This is not a portfolio for Leif Norman (photographer)

This is a public library of Winnipeg images for the benefit of society in general (and Winnipeg specifically)

That sounds pompous, but I think photography has an important role to play in culture.

Winnipeg’s Exchange District

As a photographer who is interested in events and arts and people (and everything), I finally figured out there was something missing in the job description of photographer.

A photographer can be described in many ways and there are just as many people who fit these definitions.

A photographer is someone who:

  • owns a lot of expensive photographic equipment
  • goes to places near and far and takes pictures of the people and things that are found there
  • makes a bunch of money from images
  • somehow gets into exclusive places and near exclusive people and brings back mind blowing exclusive pictures
  • is really good at Photoshop
  • waits until the precise moment to capture the picture
  • makes records of things for future generations to see
  • is a myth maker and a poet who makes something out of nothing; a true creator of new visions
  • is a cool person you would like to hang around with in hopes their charisma and hipsterisms will rub off on you

I’m sure we can all think of some people who could fit into one or all of these points.

I personally like the last three the best.

Susan Sontag in “On Photography” (p. 64) wrote something which really stuck with me:

“The Photographer both loots and preserves, denounces and consecrates.”

Good Quote. At the same time the shutter is clicking on a starlet, a block of old buildings, or the first kiss at a wedding, the moment is disturbed and preserved. The photographer is not properly engaged in the environment, and floats above it, watching. But the positive side of that moment is the preservation. The married couple can look back on the photo and be emotionally fulfilled. The one person at the party who isn’t dancing is the photographer, but the work will live on much longer than the song.

This only sunk in after years of taking pictures. Eventually I looked back at all those pages of negs and saw buildings and people and moments that were gone. And then I realized that photography is an endeavour that is fixed in the future. The photos are for our grandchildren, and the grandchildren of people we may never meet. The photos are a record of what has been and what has been lost, preserved in mute images. That is the true power of a camera. To see a photo of Paris in 1876. To see Albert Einstein stick out his tongue at you. To see stonehenge or the pyramids without ever having left Canada. To once again see the face of an old friend who died suddenly. We take pictures of now so the future can see into the past. It’s all quite metaphorical and philosophical but I think that it is a very powerful tool that should not be squandered.

And then another realization sunk in;

It is not good enough to just capture the image for posterity; you then have to share it and make it available to all.

If the internet did not exist then I suppose I would be trying to get the images out to people in magazines or pamphlets.

Lucky for me the internet and digital photography matured at about the same time.

So this blog slash website thingy is an image bank for all of the cultural things in Winnipeg and beyond, if I can get there.

Once upon a time I wanted to be a teacher, and I did actually teach chemistry in High School and University for a while. Philosophically there are some similarities between what this blog is trying to do with photography and what a teacher does. A teacher has two important aspects. A collection of good knowledge about a particular topic. Obviously they need something to teach! And the second thing is communication. They have to have a bit of charisma and story telling skills and the fortitude to get the message across to a bunch of people who might not want to listen. Those two points are also in play here at LeifNorman.net. I think I have something to share with everyone, and this blog is the method of communication. Bam! Isn’t philosophy awesome?!

I get paid actual money to cover festivals and symposiums and dance shows and that’s great. But it’s not so great when all those photos I take end up sitting on a disc in a drawer and nobody sees them. The client obviously uses some of the photos they paid for, but those posters, pamphlets, web pages and annual reports eventually get put away and refreshed and then inevitably lost in a dusty box somewhere, never to be seen again.

This website is the place where those images can be found and seen; long into the future I hope.

I am referred to by many festivals as the “Official Photographer” and like I said, they give me some money to be one.

Winnipeg Stadium Construction 2011

But who is the official photographer for the city?

Who pays attention to all the little things and the long views of people and places?  The news and magazine media doesn’t care about until it burns down or dies or explodes.

Did anyone take proper photos of the old Eaton’s building before they tore it down? I don’t think so. I missed the opportunity to preserve it in images and have regretted it ever since.

Newspapers and magazines don’t do a good job of making records of times and places. You will only see one picture of a happening, if at all, and then they get bored and forget about it and move on. And could you easily find a photo they have from an event ten years ago? Probably not.

So I assigned myself the job of city cultural photographer and record keeper. The post was empty. It seemed no one was interested in doing it.

And now that I look around more carefully I can see a few diligent, brave and energetic souls all working on the same idea I had.

Brian Scott of http://www.winnipeglovehate.com/ has a fantastic photo blog about Winnipeg. Check it out. He is definitely doing the job.

Sarah Zaharia is writing about culture in Winnipeg; ballet, food, night clubs etc… http://www.sarahzaharia.com/

http://riseandsprawl.tumblr.com/ Robert Galston collects and commentates about images of Winnipeg past and present.

http://westenddumplings.blogspot.com/ is also keeping track of the story.

…and in Brandon, which is only one third of the way to Regina from Winnipeg, Colin Corneau is kicking some street photo butt: http://www.reservedatalltimes.com/

(do you know of any others recording Winnipeg for posterity? Let me know.)

I am proud to be one of the few people in this town wearing that particular hat of “record maker and keeper” etc… We are in good company.

Even though I don’t get paid to shoot many of the people places and things that appear in LeifNorman.net I still feel I am doing an important job.

And in twenty or fifty years in the future, when we can look back at these photos of Winnipeg people and Winnipeg places, I hope you will think it was important too.

Leif photographs:

Theatre

Dance

Festivals

and Winnipeg in General

Unless there is thought behind the action,

it is just noise and haze.

 

In September 2012, a body was found under a carpark in England. It had been in that spot for a very long time and when testing was done to try and find out who it was, it became clear that it was King Richard the Third. One would have thought that something like a Royal grave is something that “somebody would have known about”, but no. The location of it had been lost for centuries, and a parking lot had even been built on it. People are careless when it comes to preserving history, even if it is somebody as important as a King.

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