You ever get that feeling, you know the one, things start to slip and you just can’t be bothered. How long does it last for you? minutes, hours, days, weeks? Have you forgotten how long it has been since you cared? Does it feel like you’re living in your own personal groundhog day, the day may be different but you feel the same. Leave a comment, send an e-mail, dispatch a carrier pigeon or maybe a telegram. I’m curious and want to know what daily life is like for you out there.
Now I don’t want you to think that I don’t care, if I didn’t, well I wouldn’t have spent the time and energy to write this and attempt to share and engage with you strangers, lovers, friends, and family out there in the ether. That doesn’t mean I don’t struggle and that is where these questions come from. Talking with friends and even some random people, there has been a noticeable commonality that these feelings are abundant with many people, however not often discussed. Now I understand that I’ve spent a great deal of my life ignoring, hiding, masking or lying about feelings and thoughts out of fear of the reaction to them. Fast approaching 4 decades of this dance I’m feeling exhausted so fuck the draining banality of pretending and let’s get real.
Someone who I would like to call a friend but if I’m being honest is really more of an acquaintance, a guy I look up to personally and professionally, has been exercising his own brand of blunt honesty. I won’t say it has inspired me cause I kind of loathe that term in a similar vein to “Live, Laugh, Love” ugh, but I’d say it has encouraged me to do something similar. It feels scary sometimes to lay it down and give the raw untapped truth instead of the filtered safe for public consumption version. Anyways this new direction of bluntness has been curious and a few of the adventures it has taken me on have really surprised me.
Recently I was being reviewed at work and when posed with a negative about myself instead of making up some kind of bullshit like I’ve done in the past to make myself not look as bad, I tried blunt honesty and well it surprised the shit out of me. Midway while explaining to my boss the reason for this negative feedback my mind starts talking back to me like “Good job asshole, the next time we meet with him it’ll be with HR and that’ll just be great won’t it.” Thankfully it didn’t, which I have to give credit to having the privilege to work with a true leader who does his best to make sure I am enabled to do my best. I left that meeting thinking holy shit a. I still have a job and b. it felt really good to share what was really happening and be supported.
This exercise of brutal honesty has also extended into my personal life and it has been really interesting. In the last 6 months, I started a new relationship that has tested my personal boundaries and has helped me grow in ways that I never thought about previously. This is the first time I’ve been in a polyamorous relationship and it has been one hell of an experience, I am grateful for my partner and for the richness of our time together and what that time has taught me. The most important lesson learned is being completely open and honest about everything, the good, the bad, the embarrassing and the shameful. It has been mind-blowing to experience love and appreciation from someone at this level, for just being me.
It’s humbling to think about all of these really great feelings and people in my world that I am deeply grateful for and appreciate with every part of me and its fucked up that I still wake up some days, a lot of days with this apathy so deep I don’t know where it even began. Does it matter to know the genesis of this void, by wondering about it am I feeding into it and giving it relevance? How do you deal with it? do you deal with it at all? is this what drugs are for? are all adults like this? I am truly curious and would love to talk with anyone about this, hit me up on the intarwebs or if you’re in Toronto we can go for a coffee some time, hell I work across Canada and sometimes travel down to the states so we can schedule some time to drink some kind of beverage, breathe the same air and talk about life and shit. I know I’m not alone and I want you to know you’re not either.
I signed up for Instagram May 22, 2011, and in almost 8 years I’ve shared over 5000 photos (fun fact, it takes almost 3 minutes of constant scrolling to get through 5000 photos) that are viewed by countless people around the world and somehow captivated 1200 some people to follow me and it totally blows my mind. The first time I opened the app I had no idea how much this platform would change my life.
My life in 2011 was very different, I was getting married, worked for the government, had a nice little house in northern BC with a big yard for our dogs to rip around. All in all, it was a pretty mellow life. I had been issued the newfangled iPhone 4 at work and was going through withdrawal from my BlackBerry and learning this brave new world of apps. Some work peeps were talking about this funky app called Instagram and it was apparently a neat way to share photos of your life, the food you eat, the places you go and whatever random things you felt like people needed to see. There was also filters, oh so many (well like 10) but they made your shitty camera phone pictures look all artistic an shit. So I signed up for the grams, it was still pretty fresh, not even a year old yet and I started posting all the things. My first post was a photo of my (ex)wife’s brother and nana, from there it was posts of our dogs, food we cooked at home or dinners we had out, friends we would visit with and places we went on vacation.
