New Feature – In Between Rains, Vancouver

Construction site of the Olympic Villages for the 2010 Winter Olympics

I’ve recently edited images I photographed in Vancouver for the past three years, which I’m showcasing them in the portfolio section entitled ‘In Between Rains, Vancouver’. As the title reflects most of the shots were captured in between rains, which rarely occurred there.
I moved to Vancouver with my family in 2005 after failed attempt to have immigration status granted by the US, which I lived between 1993 – 2005. Not knowing so much about the city I relied on family friend’s experience at first. But it turned out to be quite a contrary than what I sensed since her social life does not really extend beyond Chinese communities. So I started to wondering around the street trying to understand more about the city which eventually became a series which I worked on unintentionally.
I guess for many tourist the impression they perceive of Vancouver is a city surrounded by beautiful scenery and lots of outdoor activities. Though it is not quite the case since many of the tourists came to the city in the summer, which is the only time of year the city received a clear weather. Like Seattle Vancouver is under the grey sky for the most part and the weather affects many of the residents’ emotion. It is a culturally well integrated city yet at the same time there’s a distinct social divide between communities. It has voted as the most liveable city on the planet yet the sudden increase of housing price has driving a lot of people out. Then there The Rockies which separates Vancouver from rest of Canada and acts as both physical and psychological barrier. The barrier provides a sense of isolation that reflects on the city and its residents.
It is a city with lots of contradictions. Yet this is what made Vancouver so intriguing…..and depressing.

Leaving Vancouver…..

View from my balcony onto downtown Toronto.
It was a decision that was made about a year ago when I attended the workshop here in Toronto. Though couldn’t materialize until about a month ago after worked countless overtime on a half decent job that gave me enough saving to be here.
Several reasons why I decide to come here instead of staying in Vancouver. Top them all would be cost of living. I’ve lived quite a few places in the past 20 years and I have never seen commodity and housing prices as high as Vancouver. Of course one could argue that it is on the cheap side compare to cities like Tokyo or London. But then I would never consider to settle in those two cities since I’m not Japanese and I have no interest to settle in Europe. Then there’s the fact which high cost of living in those two cities were compensated by high wages which in some way balanced out itself, even it’s just barely. It is not really the case in Vancouver which wages could not catch up with cost. Take my friend’s case for example she made about $30,000 a year but a studio apartment already swallowed half of her income annually. Then there is the grocery which cost 2-3 times as much compare to Toronto. Add all these up and put tax deduction into the consideration then you get a general picture of how difficult it is to live in Vancouver, specially for people who’d like to start a career or a family.
Of course there’s other factors I decide to move to Toronto like lack of support for the arts, weather, attitude issues with the locals…..etc. But then they’re just personal opinions for the most part and I’m pretty sure if you’re coming from different neighbourhood in Vancouver experiences are not the same. But most importantly is that I’m not the resident there anymore so I won’t have to deal with these issues on every day basis. Which means I’ll leave all these behind and starts a fresh new life herein Toronto.

An Unforgettable Tour

On the BC interior for a job and it won’t be days before I’ll get back to the city. Frankly, I’m not really feel like doing this…..specially going back to towns where I had quite unpleasant trip last time make this job a bit more on the mix side.
My In-law parents came visit little over a month ago for about ten days and had to showed them around the city here in Vancouver and Victoria and later followed them to the Rocky mountains and parts of BC interior with the tour. It was a brutal 10 days as we were rushed from Victoria, BC to Calgary, AB at their request due to the fact that they are a bit more demanding than normal parents. This is more or less because they’re working for the government in South Korea(Thank god its South….) and because they spent so much time on their jobs the attitude sort of carried over onto their private lives. In some occasions you can clear feel that they were acting like state officials visiting foreign country rather than seeing their daughter. They’re constantly harassing their daughter for being fat(not true…..) and they were very ignorant toward local custom. But what irritates me the most is that fact that they were kept on telling their fellow Koreans while we were on the tour that they’re government officials in order to gain some respect….which no one cares.
As chaotic as it was, I did learned a thing or two out of this trip. First, I really do feel that The Rockys separates BC from rest of Canada psychologically if not physically. Which explain why Vancouver feel so different than all the other Canadian cities I visited. Then there’s whole reminder of why I prefer driving by myself rather than join the tour. But the most important thing is after watching my parents in-law it serve as reminder for me and my wife not to become them.

The Shootout……

About threes years ago when I started to work with this commercial photography company specialize in grad photos they were experimenting an event by inviting few selected customers to pose as models for staff photographers who interesting in shooting them. An event was based out of an incident prior to my employment which saw a major dispute between the employer and the photogs and this is part of the initiative to try to smooth relationship between photographers and the employer. Since then it became a ritual which staff photographers gather every year and snap their shutters away like there is no tomorrow in order to strengthen their portfolios.

