Snow Day | Citizens of Victoria & Their Snow Shovels

“I’m going to photograph neighbours shovelling their driveways!” I yelled on my way out the door. Such statements no longer elected strange looks from my wife and daughter. They were used to me heading out on a whim to document unusual topics. After getting a new lens for Christmas a few years ago I went out on New Years Day to ask foreigners in Itaewon, Korea, what was their biggest accomplishment of 2016 and snap some portraits. Last February I ventured out into Seoul’s smoggiest day to capture citizens dealing with a whopping 220 ppm of fine dust particulate. This was ironic given I would spend most of the winter doing my best to avoid the death haze and then complain furiously about it on facebook.

That night of our big snow here in Victoria I had taken my crampons out of the garage so I could get an early start up to the Gold Stream Trestle for sunrise. I had visions of cinematic drone shots over snow laden pine trees. First I needed to drive my daughter to school. The roads were the emptiest I’ve seen them, just a loan truck going very slowly down the Old Island Highway. The school was even emptier, NO ONE was there. My daughter was elated, never had school been canceled due to weather in Seoul. I realized as we drove the deserted road home that venturing further north on one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in BC in our Toyota Prius probably wasn’t a good idea.

As we made our way back through our neighbourhood I saw the most diligent neighbours out clearing their driveways. “That’s it!” I thought to myself, “People shovelling snow! Simple, yes! Boring, maybe! But it has all the hallmarks of a good project.”
relevancy – it’s happing NOW and it’s a shared event
accessibility – it’s right in my neighbourhood, people are out dealing with it, no one has to go to work because the Victoria shuts down in the snow
thematic – the photos will all be tied together via snow, shovels and shovelling
beneficial – what a great opportunity to get to know my neighbours – more on that below…

Photography is the master key that opens doors into so many peoples lives. Imagine walking up to a stranger shovelling their driveway and saying “Hi”. Long awkward pause… Okay if you’re a pro conversationalist you might say something super interesting like “lot of snow last night eh?!” If that’s not making you uncomfortable yet now imagine you finish that conversation and then the neighbour watches you walk away and approach the next guy across the street. Weird. Now imagine walking up to a guy shovelling away and saying, “Hi, I have a bit of an odd request, I’m a photographer working on a new project about people shovelling snow in Victoria. Would you be able to help me?…”

When people know your intentions it’s disarming. It’s clear I have a purpose and then the conversation seems like it can instantly stray off the small talk course and onto more interesting subjects like working as speech pathologist, vacation plans and the secret to selling cars. I FREAKING LOVE that about this hobby/passion/career. Over two hours I met and conversed with more people in my neighbourhood than in the last six months since moving in.

My artistic vision was quite simple. Much like my Biggest Accomplishment of 2016 series, I wanted a create a set of cohesive images with captions. This time my questions was, “What are you most looking forward to in 2020?” You’ll find those answers along with a few other tidbits under the photos below!

Looking out the bedroom window at 7:40am
Beginning with my wife and daughter. My daughter is most excited about working on her YouTube Chanel for squishys. Mom is looking forward to getting floral business going.
Most of the winter Victoria is wet and rainy. It’s get about one major snow fall per year. This was likely it.
Jim moved out from Edmonton many years ago to escape the snow. He’s excited about a prospective trip to Eastern Europe which would include Budapest and Hungry in 2020.
Scott worked as journalist for the Canadian Press (CP). He has traveled much of asia and lived on a few boats. Jim is looking forward to crafting his first ukulele. He just learned how to play in 2019! Here Jim is pictured with his dog Blue. Blue has some trouble following directions (my words not Jim’s)
Dale said he “doesn’t have a face worth photographing” and requested that is be somewhat obscured in the photo. He was extremely excited to be using his new leaf blower. Dale is most excited by the prospect of being alive for 2020 and “not having a heart attack doing this”.
Dennis moved over from Vancouver years ago. He thinks the 40 minute commute to work at the Duncan Toyota dealership was nothing compared to the commuting across Van. Of course Dennis is very fond of Toyotas and their longevity. Dennis and his wife have made it a tradition to hit Vegas and Hawaii once a year, he is most looking forward to traveling to a new destination in 2020.
I’ve always loved these giant neighbourhood trees. Every small Korean town had one where the old folks would gather and sit.
I’ve forgotten this gentleman’s name. He’s the father of the mother in the next photo. When I saw him he was cutting branches off a pine tree. They were poking holes in the tarp shed that was protecting another vintage care. This guy is most excited about his trip to Mexico in three days time.
Marlow is the daughter. I forgot to write down the parents names. Mom is most excited about her daughter attending kindergarten, a major milestone in life. (I’m guessing she’s also happy to be reclaiming some of her time) We turned this one into an impromptu family photo session!
Bret was busy cleaning off his car when I met him. I’m not sure if the other three are his too. He is most looking forward to completing the renovations on his home. They’re doing an add-on room.
Dorthy immigrated from Britain long ago. She was speech pathologist in Calgary and then moved to Victoria to escape the snow and cold. (This was becoming a common theme) She’s most excited about her upcoming trip to Mexico and her grand daughter learning to read. She has been sending her books. On the topic of overpriced real-estate, Dorthy advised me to buy an empty lot, put a trailer on it, build up equity and then build a home. Thanks Dorthy.
Bernie is most looking forward to NOT having a repeat of 2019. That was the year of the dreaded kitchen renovation and anyone who’s done one of those knows what an undertaking that can be. Bernie used to work in forestry, assessing which trees needed to be planted where I believe. He described his job as mostly walking around in the forrest.
Kevin is a ball of energy and enthusiasm. He was a car salesman for most of his life at the local Toyota dealer. It was a position he just fell into one day and then stuck with. We spent much of our visit discussing how sales work and what traits it takes to be a good car salesman.

I was surprised to learn new sales people often perform better than veterans because customers feel like there is less chances of being “sharked” by them. Kevin acknowledges the industry will always have a bad rep and that is the fault of the car manufactures themselves.

Kevin is into blues music he recently learned guitar and used to play the harmonica in a few blues bands around town. He suggested a visit to V Lounge and Hermans for some good blues music in Victoria. Keven is most excited about finding “the one” in 2020. He thinks he may have actually found her already!
Kathy, Myriam and Dale share the residence in the back which explains why they were all doing their part to remove the snow too. They are excited about retirement, “Viking Trips” and a visit to Alaska.
Suzan, David and Bob met and mingled while shovelling. I never actually got around to asking them what they’re looking forward to in 2020 because I was suddenly distracted by a bunch of kids sledding down a small hill at the end of our street and wanted to make a couple photos before they stopped!
It wasn’t just the kids having fun either!
It was awesome to see the kids having so much fun.
Dad had no problem kicking the tree a little to make it snow for us.
This little dude just decided to have a little rest right there.
Walking up and taking photos of strangers and their kids sledding was probably strange enough, I didn’t get into any interviews here.
At the end of our street I found a couple families sledding with their Kids.
This remind me of “We’ll shoot it again!!!”
Say what?
“If I close my eyes I’ll be okay“
I think this boy is conveying how the last rip was a near death experience.
Time to warm up.
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