Vancouver in May is flamboyant, beautiful, chaotic, energetic. A short stay punctuated with sun, beach and positive vibes.
After a shoot earlier in the year for the newly opened downtown Robert Lee YMCA, I was brought back to re-work the brand imagery for a further three of the YMCA’s family centres in Greater Vancouver. The deadline was tight (aren’t they all?). Over 5000 images shot over the last two days in time for a dozen selects, processed and ready for release tonight. Here are a few of my favourites.
What I love about shooting for the YMCA is there is such a great community vibe. Each of the centres has its own flavour & feel, and at each place the volunteers and members are more than willing to jump in and help out. Everyone featured in these photos (and for the previous RLY shoot) is someone who is part of the YMCA community in some way. There are no professional models. While this poses some problems in terms of getting advertising-ready images out of the shoot, it also lends an authentic feel to the images. I love how these turned out, and I’m looking forward to more upcoming work with the YMCA in the new year.
Last night was titled “WALK THE TALK: GREEN YOUR CITY”, with the talks centring on sustainability. What struck me is the passion of each of the speakers (well… most of them. There were a couple “huh??” moments… but overall awesome). Like watching TED talks, I’m inspired when listening to people who can’t help but put into action something they’re passionate about.
The night was full of good information and inspiration, with a packed house of 2000 at the Queen E Theatre. Besides sustainability and the surprisingly pro-economic benefits, the theme of collaborative leadership came up again and again. While the speakers were chosen as leaders in their field, it’s their ability to build strong, authentic connections that creates action & movement on their issue.
Here are some bullet points I couldn’t resist jotting down in my phone as the talks progressed:
- Inspiration leads to action
- Products are a common currency. They bring people together. What if they could be all good? (fairware.ca)
- Imagine the subjectivity of others, especially the less privileged
- Difference is a point of negotiation
- Community based around food
- “A One Planet Footprint”
- Play = activity together
- Building beyond the property line. Green buildings are stronger together, connecting the capabilities of a neighbourhood to create a net-zero unit.
- Live like you plan on staying
Overall a great night! I can’t wait for the next one…
A four-year project in the making, the Robert Lee YMCA is a great example of human-centred architectural design. Where the original 1941 building felt closed and functional, the new building is open, inviting and filled with natural light. I was invited to photographically explore the architectural spaces (designed by Vancouver companies Endall Elliot and Stantec) for a special supplement in the Vancouver Sun newspaper. You can see a few of the photos in the gallery below.
For more information on the Robert Lee YMCA, check out the latest article on the Vancouver Observer.
Recently I worked with the YMCA of Greater Vancouver to profile their new downtown membership centre. Built into the original building’s 1941 facade, the new Robert Lee YMCA is open and spacious, filled with natural light by a vast atrium that reaches up over six storeys. To capture these open spaces, I worked with the Y’s communications team on a series of images to bring to life the community feel of the new centre. The first shoot was for a special supplement in the Vancouver Sun, which you can read about here.
In the meantime, I also had the pleasure of shooting the two-day open house just prior to the centre’s May 3rd opening. I had fun capturing the energy as YMCA volunteers toured prospective members through the new facility. Click on a thumbnail below for photos of the open house (and check back soon for more about the photos in the Vancouver Sun…)
Put on by my friend Kara Pecknold, Dinner with a Side of Design is an event “to engage local leaders and designers in collaborative conversations focused around the complex themes of sustainability, culture and economics.”
During the facilitated three-course dinner, participants will be able to dialogue through conversation and visualisation in order to investigate new ways to respond to these complex topics by applying the value of design to them. The tablecloth will be a conduit to allow for idea development and exchange. The aim is to investigate how a collaborative informal approach can help a community work collectively toward a common future. By treating complexity with a measure of comradery, and using design process and thinking, we propose that new and undetected ideas can emerge.
An impression hit me tonight after a day of being out in the sun, enjoying an outdoor concert and reuniting with old friends. There is an ember in Vancouver that has begun to glow hotter as the Olympics arrive that has nothing to do with the Olympic torch. Vancouver is becoming a city that knows how to unite. For example: how, after a few hooligans disrupted an otherwise peaceful protest Saturday, the next day thousands made their way peacefully through the east side in memory of the downtown’s many missing women.
How, in the opening ceremonies, rather than celebrate a single significant athlete, five of our athletic heros – in both physical and public arenas – lit the torch together. Among them was Rick Hansen, a torch bearer for the disabled, a marginalized group given hope by his round-the-world tour.
And how, all around town, the chatter is that with the Olympics in town, Vancouver really knows how to party.
These events seem to be releasing a dormant trait in us – we have it, but have often found reasons not to exercise it (the weather, the oft-cited Canadianism of “the man” or some lack of resources). These Olympics, the varied-face-events that they are, have provide an opportunity for Vancouver to show the world one of our best and growing attributes: the will to do great things together, to have our heros, and more to be heros together for the things we believe in. Those things may be in competition (the Olympics vs. activists against their social impact for example). But in the competition we rally around the things we care about and make something happen.
So for once I think I can let my Canadian demeanour slide a bit and take a bit of pride in my city. For all the ups and downs, the villains and oppressors, we have something greater: a community that has learned how to rally around their causes.
Last night I walked outside, the air was nice – warm, clean, with a breeze. I was headed to Safeway, a block away. I picked up some fresh blueberries, some cleaning supplies and a few other things, and bought a piece of pizza for dinner on my way home. I skipped a coffee – enough to eat already.
On the walk home, I started to relax. Not the little “this is nice” relax, but the big, “I’ve found a home” relax. The people on Commercial Drive are interesting. The guy at the pizza place was intriguing – didn’t know how to use a Visa machine, probably a recent immigrant, had a fire to him that I liked. The houses are small, interesting, not cookie cutter. The streets have lots of trees and plants, and there are nice views to the mountains. People are interested in each other. People I want to get to know.
I have a cool flat, that’s “me” in the furniture, the artwork, the messiness, the order, the little tricks that make a big difference, the one-of-a-kind layout, the air, the light. I have a few people in my life whom I love, who I want to be with… and they are there for me as well.
I’ve worked the edge off a lot of the angst and anger and frustration I’ve held, me vs. them, my dependant independence and lack of emotional IQ. I’m still me, quirky and weird and not good at a lot of things… just without the edge, the neediness, the fear and anger dissipated by growing up a little bit (or maybe growing younger :)
And I have a job. One that I like, that I’m good at. Filmmaking. Photography. Storytelling.
I’ve made it.
That was the feeling. I’ve achieved all the things I really wanted to have in my life. Not like it’s a task complete and I’m moving on. More like, I’ve moved into my neighbourhood. The things I want and like and am interested in are nearby, within my reach. I can see them… some I have. I can ask for others and get them if I want or need, through a friend or my own effort.
And I can’t help but be thankful. That I’m created. That I live in Canada. That I have friends and good things. That I’ve been cared for in big and small ways.
I rarely have days like this, so I’m revelling in the enjoyment of being at peace.