It’s kind of crazy to look back now and see how much of a fixture Instagram grew to become, slowly ingraining itself into my world. It was there when we got married and then spent the weekend in Tofino with friends. The time we went to South Korea, whenever we found WiFi we would update the world with our exploits. When we took our honeymoon and drove down to California and spent a week in NorCal and a week in SoCal, our exploits were on the grams. I tried to curate my feed a couple of years ago and realized that it was a stupid and futile thing to attempt but also that it was more than just pictures. It’s a living journal of who I was, who I am and potentially a magic 8 ball into who I may become and I felt it was better left alone.
Social Media is a polarizing topic, its a mixed bag of negative and positive experiences, feedback and strong opinions. For the most part, I can’t say I am a huge fan of social media, I participate because it is part of the societal construct I live in. That being said, If Facebook, Twitter and whatever else all disappeared tomorrow I wouldn’t be terribly bothered. But if something were to happen to the grams, I would probably be pretty distraught. It isn’t because I am codependent on it, or addicted to the likes (however appreciation is nice) but so many of the good things that have happened in my life as of late are a direct result of being part of the Instagram Ecosystem. It surprises many people when I mention this to them and when I ask why the common response is well its full of fake negative bullshit, why would you waste your time on there. I will agree that there may be a lot of fakery of people living their best lives when the reality could be very different and some people may buy into the lie and then feel awful that their lives pale in comparison. But the thing that stands out in my mind with that is choice! We all choose the experience we have on Instagram, or any other social media platform really. We choose the people to follow and like and adore and idolize. The platform doesn’t force false idols down your throat or makes you feel bad about yourself, the choices you have made to curate your experience have. Today I feel that I have curated an experience on the grams that makes me feel good and allows me to contribute good to people in the community, but it wasn’t always like that for me.
Before I really understood what Instagram could do for me I had curated a toxic experience, for myself and my partner at the time. There is so much content all over IG that you can find literally anything on there. I was following famous people, friends, artists that I found interesting, people that modified cars, some photography stuff, bands, and models. It all seemed innocent enough but I fell prey to the negativity that people talk to me about today, the lives of these people that I would see on there would make me feel crummy about mine. Insecure feelings of jealousy, envy and not being good enough or skinny enough or beautiful were common for me and the things I would follow and like exposed my partner to bad feelings too. We would sometimes get into arguments about the things I would like or follow, at the time I didn’t understand why she got upset but hindsight is 20/20.
It’s 2019 and I am living on the other side of the country in a place that is still fairly alien to me. I am separated, paying a mortgage on a house I don’t live in, rent in one of the most expensive cities in Canada and tending to a multitude of other things resulting from poor life choices. I am grateful to have a decent job that affords me the ability to keep up with my responsibilities and still live a little. This is something I have been making more of a conscious effort to do, the last few years have been pretty crazy and very dark at times. In doing my best to be responsible, I had forgotten to take care of myself. I struggle with mental illness, I’ve written a little about it and I’m sure there will be more words I’ll share on the topic. I was so focused on trying to work through things and putting off living until after I had cleared my plate of issues. Life is short though, we only have so much time and we don’t even really know how much time we have to begin with and there are always going to be new hurdles to deal with so something had to give.
Photography and I lost our way for quite some time, I still dabbled but I never took it as seriously as I used to. Instagram was a way to dip my toes back into it without committing fully. When I first arrived in Toronto I wasn’t sure how to connect with this city and I’m still trying to figure it out today. I decided that maybe photography would be a good idea and picked up a used Nikon D300, I still had some glass from my old busted ass Nikon D70 so I just needed a new body. Now my Instagram feed was flooding with random things I’d see while trucking around Toronto trying to get to know it. A few months into rekindling my relationship with photography shit got serious, I started shooting film and fell in love with it. Toronto is a dangerous place for a film nerd because there is an amazing used market here and I started acquiring gear I had always dreamed of but figured I would never be able to afford. I got deep into Polaroid, then 35mm and 120mm and eventually medium format.
Along the way a Bronica SQ-Ai medium format camera landed in my hands and I was in love if you have never experienced one before it is something you need to feel just once even. There is something really magical about the way that the camera feels to hold, to focus and then the shutter noise is like nothing else out there. My Bronica and I started exploring the city and capturing photos of all the random convenience stores that are littered all over Toronto. I had a loose idea what I’d do with these photos, which is more than I can say for the bulk I shoot. My good pal Koehn and I were playing with the idea of making a book. In late 2017 I got a random e-mail from a rad lady who had found me on the grams and wanted me to do a showing in her space and offered to do a book release party for me so the book idea became a reality and in a way, it was because of Instagram. I wrote a lil post on it that you can find here if you’re curious.
