East Side Village Calgary

Paul Larocque

My encounter with Paul was by chance as it all started while I was driving through the East Village in downtown Calgary. Stopped at a red light, I noticed a cyclist cross the intersection in front of me. Thinking nothing of it, it was actually the cyclist’s incredible speed that caught my eye because he was not pedaling. Still perplexed, I suddenly noticed a little two-stroke engine attached to the top tube of this strangers bicycle. Thinking this was the most amazing device I have ever witnessed, I stepped on the gas when the light turned green, making a sharp left turn, and in full pursuit of my motorized bicycle friend. After following this individual for several blocks, he finally came to a stop at a downtown bottle depot. I parked and casually approached the man introducing myself asking this stranger questions about his bike, how he made it, and later finding out his name was Paul. After about a fifteen minute conversation, I was continually intrigued about Paul’s story and asked to meet with him at a later date to take his photograph. He agreed. If you were to see Paul on the street you wouldn’t think twice to keep walking past him. However under that rough exterior is a man that has lived a life of extremes with considerable highs and lows. Born in the city of Montreal in 1960, Paul and his parents moved to Calgary when Paul was two years old to a farm in Drayton Valley. Paul was always up and about working and traveling in a variety of places throughout his life which has led him to working in the oil fields, commercial construction, and farming. Later on when Paul moved to Vancouver at thirty-one years of age, he started dealing drugs earning more than a thousand dollars in one day, soon after he started using the substances he was selling, where heroin and alcohol became his choice of drugs. From there Paul has led a life where he considers himself to be a loner, never staying in one place too long. Right now he currently resides in Calgary where he sleeps in the backyard of a residential family home where he has now been clean from heroin and alcohol for over eleven years. The family who owns and lives in the home has taken it upon themselves to provide Paul a safe place to sleep as well as being a support system. The Family has asked Paul to sleep inside on a few occasions, however Paul insists on sleeping on the ground under the stars in the backyard or on the porch if it starts to rain. Currently not working due to medical issues, Paul spends his days collecting bottles and trying to sell his motorized bikes that he builds in his sponsor’s garage.

I asked Paul if he has any regrets, where he is quick to respond, “ I have no regrets… I regret some of the things I did to certain people, but I cannot regret what I did in life, it happened… and now it’s done”. “I had all the STUFF, cars, trucks, houses… none of that matters; it is not a goal of mine to own stuff. To be honest I really just love my bicycle. What I would love to do is take a chunk of money and go to Northern China or Mongolia”… “I would be happy with a one bedroom shack on a piece of land, seriously what else do you want, what else do people need”.

 

 

Stranger Series: Dyson House

I met Dyson through a mutual friend of mine as I was looking for individuals for a project that involved the Art Gallery of Calgary featuring portraits of EIGHT Calgarians. The title of the show is "I am Calgary" (Check out the show Sept 7th- Dec. 23rd, 2012: Opening Reception Sept. 7 @ 6:30pm-10:00pm). I met Dyson downtown after he had finished work where he works as a commercial glazer for a variety of projects around the city of Calgary. For those of you that do not know what glazer is or does, well when you are in downtown Calgary, look around and all that glass that surrounds each building, structure, doorway, etc. That is part of what a glazer job consists of, installing high rise glass, along with metal clad that highlights a buildings entrance way, monuments, and structures.

Dyson was born on September 23 1966, as he immediately points out with enthusiasm is the same birth date as Bruce Springstein...  the "Master" as he calls him. Dyson grew up in Roddickton Newfoundland and moved to Calgary in April of 1976. Through out his time in Calgary, Dyson has worked for mobile home manufactures, the oil industry, and then started working with glass where he has now been a glazer for 32 years. He will turn 56 this year.

 

 

 

Stranger Series: Naheed Nenshi- AKA Calgary's Mayor.

In my most recent portrait of the "Stranger Series", I slightly broke my rules a bit where I had this idea of meeting Calgary's mayor and hopefully having the opportunity to photograph him. My usual approach in my "Stranger Series" is always on the fly where I end up walking up to a random stranger who I think looks and might be interesting, however you cannot just walk up to a mayor of a city, there is protocol and he is a very busy man. So I went through the proper channels and really at the end of the day he is still a stranger as we have never met before, I just had to adjust my approach differently. This photo session needed to include the use of studio lighting rather than my usual natural lighting as it was raining outside. When you look at photographs of political figures, they are usually against plain backdrops where the same pose is used over and over again. I wanted to change it up adding an edgy quality to the image where my studio light created more shape and contrast to the photo.

When the mayor walked into the room, I was pleasantly surprised on how approachable he was, not to mention his refreshing dry sense of humor. I only had 10-15 minutes with Naheed, so I asked him a few questions to get a sense of who he was personally aside from his political title of being "THE MAYOR".

I found out that Naheed in his spare time enjoys the theater scene, foreign films (his favorite being a french Canadian film "The Barbarian Invasions"), and spending time with his family. His i-pod includes opera, show tunes, jazz standards,  bubble gum pop, and a little rock.

