Saturday, September 26, 2009

Graffiti in downtown Vancouver (part 2)

It seems that, as Vancouver prepares for the 2010 Olympics in February, there is a concerted effort to clean up the downtown area. Every week we hear of both rumours and concrete plans for 'looking after' the homeless in our city, some of whom are locals and some immigrants from other, colder parts of Canada.

I was surprised, however, to see how difficult it is becoming to find graffiti in Vancouver. Some alleys have allowed spray paint artists freedom to depict things of their choice in what we might call the International Style. There is also ample evidence of taggers (graffitists who only paint their practiced and uniform 'signatures') here and there, particularly on telephone poles, which apparently are not the responsibility of the store owners. But more often than not, there are many neat newly-painted squares on walls and doors, squares whose paint which is similar in colour but does really blend in perfectly with the rest. Each of these thousands of squares covers graffiti, testifying to the industry and determination of store owners and civic-minded citizens to stamp out graffiti. Consequently, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find interesting graffiti to photograph.

But happily, Jesse and I managed to find some today. Under his tutelage, I have become interested primarily in sites which have layers of paint, either tag upon tag, or spray paint art by domesticated graffitists partially covered by the more spontaneous strokes of a hurried tagger working late at night. Today, I was particularly interested in taking closeup shots showing drops of paint superimposed on other paint.

I will begin with a doorway which faces an alley in the downtown east side. This exhibits both the squares of paint attempting to cover graffiti and, since the store owners did not act sufficiently promptly, there is also new graffiti, especially tagging. Thereafter, these pictures will usually include closeups of layered graffiti and some rather neatly-fashioned tags on bricks (a new interest of mine). Except for the initial shot, each photograph was taken with the 100mm macro lens, using a tripod. For additional photographs, please see my initial posting on Graffiti in downtown Vancouver.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Gathering September Storm over Vancouver's English Bay

The afternoon of September 19th was enlivened by an approaching storm, fairly high winds (which soon dissipated), and dramatic cloud formations. I shot until blowing rain forced me to retreat to the car. These pictures were taken either along Cornwall or from Jericho Beach, both of which overlook English Bay, downtown Vancouver and, across the bay, North and West Vancouver. For about one minute, there was a fascinating interplay of a burst of sunlight which was highlighted by the backdrop of dark clouds.

Friday, September 18, 2009

La Bambouseraie, Anduze, The Gard District, France (The Bamboo Garden)

One wonderful stop for tourists is the Bambouseraie, about 3 kms from Anduze, and not far from Alès, in the Gard district west of Avignon and north of Montpellier. This is much more than a mere bamboo garden, for there are long paths which take you through a forest of well-established gigantic bamboo plants which tower above people like ancient oak trees. There are informative signs throughout the grounds (in French and English) explaining the growth, types and importance of bamboo throughout the world.

Growths of other types of plants are also preserved, as well as a hothouse displaying mosses and tropical plants. A tea house looks out over a garden and its stream. One path takes you through a forest of palm trees. Inventive artists have created interesting exhibits, including 1,000 dandilions which have gone to seed and are displayed on thin bamboo spikes in an airtight glass-stone structure which prevents the seeds from being disturbed. For better information and additional photographs, you can access the garden's website by clicking on "Bambouseraie" above.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Market Day in Uzès, Gard, France

There is nothing quite like market days throughout France, but they can be particularly fascinating in the smaller rural villages in the south. On the final Saturday of April, I visited Uzès in the Gard district, somewhat east of Avignon and getting into the Languedoc region. The grand market stretches for blocks in several directions, even filling covered vaulted archways as they go under or cut through medieval buildings. The foods reminded everybody that we were not far from the Mediterranean world, and the emphasis on greens and yellows recall the tastes of Provence. The market is packed with locals for miles around, and I detected conversations by a few tourists. There is plenty of free parking about a 15 minute walk from the village center. Like all such markets, it opens early and its vendors begin to pack up by 1:00. By then, restaurants and cafés appeared to be filled to capacity, so we went elsewhere for lunch.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie is a small village in the Gard district in southern France. Once known for its kilns for baking bricks from the local clay soil, it has been forced to reinvent itself. Today the village boasts some 20 ceramic shops and every Friday serves as a thriving market for local farmers, particularly those growing organic food. Thousands of tourists descend each mid July to see nearly 100 potters display their wares. As I walked the nearly deserted streets on a very quiet afternoon on the final Saturday of April, I enjoyed seeing how ceramic tile was used to decorate shops, pottery workshops, exterior store walls, the local boucherie renown for its meats, and even the center of the stone streets.