I was up late one night in early 2018 and saw that Jason Lee was going to be hosting an event at the Leica store in Boston that April. Jason’s work has been very inspiring to me and is one of the reasons why I made the transition to shoot film. It was a two-day thing, day one a book signing which included a copy of his latest book A PLAINVIEW which I was eyeing up anyways and day two was a small group workshop with him and a photo walk around Boston. It wasn’t crazy expensive for the two days but it was enough that I fought with myself over signing up for it or not. Seating was limited and also there’s that whole never meet your hero’s thing. I could put that money towards debt or whatever, what if he was a jerk and it ruined how I felt about his work. With a heavy feeling in my stomach, I committed and spent money I felt I should not be spending on myself and went to bed. Looking back it is so stupid that I felt like shit spending money on myself, like what the hell man, what is so wrong with investing in yourself. Anyways the day came and I flew down to Boston, it was my second time in the city but the first time I’d actually get to explore it. It was rainy and I got lost really fucking bad, like ended up way on the other side of town from where I was supposed to be bad. But a couple of trains and an Uber later I made it to my Airbnb, the host was awesome, she picked me up at the train station because she felt bad for the mixup. If you ever go to Boston, don’t drive, its a nightmare, buy yourself a 7-day transit pass at the station near the terminal and just rock the transit.
That weekend in Boston transformed my life, I met so many great people, random people, people I will never meet again but that I will never forget the moments we shared. I was able to photograph some of them (which will help me remember when my brainmeat starts failing) Jason wasn’t a jerk, he’s probably one of the nicest people I’ve met so far and it was something else to be able to share some time with him and learn from him. I felt alive, walking around in a new city, breathing new air, seeing new things, eating at new places, holy shit why don’t I do this more often. I met this dude Armand during the weekend, he was traveling with Jason and runs the Denton Camera Exchange in Denton Texas. While we were hanging out we learned we’re both into Instant Film and he told me about this Polaroid event that happens in Denton/Dallas every year called Polacon that is run by The Instant Film Society.
Fast forward to September 2018 and I’m on my way to Dallas Texas to check out this Polacon thing. Similar to my experience in Boston I ended up meeting so many great people and fell in love with the Dallas Fort Worth area, I didn’t really want to come back, the light there was so beautiful. The weekend was filled with workshops and photo walks and I learned a lot of cool stuff and made some really important connections. I learned a lot about myself from these experiences and they would have never happened if I had not been on Instagram and saw these events and met the different amazing people I’ve met.
I’ve rambled a lot and I’m pretty sure I lost the direction to the original point I had intended to make. TLDR: Instagram is a tool, like anything else. It can be used for good and bad, it’s easy to focus on the bad but the good if you can find it is truly amazing. I have made some seriously awesome friendships and have had really rad adventures because of Instagram. I’m sorry I didn’t mention all of the awesome people here but you know who you are. Life is about choices, we get to choose the direction we go on the paths that life puts in front of us. Try not to get stuck on a false path that looks too good to be true, don’t live in a screen forever, use the tool, make real connections. Choose life.
I first met Chris in the early naughts in the always fresh smelling city of Kamloops nestled in the Interior of British Columbia. Previously famous for its distinctive smokestack belching poo smells enjoyable for kilometers around, now better known as the Tournament Capital of Canada (pretty sure they made that up but it’s better than the smokestack so let’s allow it eh.). Back in the day one of the largest employers in the city was this joint called Convergys, I say joint cause it felt like a prison at times but we got a paycheck so I mean we had that going for us right. It was one of the first jobs that I had an ID badge for, the picture was awful; on the advice of a hairdresser who I thought was a friend my hair was this bleached orangeish poofy curly mushroom abortion with a pretty intense undercut. Not my greatest ID photo but not my worst, that award goes to my Costco card where I look like a rabbi, Grizzly Adams and the Unabomber had a baby and that baby was me. That wonderful ID card allowed me entry to the building, and to gain that entry we had to brave the Horton door. The Horton door was a mean motherfucker, legit! It had broken arms and legs, sprained wrists and trapped dumb assholes that tried to sneak in on someone else’s swipe preventing the rest of us from getting back to our cells, I mean cubes. I fucking hated that door, but it was appropriate for the place it protected; as it crushed our body parts the rest of the building crushed our souls.
