People · Real LIfe

About unearthing eccentric characters

Before coming over to Canuckistan I spent a lot of time pondering what type of photos I could and should be taking while here. I didn’t want to rehash the same old photos I’d taken before – as good as they were. I wanted to take photos that would hopefully get people coming back to my blog day after day to see more – photos that would portray the core of what makes Canuckistan Canuckistan.

One friend suggested shooting abandoned petrol stations, or meals with people in an abstract, original way. My mother introduced me to the book Hunting Mister Heartbreak: A Discovery of America, where the author Jonathan Raban travels from Liverpool, England, to and through the USA in the footsteps of European immigrants. Raban paints a vivid picture of modern America by describing unique characters he comes across and befriends on his travels from New York to Alabama, from Seattle to the Florida Keys.

That sounded intriguing and exactly what I wanted to try – but with my photos more than my words. Real people doing real things. Eccentric characters at the heart of Canuckistan.

A few days after arriving in Raincouver I found out that the family I was staying with’s two sons worked in a quarry hand-chiselling rocks to be used for chimney cladding, or for fire places. The mason who overseas the construction side of things learnt all he knows about rock-work from his father, and he was in turn teaching his sons. He sounded like the perfect person with whom to kick off my series.

“Call him and tell him I’m looking for eccentric characters to shoot,” I told one of the boys, which he did immediately.

Well, it turns out he wasn’t very impressed with being called “eccentric” and suggested I maybe change my “pitch” before trying to shoot anyone else. But the next (typically cold and misty) morning we drove out to the quarry to do a quick shoot of them chiselling what they call in the industry “veneer”. Their operation is rudimentary, the work is hard, but the end product (which I didn’t unfortunately get to shoot) is pretty impressive.

What it starts out as.
What it starts out as.
The operation.
Tools of the trade.
Tools of the trade.
More tools.
More tools.
The gloves take a beating.
The gloves take a beating.
The dog.
The dog.

So, the way it works is, they pick a rock, chisel it on one side, turn it over and chisel again – all the way around. If all goes according to plan, with a careful, final hammer blow, it will break into a perfect half-inch to one-inch thick piece of “veneer”.

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And here is the crew – none of whom are eccentric in the least!

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