Shortly after coming back from St-Jean-sur-le-Richelieu from Audrey’s shoot, Victoria De Martigny sent me an email. “So, when are going back to Croydon?” It did not take that long. I contacted the municipal authorities to seek permission to work in the building while Victoria was doing a model casting. When she asked me if I had any request, I asked for a rad girl; I had something in mind…
After making a quick call, I had a bed frame to pick up and medical supplies on order. A little Google on fake blood instructed me on how to mix corn and chocolate syrup, food coloring and peanut butter. Many people who were asking about the concept were really wondering where the heck I was going with this.
On November 1st, Victoria, Vince, Nigel, Jennifer , Jessica and Alexandra (Makeup Artist – Hire her, she is fabulous!) were heading toward Croydon. The Croydon building was built in 1904, exploited by the Singer Sewing machine company until 1986 before being bought by Croydon who manufactured furniture for about 10 years. The building was then left to the test of time. Time is clearly wining.
This was the toughest onsite shoot we went through. Not because of the logistics (shooting in the woods was a bit more complicated) but because of the temperature. In Canada, November means it’s getting cold, real cold. Not “Oh, it is chilly this morning” but more like “What the heck were we thinking!?”.
Two degrees Celsius. If you are not familiar with the Celsius thermometer, 2 Celsius means you are 2 degrees away from having icicles under the nose. This is the temperature where you pull out the winter boots and jackets from the closet and store away the summer clothes for good… except if you are doing a photo shoot. We had the most amazing models, willing to go through the temporary discomfort of cold to create images in an amazing made for one day studio.
Through the day, I got to work with Jessi, Nigel and Jennifer. Jennifer is an amazing 5’11’’, 18 years old full time model. A very professional fashion model who was looking for portfolio additions different than the normal agency images. I got to work with Jennifer for a short period of time. It was the last rotation of the day, everyone was feeling the cold through their bones and the wind was picking up. Shooting with a 4’X6’ softbox, wind is a problem. We shot inside in 2 locations; an awesome painted wall and a staircase.
Nigel was Victoria’s eye candy. Hey, a girl can shoot a hot guy once in a while, right? When A got with Nigel, I asked him the kind of shots he had already done with Victoria earlier during the day. Nigel came all the way from Toronto and shooting with 3 different photographers, I wanted to make sure he would return home with 3 different styles of images. We headed for a thorn down men’s room (go ahead, laugh…). For his shoot, I opted for a 20 degree grid only. I knew we would be walking around and carrying the softbox was just asking for trouble. We did a few shots in the washroom, standing on the floor, sitting in the windows, coming out of floor holes… If you don’t try it you won’t know if you are passing on something. Nigel was incredible. I don’t shoot much male model, not by choice but because of opportunity. He is extremely photogenic, knows his way around the camera although the fact he’s been modeling for less than a year.
Leaving only Jessi, my rad girl. Beautiful redhead, dressed with leather boots, a pair of patched jeans, black t-shirt, black leather jacket, a few piercing around the nose and lips and a large flower tattooed on her neck. I knew she would be perfect for what I wanted to do. We had an amazing session outside in the high grass using only my softbox to capture the amazing outfit she brought. The contrast of the golden vegetation and dark cloudy sky against her pale skin, red hair and purple corset was out of this world; more than I could wish for. I think the fact she was willing to go through the discomfort of having that much skin exposed to the cold temperature without showing it on camera also added much to the experience. When Jessi was approached by Victoria about the shoot, she was also briefed about the concept shot I wanted to produce. She was onboard all the way.
I like my photos to say something. Not all of them, no, but some. Typically, they are the ones that take the most time to plan and setup. I find it a bit exhausting to work that many hours to pull one image but when that one image shows up on the screen, it is the most rewarding of all. When we spoke about going back to Croydon, I knew what I wanted to say, I had to week to figure out how.
The province of Quebec was built on religion. Without religion, the province would not have developed the way it did. Couples were forced by the church to have kids since this was the reason God put them on this earth. People believed in God and the church and turned to them for everything, including miracles. In fact only a couple of weeks ago, Brother André, for Montreal, were raised to the Saint title by Vatican for his medically unexplainable miraculous healing. Religion ruling over the province was a while ago though. Now, most people don’t believe in the church anymore. In fact, the number of different ethnic groups and their respective religions in the province diluted the Catholic power imposed by the church. With the advances in medical researches, the sick stopped hoping for miracles and started to turn toward advanced medical treatment. The medical services in Quebec are provided by our government through a socialist medical insurance plan. Unfortunately, with an aging population comes a higher medical cost to be supported by the Quebec work force. The effects of such burden on the government income and tax payers came to a point a law was passed stating no hospital can show a capital deficits at the end of the fiscal year. The results are cut downs in services, staff, and equipment conditions. It does not stop the population from going to the hospital waiting so many hours that you start considering counting in days. With the wait comes worsening health condition for the older population; specialized doctors are more in demand and in lower numbers. Too many times we see people losing the fight against their illness because they could not speak to the right doctor at the right time. I am not blaming the medical staff working in our hospitals but the lack of planning made by our government who did not see this crisis coming until we ended up face to face with a crumbling health system.
Why? Why would I, all the sudden, feel the need to express an opinion about our socialist medical services? I turned 36 last week. 36 is nowhere near a significant milestone for anyone. It is half-way to 72 which is even less significant… I made a joke to someone a few weeks ago that I would soon be able to go legally in 2 clubs at the same time… I realized then. My 18th year on this earth was not that joyful. A typical 18 years old looks forward to party with their friends and do stupid things, feeling invincible. Last week I realized that this month will mark the 18th anniversary of me walking strait into adulthood with no possible turning backs, no safety nets. This month will the 18th year without seeing my mother who lost her fight to cancer back in 1992, 50% of my life ago. Neither her faith nor our medical institutions could save her.
I missed her departure by a couple of minutes. That’s the time it took to pay for parking, walk to the door, find someone to point me in her room direction. I remember so clearly turning the corner of that hallway to see the entire family crying has she had just released her last breath moments ago. I have no idea what I could have tell her during her last moments with us; I was never good with words.
I think she knew and did me a last favor.