A few months ago I got an idea in my head. You see, I've never really been comfortable with photographs of myself, and have for many years avoided cameras. I decided, though, that I wanted to do something to commemorate my time as "McMurray Musings". This blog, and all that followed it, has changed my life in every way, and I wanted to remember this time not just through the written word but in photographs. So, I decided I needed to find a photographer, and see about making it happen.
I'd been on Twitter some time, and had been tweeting on occasion with someone named Jamey. Now Jamey is a photographer from Edmonton, but he has history with Fort McMurray, having lived here some years ago. He still has family here, and over time I discovered that I really liked Jamey. I was, in fact, very comfortable with him, and I had the chance to see some of his work, too. I liked what I saw, and so, when he said he was coming up north to visit, I suggested a photo shoot with me. I was delighted when he said yes.
As our discussions went on we began to talk about where to do the photo shoot. I knew I wanted a place that was significant in Fort McMurray, that sang to me of my life here and of this community. And it truly didn't take me long to settle on Heritage Park.
Heritage Park, you see, is the little place that preserves some history in this region. It is there you will find the buildings that echo the past of this place, the reminders of times long gone, and it is there you can follow the path of where we came from and how we came to be where we are now. And so it was in this place that Jamey and I met on a bright August morning, him with a camera and me with some trepidation about being photographed.
Jamey is so wonderful that I very quickly found my comfort zone, and I almost forgot about the camera. We bantered back and forth, chatting about photography and writing and creativity and our lives, and about this community, too. And while we talked we did the photographs in Heritage Park, in buildings that have come to have so much meaning for me.
I was photographed in the Hill family's old house, and I stood in the kitchen where Gladys Hill, family matriarch, would have prepared meals so long ago. I sat in the living room where they would gather around the radio to listen to news and radio shows. I walked up the stairs they would have ascended very night, and I looked out the windows they would have looked out, gazing upon a very different Fort McMurray from the one I now know. I have written about the Hill family, Walter and Gladys' son Ken in particular, and so this house has meaning for me, every wall imbued with memory.
I was photographed in the Hill family's old drug store, a place that was a fixture in this community for many years. I was photographed in the one-room school, and in the little white church, both places that have such significance for this community, places that have seen such history, and such change. And in every place, with every photograph, I was thinking about this community, my home, and my place in it. I was thinking about the past, the present, and the future.
And, in the end, as narcissistic as it may seem, that is why I did this little photo shoot. One day my time here will exist only in my memory, and I wanted some way to memorialize it. The words I have written in this blog will do that, of course, but these photos, rich with their own memory and history, will serve as a visual reminder of my time in this community, and my time touching the history of this place. And so, with some caution and the possibility of seeming self-indulgent, I share them with you. This is me, at Heritage Park in Fort McMurray, in August of 2012. This is me, touching our history, and making some of my own, too.
My thanks to Jamey M,
and to Heritage Park!
And finally, of course, this seemed absolutely necessary -
a photo of my shoes :)