to go do things, my flesh was willing, but I couldn't get up the mental energy to actually get off the couch to go do it. 

Now I want to go do things,  and I have all the mental energy and desire to go do them, but my flesh is keeping me on the couch.

The one benefit of having depression is that I am more aware of how things affect my mood, so I can deal with the mental stresses much better than I otherwise would have - yay for emotional intelligence!

So for now I am taking a couple days off work while I am on post-op pain meds.  Then I will be working from home for at least a week.  I have a follow up appointment next Wednesday to see how I am doing, and whether the doctor will allow me to go to work, or at least go downstairs to my studio.

Until then, its bed rest for me!

And thus ends the story of my 3 broken toes.