Diary (archives) - Claude Lavoie Photo

Photographic chit-chat

Photographic chit-chat (image unavailable)

Friday 2007-12-14 :

I was climbing up the hill in Chinatown, plodding through the ankle-deep snow covering the icy sidewalk, warily choosing where to put the foot, while she was briskly coming down, as though flying over the treacherous surface on which I was sentenced to tread.

I looked up just in time to get a glimpse of her : clad in a black woollen overcoat, tartan scarf floating in her wake, her sparkling eyes focussed on some faraway point, she smiled broadly to herself.

She passed by without noticing me. What pleasant thought was making her so obviously happy?

Wednesday 2007-11-28 :

I have been working long hours lately, and have not written a single word for six weeks. So day off today, for no other purpose than spending time musing and daydreaming, much more beneficial in the long run than grappling with overflowing workloads.

So here I am, sitting in one of my favourite cafés, pen in hand, notebook open, waiting for the trickle of words to resume . . . but it will not. I could blame it on too long a lapse, but I suspect the true reason to be quite different.

At this time of year, the temperature has plunged steadily below the freezing point. I am therefore sitting indoors, overhearing, on a background of cheesy jazz standard covers, the discussion among three students working on an overdue marketing paper at a nearby table (gone for good are the days when students would meet in cafés to discuss arts and rethink the whole world).

I much prefer to sit on the outdoor terrace in the summer to enjoy the warm breeze, the beating sun, and the elegance of women; even the noise and exhaust fumes from the passing cars are then more invigorating than this stale atmosphere inside the closed doors.

Hang on. Summer will return in six months.

Monday 2007-10-15 :

Since the beginning of the school year, we met a few times at the bus stop, in the morning. She is not as reserved (or indifferent!) as young adults usually are with elders. She likes to converse.

She is just starting a creative arts programme in college. She mentions it offhandedly, taking for granted, like all the pampered youth, that life will always be as generous and benevolent to them.

Scientists of a bygone era have, out of inexperience, lack of accurate instruments, and incomplete knowledge, believed in spontaneous generation. For similar reasons, she believes in spontaneous happiness.

Saturday 2007-10-13 :

Photo shoot with Sophie. The first one in almost two years. As usual, she poses with ease and talent. I am eager to see the pictures.

And I have been doubly happy : as we returned together, we had a long conversation about this and that. She has quit a job she no longer felt comfortable in to further her own artistic projects; and after a few months only, she is already having some success.

She seemed to me more spirited and forthcoming than before.

Tuesday 2007-09-25 :

On my way to work, on mornings following a night spent with my beloved, between her place and the nearby subway station, I take a route of quiet streets. Upon turning into the one bordering the schoolyard of École Saint-Gérard, I slow down.

I usually walk by just before the eight o'clock bell bids the pupils to enter. At this time of day, the sidewalk teems with parents walking the little ones to school. Adjusting their pace to the steps of the short legs, they hold hands, whiling away this pleasant moment chit-chatting or reviewing guidelines of safety and proper behaviour. Many infants carry a rucksack, in vivid colours or decorated with television character depictions, too large for their narrow shoulders.

At the entrance gate, they part. The older students run to join their friends; the younger ones linger behind, some even shedding a tear, before entering the yard reluctantly. The parents, among which there are more mothers than fathers, stay on the sidewalk, watching their loved ones through the wire mesh of the fence, a tender yet slightly worried smile on their face.

When the bell rings, playing stops and the little heads form ranks. Then, it is the parade of the tiny brand new shoes bought specially for the new school year : classes climb the grand staircase in order and disappear into the old building.

Reassured, the parents leave to go to their own business. They will be back in late afternoon to bring the tired children back home.

Saturday 2007-09-22 :

Throughout all the years we spent together, I admired her love for her two sons.

She repeated, time and again, that they are the center of her life and she has lived by her word. Unfailingly. Not out of duty, but out of genuine love, she has structured all aspects of her life and daily routine around them. And even though they have become autonomous enough to go on their own business for days on end, they remain her first thought and favourite topic of conversation.

The two of us are on a short vacation in an almost deserted park. The boys, old enough now to care for themselves for a week, stayed at home; still, just in case, we call every day. Unusually warm and sunny weather for early autumn. A foretaste of nearing retirement.

Upon waking up this morning, she told me of the dream she was just emerging from : she had a new baby boy, with stiff blond hair in a crewcut, staring at her, wide-eyed and happy, as she lifted him up from his crib into her arms.

Her true self.

Wednesday 2007-09-12 :

There are days when I would sentence the whole of mankind, peremptorily and without appeal, to indifferent oblivion (annihilation being a punishment I then deem it undeserving of), were it not that I am part of it!

Friday 2007-08-31 :

On my way back home from work, I often step down from the Métro at Mont-Royal, walk along busy Rue Saint-Denis, and hop back on the train at Sherbrooke. According to mood and season I may visit used book stores, sip a coffee on a terrace, or just immerse myself in the bustling street life.

