Before I went to graduate school, I worked on some odd projects in Africa and in Canada. In Africa, it was the grounds around the Palace of the Lost City in what used to be Bophuthatswana. Beth didn’t move with me to Africa, however, so I have no images to share from that time. I only have a few photos of me there, to be honest.
Beth and I hadn’t been dating long when I took the job in Montreal. This would have been after I lived in London and returned to the United States. I had found a job working on the Henry Doorly Zoo’s Lied Jungle, a massive indoor, artificial rainforest.
At the Henry Doorly Zoo, I had worked for a company that created artificial trees and rocks out of cement. Due to a unique set of skills, I moved up quickly through the ranks of the company, and they offered me a high-level position on the Biodome project after the Henry Doorly Zoo project came to a close.
I told Beth I was going to take the job. We hadn’t even been dating for half a year, I don’t think. She seemed so crushed and sad that I blurted out, “Why don’t you move to Canada with me?” She suddenly seemed so excited and happy.
I had to leave for Canada before her, to get the project started. She joined me a month, or so, later. It was good pay and the job was ok. Unfortunately, however, she wasn’t able to work in Montreal and got extremely bored after only a few months. I felt so bad that I decided to quit and return with her to the States.
I could go on and on about that time in our lives. I could share lots of stories, but the main thing I want to share is how nice those halcyon days were. We were smitten with each other and would have done anything for one another. I found a bunch of letters Beth saved from my time in Canada and Africa. It amazes me to travel back via those letters. They also remind me just how extraordinary she was.
The photo above was obviously taken during two very different seasons. The original photo, taken in the summer, was shot more than 25 years ago. I have a small handful taken the same day, and I will post more of them in the next few days.
The outer photo was taken during Thanksgiving of 2016. I purchased a ticket to Toronto, in order to visit Niagara Falls, and I had hoped to also visit Montreal, if I could. I hoped the weather would cooperate, but it did not. All I knew was I got the photo I wanted at Niagara Falls, so any photos I could get in Montreal would just be icing on the cake.
Oddly, however, in my tenacity to get the images I wanted, I didn’t let the winter weather stop me. I drove from Toronto to Montreal determined to find the location. I thought maybe the photos were taken in the Montreal Botanical Garden (Jardin botanique de Montréal), but after an afternoon walking around in the thick fog and frigid temperatures, I realized the angle was wrong. The park right next to it, the Parc Maisonneuve, turned out to be the right location.
I walked round the park, searching for the exact spot, but it was difficult to know the precise location. Luckily, the fog lifted enough for me to see the iconic spire of the Olympic Stadium, though, and even though the weather was so dramatically different, I decided to take the photos, anyway. Something was better than nothing.
To my surprise, I actually liked the results. It’s almost as if the original photo is in a picture frame, surrounded by a bright white mat, except there is enough information to complete the image.
Plus, the original image is almost idyllic, which is what our life felt like, at the time. The outer image – the wintery background – feels cold and lonely, which is how I’ve felt most of this past year.
It feels deeply symbolic to me. I almost wish I had returned after it got dark and tried some night shots where the background was cold and dark. The lights from the stadium looked amazing in the fog after the Sun set, but I was too tired to return and shoot more images.
It was a tough few days with lots of driving simply to get a handful of shots, and I was just too spent to do much more than I did.
But, I can’t tell you how happy I am that I’ve been so tenacious with the process I’ve been going through these past 16 months. These experiences and images have helped me in ways I’ll probably never really be able to articulate.