Super Imposition

Port Rates: Encountering the Face

The face is, in and of itself, visitation and transcendence.
—Emmanuel Levinas

For whom do the ethics of encounter count?
If I take your picture, do you give it?
When I face you, do I efface you?
Do you design interfaces?

What do I “take” in the moment of exposure? Whom do I “capture”? What ammunition is implicit in my “shooting”? What canonical history? What barrel? What gunpowder?

They are the “others”; the shot; the people on the other side of the lens. “To photograph people is to violate them”, Susan Sontag croons, assuaging my guilt by naming it. Through the camera, we see them “as they never see themselves”, gaining “knowledge of them they can never have” (Sontag, 1977, p. 14). “Them”, she says. “They”, she says. But perhaps there’s also an “us”? Maybe even a “we”?

What if I could give this knowledge? Would you want it?

Consent is so adorable. “May I take your picture?” The asking changes the asked: by the time I finish asking, she no longer exists, having become shy, or agreeable, or giddy. In any case she has shifted on the plane of awareness into a mode outside of herself. As far as the photo is concerned, consent finally takes as much as it gives.

Perhaps it’s a shot in the arm, to see Chris Burden shot in the arm. But these pictures are head shots. And so among these faces are interlaced the graces of a different sort of Canon. There’s still shrapnel here, but of a subtler sort. And jubilantly so. It’s a minor violence. There is no blood. We endure. We rejoice.

What refracts, for me, through the opportunity to take pictures, is also the giving of perspective. The lens is not the only way, but it is one way into the face, one way to mediate the distance between us. Simultaneously a socially awkward power play, and the site of so much life, the camera, for all its violence, has also taught me how to see. Perhaps it has taught us to see each other. The 85mm lens reveals your aspects: nerves, delights, wrinkles. But I find it freeing, to know that the camera, and the pictures, are not everything; and freeing, too, to recognize that what the camera purports to show is only ever partial truth.

Lenses are languages. But beyond our modes and medias, there is also the face. I see your face. What I see – if I can stretch Levinas a bit – in these faces, in your face, (and in ours) is actually, in a roundabout way, the face of God.

The faces represented here are beautiful and fragile and strong. They hail from Toronto, Hamilton, and Niagara. I am grateful for the unique forms of light and life that they each radiate.


Sontag, S. (1977), On Photography, Anchor Books

We participate in the same grey parade. But only one of us is really glowing.

Self ease

Haters heap scorn on the selfie, lamenting this ubiquitous start-up genre as quintessentially narcissistic. But where’s the fun in that? You have an immense capacity to love yourself. To be properly selfless, you have to be a little selfish. Shooting oneself, in any event is not entirely about turning inward. You have to create distance. You have to move the camera “over there”, and contrive a way to pull the shutter. And in this activity you’re never entirely alone. Even the most loathesome selfie (the triggering of a red light traffic camera) involves a veritable village of “others”, including law enforcement. But there are other ways to snap a picture from afar. The auto-timer and the intervalometer both make good mechanical friends, though they chatter incessantly. Human companionship, in any event, most capaciously guarantees the injection of vitality into (our) ways of being and seeing. And thus there is, as ever, a we in every selfie. In this series, I have multiplied subjectivities in order to approximate objectivity. So here they are: my contrived dives into water, ice, and luscious light, along with some reflections on the surfaces of mediating screens. There’s no memento mori filter quite like a constellation of dust grains on a pixel matrix.


Street Views

This photo series constitutes my response to a prompt from Robert Hamilton to create a series of 10 still photographs that examines “the neighbourhood where you live”. The work involves a loose interpretation of street photography, which I have here taken both literally and figuratively, imagining “the street” not merely as the trajectory I traverse on foot, via-velo, or by Toyota, but also as that deep-time path traced by such “natural” travelers as shale, dolomite, and ice. I have likewise extended the notion of “neighborhood” so as to include among my “neighbours” the palpable presence of ghosts, both in Caledonia, where I live, and in (and en-route to) Hamilton, where I study and exhibit. My only regret is that I lack sufficient telescopic optics to adequately expand my neighborhood (and hopefully my circle of empathy) further out into the cosmos. I invite you to explore these panoramas in detail by zooming in. To this end, all images are clickable.

Twelve Thirty

Twelve Thirty
Should I be heaved, or be hooved
to follow the grid and not the groove
of these twelve (and) thirty paces?

Desalination Plant

Desalination Plant
Come clean; come glean a wintry sheen;
demineralize your ride
confide in the shine!

Donation Bin

Donation Bin
Donations are welcome, but
we know
where you live.

After the Burning

After the Burning
A breach of safety lit the building up in flames,
Prefiguring in kind a breach of safety fence
After the burning.


Wind reanimates perpetual peace talks
between earth and ice
on the shoulder of Highway 6.


The Grimsby Shale never asked to be named,
nor to be on the bottom. Thorold’s overbearing form
eschewed consent: hence the icy vibe?


You, the stickers on your skateboard,
and even the chiseled serifs of typography itself,
will one day rot under boards.

Winter Maintenance

Winter Maintenance
I stare at this case, this stair case,
the way it weeps salt-saturated tears of the sort
only January could muster.

_ary Ann, Daugh. Of

_ary Ann, Daugh. Of
They say plastic flowers don’t wilt,
but they do.
It just takes a little longer.


This one is for all the children
who never had a chance
to play on the slide.