In so doing today, I walked by a new café on the corner of Rue Rachel. Its interior is beautifully decorated : the floor is dark hardwood and the walls are pale green, with entire sections covered by framed paintings. The seats come in various shapes : high-backed deep couches forming alcoves along the walls or in corners, stools near the shelves by the high windows. Warm and cozy, with a vaguely Victorian air (the pictures, maybe); the ideal venue for a photo shoot.

The place is busy with people discussing, reading, or working on laptop computers; most of them students or self-employed workers.

I have been passing by this door regularly for years. For a long time, the place was being renovated, without apparent progress. The waiter now says it has been open for almost a year; how did it escape me?

On this first visit, I choose the table facing the pictures; about thirty of them, of all genres and sizes, hung in a compact group high on the wall. This vantage point allows the comfortable appreciation of the works, invidually or as a whole. I open this notebook on the table and let my gaze wander among the paintings, in orderly or haphazard fashion, stopping as it pleases to examine the frames as well as the depictions.

Only after a few minutes do I notice, sitting at the table at the foot of the wall, in the company of a man I presume to be her lover, a strikingly beautiful woman.

She is wearing a light cotton dress, baring shoulders on which falls her dark curly hair. Her feet are shod in delicate high-heeled sandals. While conversing, she tilts them back and, toes lifted, turns them from one side to the other on the heel, allowing me to see the flower engraved under the sole; at other times, she slips her foot out and rests it bare on the toppled lifeless shoe, exposing impeccably carmine-painted toenails.

My mind, hitherto absorbed by the beauty of the paintings, is henceforth diverted to hers. Unconcerned by anything else, it will not cooperate a single word to this page. My eyes are relentlessly drawn back to her, so much so that I fear she may notice.

Is she aware of the flutter her enthralling beauty causes?

Wednesday 2007-08-29 

Only a few more days before September, the waiting room of autumn. Yesterday and today have been warm and, in the city, it still feels like summer. But it soon will change; indeed, it is changing already. The signs are everywhere : daytime gets shorter, the mornings cooler, the green of the foliage duller. And this yet faint decline will become a downright plummeting towards an other cold and dark winter.

Wearied of turning over in bed, I get up to try to put into words the unease that makes me restless. It finally lets itself be grasped : I cannot reconcile that the season has about it the stale air of a ball nearing the end, while the intact beauty of women still exhales the freshness of a promising bloom.

Sunday 2007-08-12 :

Every summer, like legions of vacationing tourists, we take the road that follows the south shore of the St-Lawrence River, downstream from Québec City, towards the Gaspé peninsula. We set out early in the morning, stopping for lunch in the village where my mother-in-law was born, but left for Montréal more than sixty years ago. It is but a small cluster of white wooden houses, on either side of a brook that cascades down onto the shore below, overlooking a picturesque bay sprinkled with rocky islets on which dwarfed spruce trees huddle in thickets against the onslaughts of the harsh northern winds. The scent of saltwater is everywhere.

This year, after watching from the wharf the ducks dive for the abundant fish of the rising tide, we went to the village art gallery. Its walls are covered with paintings of the surrounding landscape in all seasons and impressive wide-angle depictions of clouds. An oil on canvas of the bay and islands at low tide, in dense and vivid colours, caught our eye.

But something was wrong with the frame; it had to be disassembled and put back together. As she was unsure of how to proceed without any risk of damage to the painting, the attendant decided to defer to the owner of the gallery, the painter himself; fortunately, he was upstairs. Up she went; we overheard muffled bits of conversation, and she reappeared, thanking us for our patience.

Several minutes elapsed. When the artist arrived, we apologised for interrupting his work and dragging him out of his studio. "Not at all", he replied : instead of painting, he was watching stock car races on television. As he did not want to miss any of the event, he had to set up the recorder before coming down. Having never done it before, he took some time to figure it out; it was now functioning properly. How could he help us?

As he smiled broadly, I wondered whether his satisfaction stemmed from the prospect of selling his work or his recent technological feat. So much for quaintness.

Saturday 2007-07-28 :

Earlier this morning, I drove my beloved and her younger son to the airport. While they bask in the sun on tropical beaches, I will spend the week alone with Frisson the cat, the haughty master of the household. Mixed feelings of cheerful freedom and anticipated longing.

Upon returning (their flight was leaving at the break of day), I climbed back into bed and slept until late morning. Then, putting off the domestic chores the weather was perfect for, I sprightly headed towards rue Saint-Denis, to watch and enjoy at leisure the bustling street life.

Hot coffee under a blazing sun and this notebook; elation perversely spiced up with a zest of guilt from neglected responsibilities.

I chose the table closest to the sidewalk, where the flowing skirts of the passing women almost brush against me. They dress lightly under the oppressive heat and, in the wake of their innocent half-nakedness, both the damp air they cut through and the mind of the onlooker they absent-mindedly walk by get troubled alike.

At their peak, youth and summer share the same air of eternity.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Blank page. Disconcerting, on a day when life is so glorious, to find nothing memorable to write about it.

