10 Years of Cassandra Pages

The noise in the blogosphere has long surpassed the signal, which may explain the decline in relevance of the “personal blog.” Where once the platform was largely about personal writing and exploration, blogging now is a vehicle for competitive foodieism, personal branding, and all forms of marketing.

This shift was inevitable, so there’s no point in complaining about it. Fortunately, many personal blogs still soldier on, including this one (although in my case “limp” would be a better choice of verb). Some toil in obscurity, others attract a bit of attention by issuing screeds and rants. And then there’s The Cassandra Pages, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last week.

The Cassandra Pages is written by Beth Adams, who I’ve been privileged to know as a friend for much of that ten years. Martine and I met Beth when she and her husband Jon showed up at a YULBlog meeting some time around 2004. (It might have been 2003, or even 2005; I have a terrible sense of time past, a gift I inherited from my father.) She and Jon were engaged in a very slow process of moving to Montreal from their home in Vermont where they’d lived together for 30 years. I was attracted to them immediately, partially because their story was so different from the others at YULBlog, but mostly because of their genuine warmth, intelligence, and curiosity.

Since then I have had the triple pleasure of knowing them as friends, seeing Jon’s photographs, and reading Beth’s blog. Don’t go there for rants or shopping advice. Turn away if you’re only interested in tech noise or social platitudes. The Cassandra Pages is a ten year (and onward) personal writing space for Beth’s experimentation and expression, and for your reading pleasure. It strikes that rare note of being a personal blog – based on a life being lived and the observations made along the way – while remaining approachable and relevant to anyone who cares to read it. As with all good memoir writing, it never comes off as being “all about me.” Rather, it’s about us; the “we” that forms when a writer connects with her readers, and readers see truth and thoughtful inquiry in a writer’s impressions.

Congratulations Beth, on 10 years of The Cassandra Pages!


The Blork Blog turns twelve years old today. Loyal readers will have noticed that I post a lot less than I used to back in the glory days, but this sucker still has a pulse.  There are 65 half-written (and for the most part, no longer  relevant) unpublished “drafts” mouldering away in here, plus another dozen or so sketches of  posts in my various virtual scratch pads. But for reasons that likely don’t need explaining I have trouble drumming up the enthusiasm to see them through.

Perhaps this will change in 2013, or perhaps not. Personal blogs are largely irrelevant these days, with Twitter taking care of linkage and brain farts, and the dreadful Facebook taking care of pretty much everything else. But as you know, the pendulum swings in both directions, so perhaps there will be a resurgence of relevance, or at least interest, or maybe I’ll get inspired to completely change the direction of this space.

I’ll most definitely post my last-year’s reading list some time in January, as that’s been a tradition since 2003. After that, we’ll see.

In the meantime, here’s a picture of my cat:

The Mini doesn’t like the direction this blog is taking.

This is Blork (This is not Blork)

To be precise, this is the Blork Blog, part of the Blork Network. It is not, and has nothing to do with, the new whatchamacallit thingy that Dave Winer has created and calls “Blork.” If you’re looking for Dave Winer’s Blork, start here.

But if it’s the Blork that’s been around since 2000 you’re looking for, you’ve found it. Whereas the Blork Network used to revolve around this, the Blork Blog, lately it’s been all about the photos and the tweets. (I might get back to more regular blog posting, but I make no promises.) And just in case you haven’t been following, cornerstones of the Blork Network are:

Less vital aspects of the Blork Network include:

Pretty much dormant corners of the Blork Network include:

  • My DP1 (a blog about the once mysterious and enigmatic DP1 digital camera).
  • From the Hip — Montreal (Street photography blog that set the stage for Street Scene).
  • Blork even appears on MySpace and Facebook, but hey, those aren’t worth the extra couple of bytes to make the links.

Because you can never have too much (original) Blork.

Street Scene: Montreal and Beyond

It’s 2011, so the natural thing to do is launch a new photo blog! Announcing Street Scene: Montreal and Beyond, a new street photography blog from yours truly.

I know you’re all just boiling over with questions, so I have put together this handy FAQ to handle all your WTFs.

Street Scene FAQ

Q: Where are all the faces?

A: Street Scene grows out of an earlier experiment called From the Hip – Montreal, which was an exercise in street photography that purposely excluded people’s faces from the images. The reason for doing so is based in Aubry vs. Editions Vice Versa, a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that essentially makes it illegal to photograph people in Quebec without their permission. You can read a bit more about that on From the Hip‘s About page.

Street Scene re-uses many of the images from From the Hip – Montreal but removes the prohibition against visible faces. (I do this at my own risk.)

Q: Yeah, but where are all the faces?

A: Even though Street Scene is free of the “no faces” rule, that doesn’t mean it will be all about faces. Typically, the subject of street photography is people, and the context is their urban environment. Street Scene flips that. The subject of Street Scene is the urban environment, and the context is the people within it.

Q: So are you going to start shoving your camera in people’s faces?

A: Hardly. My predominant technique will still be “clandestine” and from the hip. But I’m not going to worry about including faces, and when the situation calls for it I’ll be as forward and unclandestine as any other street photographer.

Q: Why are some of the pictures blurry?

A: Street Scene is my personal view of the urban environment and the people in it. Sometimes that view is fuzzy, such as when the photograph is taken at night, in low light. This is not some exercise in image clarity or pixel peeping. This is a personal, subjective, and sometimes fuzzy view that I hope some people will find familiar, startling, or evocative.

Q: How often will you post photos?

A: At launch time (January 2011) I have several dozen images that I want to post, and will do so over the following months. After that I’ll post ’em as I make ’em. Bear in mind that my “from the hip” technique has a very high failure rate, and I’m not prolific in the conventional style. Weeks may pass without an update. And in winter this will be a virtual dead zone, as I don’t walk around with my camera in my un-gloved hands when it’s -20.

Q: Are you the only person doing this?

A: Not at all. There are many active street photographers, including some who shoot from the hip, such as Joe Wigfall (Flickr photostream, YouTube interview about shooting from the hip). Other personal favorites include Magnus Fröderberg (Sweden) and Alex Coghe (Rome/Mexico).

Q: How long will it take before you cash in?

A: HA HA HA HA!!! In the entire history of photography, the number of people who have “cashed in” on street photography can be counted on one hand. A few more than that have found a bit of fame (primarily in the “golden age” of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s), but hardly anyone has made any appreciable money at it. Street photography – especially in the digital age – is something you do entirely for artistic and expressive reasons, and for fun. There ain’t no money in it.

Q: OMG where’s the HDR?

A: Shut the fuck up and read this.

Q: Who are your main influences in photography?

A: The long list is endless and is based more on individual images than the photographers behind them. But there is a short list, and all of the people on it are from well before the digital age. The short list includes:

Sharp observers will notice that not all of these artists are street photographers. In fact, a bunch of them are from the New Topographics landscape photography movement of the 1970s. The New Topographics did and does have a strong influence on how I think about photography, as do those photojournalists and street photographers.

As you might imagine, you could hardly find two more disparate styles in photography than New Topographics and street photography. That’s a bit like combining Strauss waltzes and death metal, or rococco painting with abstract expressionism. But that’s what moves me so that’s what I’m stuck with. I’m formally a mess, but hopefully some of the photos on Street Scene will make a bit of sense anyway.

For a peek at a few of my New Topographics inspired images that are not at all “streety,” check out the Monday Morning Photo Blog, under the tag “new-topographics.”