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!