- - - - - - - - - - -

As soon as I set foot inside the subway station, I walked to a public phone and lifted the handset, so as to make the time appear on the tiny display. I almost bumped into her as I turned around. Our eyes met, she smiled; emboldened by this auspicious episode, I gave her the card on which is inscribed the address of this site, inviting her to visit. Then, we courteously and reciprocally bade farewell and went our separate ways towards the opposite ends of the platform.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Conversely to what I expected, finding love did not bring me solace (finding love is grand, though).

- - - - - - - - - - -

Spending so much time explaining myself to others (who never asked for it and will therefore not listen), too eager to realise that I indeed do it for myself.

A flash of clear-sightedness : my whole pursuit of photography is but a pretence to gaze into myself. I alone am fooled, misconceiving as a purposeful journey what, with humble objectivity, I would clearly recognise as an aimless, although pleasant, wandering.

All this is a vast misunderstanding; moreover, since I deliberately took part in it, a deception!

- - - - - - - - - - -

I am the underdog of drudgery (isn't it redundant?).

- - - - - - - - - - -

Explaining things, for lack of will, let alone courage, to change them : poor relief (or alibi).

Sunday 2007-07-22 :

"Are you a photographer?"

I am sometimes asked the question on the street or the transit system when, loaded with gear, I scuttle on my way to a photo shoot (pondering poses and momentous technical details) or back from one (elated by the graceful moments caught or disappointed by missed opportunities).

The question both flatters and disturbs me (for it entails introspection).

At my age, I am not easily entertained. A photo shoot is however a happy, although too rare, exception : my spirit then soars and I become a child for whom play requires no other purpose or justification than the pleasure it provides.

I am always surprised when someone I propose a photo shoot to replies : "Of course!". I was likewise surprised, as a child, when a playmate I asked to be friends with answered : "Of course!". The same response, the same happiness, a few decades apart.

Agreeing about a photo shoot means accepting a stimulating, although riskless, challenge, from which one always comes out richer.

Except for a few persons who might occasionally take a cursory look and, more infrequently, mutter a few words of appreciation, my photographs have no other value than the subjective importance I place on them. I nevertheless persist at photography. I am therefore a bit of a photographer, at the same time serious . . . and light-hearted.

- - - - - - - - - - -

I never take with me a radio, nor any other music playing device. Nothing obstructs my ears.

Moreover, apart from a few minor annoyances (which I will not enumerate, for they are by nature trifling; let me only mention that an invasion of bugs in a beloved rosebush causes me some worries), my spirit is free and quite willing to listen to you.

"You said?"

Thursday 2007-07-19 :

Five PM. Rush hour in a cosmopolitan city.

I sit at the terrace of a café, just a few metres away from a subway entrance and from the corner of two busy streets where several bus lines stop. People of all races and colours stream by my table, scurrying back home.

On some faces is imprinted the boredom of a whole day spent at an ill-chosen job, long persisting after the end of the shift; on others, a serene and peaceful contentment. Many adults carry groceries they will cook for lively and impatient children.

It resembles an end-of-the-school-year play : numerous actors deliver, with little cohesion, small parts often amounting to not more than a brief appearance : they line up on the sidewalk and wiggle for a few minutes before being taken away in white and blue buses, or cross the entire width of the stage only to vanish inexplicably. Almost all remain silent, seemingly impervious to the presence of others.

After an hour, the mass of walk-on artists thins out, buses become further apart. The interest of the score wears out as the end draws near.

Leaving half a cup of cold coffee I head home too, pleased nevertheless with today's rendition.

Tuesday 2007-07-17 :

When I retire I intend, as everyone reaching this momentous stage, to do what I, for lack of spare time, have postponed all my life. However, I will not embark on a long trip, nor undertake any ambitious project.

I will set myself free from the tyranny of the clock.

During the winter, errands excepted, I will only venture outdoors to walk in the snow, on days it pleases to fall, or to go to dance shows. Nights will be spent reading all those books bought over the years which have piled up, unopened, around my bed.

During the summer, as early as midday, I will be sitting in the small park that borders the river, and in front of which passes the bus I ride back home from work. I will be a regular of the bench located under the weeping willow, from which one gets a good view of both the water and the busiest alley.

And from there, in the freshness of the dwindling day and the scent rising from the reeds, I will wonder at the changing colours of the sun setting beyond the cranes of the harbour, on the opposite shore. I will watch the ladies who leisurely stroll down the alley, the younger ones gently pushing prams inside which chubby infants contentedly doze. I will appreciate the beauty and elegance of all, but will greet the most remarkable by lightly rubbing my fingertip against the brim of my hat (no elegant man would ever be seen hatless!).

And I might even make acquaintances, with whom I will exchange proper observations on the mildness of the weather, and how rapidly time passes by.

I will return home after dark only.

Monday 2007-07-09 :

Rain is pouring down. All is suspended, nature indulges in a day of languidness. Likewise, I feel disinclined to busy myself at anything. Perfect weather for musing.

I have been contemplating some photo projects for a long time. However, deeming them still too sketchy or immature, instead of setting about realising them, I kept them to myself, hoping they would benefit from further consideration.

But on this warm rainy morning dawn on me how fleeting time is, and the uncomfortable foreboding that, for lack of it, many of these projects might never come of age.

Diary archives :