Since my interest of photography is not in the area of fashion or commercial so I was not so much excited about dedicate myself entirely to this event. However, curiosity drew me to be present every year as an observer……and eventually picked up my own camera and snapped a few photos.
This year I was rather uninterested in shooting models so I began focusing on the progression of the event and photographers. Much like documenting a fashion show or a fashion shoot. Naturally this is something the company is unlikely to use because the style of photography is not what they are promoting. Then again, I was not commercial photographer to begin with.

Happy Chinese New Year, Politician Style

It’s a common sense that celebrities and politicians like to get attention – Whether their intention is to send a message or just simply attracting potential support. When in public, they will perform pretty much every act they can think of or pull off shamelessly to get the message across…….
I was photographing the Chinese New Year Parade few days back as part of the personal project documenting Chinatown. While I was shooting I spot Premier of BC sneaked up on the third group which is ready to start marching. Immediately dozens of cameras started to show up in front of the group and snapping away like mad dog. This puts the parade to a temporary halt for few minutes while a cop along with volunteers from the organizing committee trying to push the “unexpected crowds” to the roadside. Then the premier done something which is quite comical to me while cops and volunteers trying to chasing away the snappers – he started to greeting and waving at spectators on all directions, even though majority of the crowds couldn’t even spot him. By then it was clear he was putting on a show to the media…….
By the way, I’m not writing this because I despise him or his party, I just thought it’s a interesting story to tell because it’s funny and ironic at the same time.

Seasons Greeting

When I moved here 3 years ago people were telling me how beautiful the weather is in Vancouver….then the fall came and it was pissing rain till spring. Then 2 years ago it started to snow hard towards the winter, which came into shock to the locals but not so much for me because the geographical location of the city means we could not immune from the bitter cold winter when the arctic wind found its way to crash on us.
And this year is even more dramatic. It was very mild up to mid December then all of the sudden it became extremely cold….then the usual non-stop pissing rain that the locals accommodate to became a non-stop snow(as of now, 70cm of snow covering metro Vancouver) for about a week. In short, the unfamiliar weather just made the entire metro area a chaos. 
But the good thing is that I was able to get enough snow to make a snowman……
Anyway, to people who visit this blog, friends and strangers alike, I wish you all a very happy holiday.

Fashion With Voice

About two weeks ago I was browsing around events in town trying to photograph something unfamiliar to me……..kind of giving myself a break after months of wondering through Vancouver’s Chinatown. Then I received the email about a political fashion show called SCRAP organized by Kalayaan Center, a non-profit organization with it’s purpose of serving the Filipino community here in Vancouver. So I placed a call for access……..and days later there I was.
To understand the motive behind the SCRAP fashion show there is some background needs to be learned. Every year there’s a significant amount of immigrants from the Philippines to Canada either through marriage catalogue, employment program or other means. With large portion of them women they are subject to abuse through workplace or in domestic settings. With this fashion show which using ordinary women with customs that has messages tailor to them the organizer hope bring the awareness to the public.
My original intent was using this event as a warm up for the bigger and purely commercial Vancouver Fashion Week which was happening last week but then, as happened so many times in the past, busy schedule with my day job just killed my personal plan. And there is also a lost of interest of photographing a commercial fashion show after done this one because of its uniqueness.
That being said, cat walk with tall blonde beautiful models on the stage for commercial and entertainment purposes was never really my thing I guess.

Political Event, Chinatown Style

Guests at Political lunch event at Chinese restaurant during the National Day of Republic of China(Taiwan) celebration.
Since May this year I was working on the personal project documenting Chinatown and one thing led to another I began to get in contact with some of the old , semi-political organizations that have long history with the community. Then about a week ago I was photographing the political event which marks the national day of Taiwan – or Republic of China, the island’s official name.
To understand why these people celebrating the holiday that is only marked in the calender in Taiwan there’s a bit history lesson to be learned………To put it simple, this so called National Day which is on Oct. 10th was celebrated in China before 1949 prior to the People’s Republic. Then The Chinese Nationalist lost the civil war and retreated to Taiwan so the National Day on Oct. 10th is only celebrated on the territory that Nationalist controls. However for the oversea Chinese organizations, specially the old ones that are locate in Chinatowns, are still supporting the Nationalist so naturally they’re celebrating ROC’s National day as well.
So what do I make of this? Well, I personally felt like I went into an living antique shop when I attending the event not only because of age group of the attendees but also the propaganda – may it be the slogan they shouted during the event or the text on the wall. All these remind me of my elementary school times in taiwan 20 years back.