Convergys wasn’t my first grown-up job, maybe my 3rd, yeah third for sure, the others were interesting and maybe post worthy one day. For the readers out there who have not heard of Convergys it is a call center for hire that had placed call centers all around the globe (for flat-earthers, the world is round, that’s why we say globe, its not fake news) and in the early 2000’s work was cheap and plentiful in Canada, we were like the Philippines of North America when it came to call centers. There were a few contracts running inside, the first was Amex and I knew a few people that worked the phones there. Being a nerd the credit card hustle wasn’t in the mix for me, I ended up on the technical contracts. The first contract I was assigned to was HP All in One (AIO) Printers, nothing lasts forever and HP decided to unplug and move to India (because more cost-effective) first they moved the Pavilion team which increased our call volume because, ahem, the agents that customers reached on the new Pavilion teams were not to their liking. So they would hang up and call back and try to get a hold of someone they could “understand” which some wound up in our queue and when we said we were unable to help them with their Pavilion computer because we were the printer teams we were met with cries for help because finally, they reached someone they could “understand”. When HP pulled the plug on AIO there was no love lost, I was done with printers and the customers calling in and abusing us because they couldn’t be bothered to read or comprehend simple instructions.
Meep Meep, have you heard? the bird is the word. Enter Time Warner Roadrunner Broadband Cable, its a mouthful and we had to spit it out every time we answered the phone. Thank you for calling Time Warner Roadrunner Broadband Cable, can I have your phone number, please. As they dismantled the HP machine inside of the building, some of us were retained to join this elite group of agents to work on this new-fangled internet contract. This is where I met him for the first time. Medium build, kinda grumpy, a beard that would make Bob Villa emotional and a firm grasp of the english language. This man among men was called Chris and I wasn’t sure how I felt about him. I would see him around the call center, but eventually, we crossed paths at LAN parties. For the younger readers out there back in the day, before Steam. If we wanted to play video games with our friends we would have to drag our computers to each other’s houses. This was in a time when LCD screens were for super-rich dicks, we would lug fucking CRT monitors around man. That’s how serious gaming was back then and it was AWESOME! These LAN parties were ridiculous, maybe we need to bring them back, cause back in the day we all had to meet face to face and chill with each other instead of sitting alone in our quiet places and “connect”. We would game often because we were nerds and it was fun, and I’d see Chris out at these events. It wasn’t until he hosted one at his house that I was like whoa this dude is tits. He had this rad video setup and he would make all of these cool videos and had Mini DV cameras, we were adults but he was an adultier adult. I can’t remember exactly how we became friends but it happened and sweet baby jesus I’m glad it did cause he’s been one of my raddest friends to date.
Outside of the call center Chris and I would go on stupid adventures and record dumb videos, I’ll attach one down below so you can see the garbage we made before YouTube was a thing. Chris was like Casey Niestat before you could be a YouTube superstar. I wish I had some of the videos he made to share with you. We used to have to make our own servers to host these shitty videos we would make so we could share them with the world. He was also working his ass off to become a Journalist, something that would take him away from Kamloops and move him down to the lower mainland to chase his ambitions of working in the news industry. I also ended up moving to the lower mainland and so the bromance continued to grow. We ended up living not too far away from each other, a couple minute drive. Almost right in between us was a Dairy Queen in Burquitlam Plaza. This is where we would meet, team fat kid; we would gorge down Blizzards and bitch like grumpy old men. Chris had become a Journalist and in his journey to making it, he had moved to different places in British Columbia. We couldn’t meet in the plaza anymore but we stayed in touch over email, phone, and the interwebs. He had always had a family with like a million kids, that dude fucks! he’s like a baby making machine. I had also gotten into a long-term relationship and was still living in Vancouver while Chris was living on the Islands off the coast of BC. I hadn’t heard from Chris for a while and it concerned me and that’s when I got some crazy news. He had a brain aneurysm while having breakfast with his wife, he told her something was wrong and face planted into his cereal. They were not on the main island and he had to take two ferries to get him to the hospital, the doctors told her that she made it just in time and they were able to save him.
It had been quite some time since I had last seen Chris, my partner and I met up at a White Spot on the island. You could still see the scar on the side of his head where the doctors had to do their magic to save him. He had to relearn a ton of things but I was stoked to see him, he was adjusting to his new lease on life. Over the next few years he moved around and I moved around. We’d stay in touch and sometimes catch up when we were both in the same city. He and his family ended up in Edmonton and I was living with my partner back in Kamloops. I would see him a more often now sometimes a couple times a year when he was coming thru town. We would catch up, go grab some food it was always nice to see him. As time passed my life changed, my partner and I separated and I was about to embark on a new chapter in a very different place.