I later asked Naheed...

Jeremy-"What values do you wish to instill towards the people you surround yourself with and the people who admire you?

Naheed- "I always used to say my epigraph is very simple which is He Left it better than he found it. To me I think I come from a very value ethic centered place and sometimes it drives the people I work with crazy because I worry about the ethical importance of everything single decision we make. But to me that's really really important, and I think I want people to live their lives as good people, to do things for the community.  One of the things I really believe in is empowering people to do good things for the community themselves that you don't always have to wait for big businesses, government, non-profits to do. If you see a piece of litter pick it up, if you want to do something better in your community, you have the power in your own hands to make it better. You have more power as a community member than I have as Mayor. So I think that is what I want people to focus on is how do I think about how I can use whatever resources I have, my own skills, my own assets, to make the place I live in better, and sometimes that surprises people because they expect that the government or mayor will have all the answers and a lot of time I turn back to people and ask them.... think about how you can do that".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stranger Series: Horst & Reggie

As I was walking in the east village the other day working on a side project (details coming soon) I came across a man sitting in a wheel chair on the side walk just down from the King Eddy Hotel. From a distance I noticed something moving in his lap and after approaching even closer I noticed it was a gopher. I was in complete shock because usually you find people feeding pigeons, or ducks, or even the random tourist feeding a bear, but not gophers. After the little critter hopped down from the mans lap, ran across the path, and down his dirt hole I asked the man why he was feeding the gophers. The man replied and said " I have  been feeding  these gophers for over 3 weeks now... and it's fun". I guess one day this man was out for a stroll and had a bag of peanuts with him where he noticed the gophers and just started tossing peanuts curiously to see what would happen.

The name of the man in the wheel chair is Horst Copp who was born in Germany in 1953 and immigrated to Canada not long after he was born. He immigrated to Ontario where he studied photography at Ryerson University in Toronto. From there, Horst became a plumber where he later suffered a stroke and is now on disability where he has been living in Calgary the last 15 years.

Horst finds himself feeding the gophers everyday where his peanut stash dwindles from a single pound of the delicious nuts to nothing in a matter of minutes due to the number of gophers who have come to Horst searching or should I say asking for food.

 

 

HORST

 

 

 

REGGIE

After a couple more hours of walking around down town Calgary, I drove by an alley where I noticed two men chatting next to an abandon building. I quickly made a right turn, immediately another right turn, and then proceeded down the alley where I noticed the two men.

I got out of my truck and approached the two individuals just like I do every time I confront a stranger. I introduced my self and within 20 seconds one of the two men willingly and happily offered to pose for a photograph. The gentleman who did not want his photograph taken was still very kind and loved to reminisce about his days when he was young in the 70's, telling me several stories about partying and going to concerns in the states.

Reggie is from Regina, Saskatchewan and has been living in Calgary since 1995. When I asked what he did for a living when he arrived in Calgary he responded and said "I chased hookers and drank...HAHAHAHA". To be honest I could not help but bust into laughter with his response. After we both had a chuckle, I asked him what he does on daily basis. Reggie now is a full time beggar spending his time between the streets, visiting his girlfriend on the reserve, and sleeping at the drop in center.

As the three of us continued to speak more, I later found out that Reggie has two daughters whom he has never met, but has somehow tracked them down via by Facebook. Reggie is then quick to draw his wallet, where he pulls out a crumpled piece of weathered paper and In his hands he holds his daughters Facebook profile page printed on office paper. This is the only picture he has of his daughters. He managed to get the photo's from a computer from the Drop-in-Center.

I enjoyed talking with the two men as they always had a story tell and were completely honest and open with me.

 

 

 

 

Stranger Series: Shawn & Billy

Today as I was getting into my truck after getting some printing done, I noticed two gentleman in my rear view mirror. I assumed they were construction workers just from their heavy duty foot wear and their somewhat worn t-shits. Watching the two smoke a cigarette for about 3 minutes, I stepped out of my vehicle making my way towards the two men. Deciding and committing to approach a stranger is always a bit intense. From the initial decision all the way up until a direct introduction, because you can never really predict how they are going to react to what you have to say along with having their photo taken from a complete stranger. Fortunately after a brief introduction explaining who I was, what I was doing, and why I  wanted to take their photograph, Billy and Shawn were more than happy to have their portrait Taken.

Shawn is 33 years old and installs hardwood flooring. He was born and raised in Calgary and soon plans to head to BC soon to pursue Eco-tourism along with bush aviation.

Billy is from Zimbabwe, lived in London for 5 years, and then moved to Calgary in 1994. He installs hard wood flooring along side Shawn.

Photographing the two of them was very different. Shawn was very straight faced yet very approachable, calm, and very easy to talk to. Billy was all smiles and laughed quite often.

 

Shawn

 

 

Billy

Billy