I’ve spent the bulk of my life in Western Canada, an opportunity at work came up to relocate out east to Toronto. My life was complicated and something new seemed like it would be helpful. I had decided that I was going to drive to Toronto, so I had a hitch installed on my Volvo station wagon to prepare for my journey. I had this workshop in Kamloops that I needed to clean out and I had borrowed a trailer to move some things around. I had made a facebook post of me failing at rocking a trailer and captioned it “getting ready for Toronto” or some crap like that. I get a message from Chris being like “Dude are you moving to Toronto?!?” and I said yes. Turns out he was planning a trip out to Toronto for some work and asked if he could catch a ride with me. I took a look at google maps and the detour to pick him up only added like 200km to the over 4000km trek I was looking at so I said fuck it man why not. The big day came and I hit the road from Kamloops to Edmonton to pick up my co-pilot. Spent the night at his place in Edmonton and moderately early in the morning, we embarked on our quasi-cross country adventure.
I have to admit that I am glad Chris came with me on this journey, if I had done it by myself as originally planned I think I would have legit gone insane. By the end of the journey, we had both gotten a little squirrely. We made the trek in three and a half days, looking back I wish we had more time and I wish I was more into photography on that trip cause there could have been some epic shots. Alberta was pretty mellow, we both were fairly familiar with driving around that province so there wasn’t really any surprises. Saskatchewan was unsurprisingly flat and boring, and windy. Manitoba pretty much like Saskatchewan, driving the prairies though made me wonder if my car was broken because my fuel mileage was mental. I had never seen my car chew thru so much gas before but I guess with driving into the wind hauling a massive box behind me wasn’t going to do my fuel economy any favors. We found some silly towns to take pictures in along the way, listened to garbage music and made up stupid things. Then we hit Ontario, we had to stop in Kenora to pay respects to Bob and Doug. Driving along Lake Superior was kind of amazing, god damn is that lake huge. Chris took some lovely shots of me and my U-Haul trailer and we made our way deeper into Ontario. We ended up having to spend the night in Wawa because I’m a stubborn ass and everything closes early in Wawa except for Tim Hortons and the sketchy ass motel we checked into. Back on the road bright and early we headed east for Toronto, well actually Brampton cause that’s where I stayed for the first month I was here. I dropped Chris off to be picked up by a friend near Orangeville and made my way solo to my uncle’s house. I’m grateful that Chris was able to go on this adventure with me, it was an amazing trip and we had a great time. It also kind of stoked our friendship a bit, we started talking more often after the trip and that was great.
As I settled into Toronto I reconnected with photography. It was something I really enjoyed when I was younger and back when Chris and I were first hanging out. I realized pretty quickly that I suck with video but I’m good with photos, so he was the video guy and I took pictures. The lens helped me connect to Toronto and try to find places I could be comfortable in. Chris was stoked about this cause for ages he has been on my ass about getting back into being creative again. I started with a Nikon D300 that I bought off Kijiji and the old kit lens from my D70 that had died years ago. I was shooting mostly graffiti and stickers or random things I’d see in Kensington Market and Chinatown. By some random events, I had ended up with a Bronica medium format camera and started shooting a bunch of film. One of the things that stuck out to me here from the west is all of the random bodega style convenience stores that are all over Toronto. I started to shoot them as I would drive around exploring the city, I wasn’t sure what I would do with the photos but it was fun to take them. In random conversations with Chris we came up with this idea for a book, we kept talking about it but it never went anywhere.
I got this email from a place called Queens shop asking if I would be interested in hanging some of my work there. I met with the owner and checked out the space and while we got to talking about what work we could hang I mentioned the book idea Chris and I had been mulling about. The owner was like “Great! we can have a book release when we do your show opening.” I agreed and then while walking to my car muttered to myself “fuck me, now I need to make a book” mild panic ensued and I called Chris to tell him the news. We laughed about it, dumb luck, I have it by the bushel man. So we went to work and created something I had never imagined I would be part of. When the first shipment came in my mind was blown, it was beautiful, we had made something tangible that captured a moment of time. There are a few more book ideas in the hopper that we are working on so watch out, the Edge Lordz will ride again.
Long story short, Koehn is one of my best friends and one of my favorite people in the world. We’ve had times where we didn’t talk for months or years but whenever we would hang out it was like no time had passed. I sincerely hope that you have a Koehn in your world. I feel blessed to have one in mine, thanks for reading my story about my pal Chris.