Hydrology

This new video was premiered at the MANTIS Festival of Electro-Acoustic Music at the University of Manchester (UK) on November 27th, 2022 and will see more screenings throughout 2023. It’s a unique hybrid project that I developed with composer David Berezan during the first two years of the pandemic. It took a while to take this final form and for an appropriate title to emerge but David Berezan and I immediately took to Hydrology. I strongly advise a big screen and good sound system!

HYDROLOGYthe study of the distribution and movement of water both on and below the Earth’s surface, as well as the impact of human activity on water availability and conditions.

Work on Hydrology began during the first post-covid lockdown “re-opening” in the summer of 2020. At the first opportunity I revisited the banks of the Capilano River where I grew up in the shadow of Cleveland Dam during the 1970s. Built in 1954, the dam necessitated the downstream construction of the Capilano Salmon Hatchery in 1971 after it choked off the natural salmon spawning grounds, transforming them into one of Vancouver’s three main lake reservoirs. These were two human interventions into natural water flows and processes which I never questioned at the time. But revisting this place during climate breakdown and a pandemic had me fearing for these systems on many levels.

I set myself the task of photographing the rushing waters of the river, using slow shutter speeds paired with deliberate hand held camera movement. I then moved on to the slower moving, semi-sheltered waters around Galiano Island, the open waters of the Salish Sea and finally to the play of water over rock, flora and fauna in the intertidal zones at Cape Roger Curtis at the southern tip of Bowen Island. I learned to observe the ever changing surfaces, to identify changing palettes and how to capture the water’s movement in a way that either complimented the flow or went against it. Then came the decision to merge it all in video form.

At this point, composer David Berezan came on to the project as we’d established a relationship between his music and my photography when working on cover imagery for his CD releases in recent years. In particular, his last release on empreintes DIGITALes; Cycle Nautique presented a soundworld and way forward for this project. His interest in playing the macro and micro soundworlds of ocean sounds off of each other and our mutual interest in ambient music made this a perfect partnership.

Pacing was critical. The opening sequence uses time lapse photography to introduce the subject matter then shifts to slowing, animated stills taking the viewer into less certain territory where things begin to become more abstract. And I’m always interested in slowing the perception of time.

The animation is intended to confound expectation, as nature sometimes does, with the currents and flows deliberately altered. There is always something slightly off about the images in the same way we know something is slightly off about our weather patterns. There is also the perception of scale. Sometimes the camera is inches from water, other times a hundred metres or so. Blending the two enhances the effect.

Much of the colour comes from the images made at Cape Roger Curtis. The vibrant reds, greens, blues and golds come from the play of light and water on rock formations covered with kelp, mussels, algae and so forth. But the shocking and unprecedented “heat dome” weather event of June 2021 affected billions of sea creatures in BC’s tidal waters, baking them during a horribly timed extreme low tide. And it was in August of 2021 that I created several of the stills used in this production so, consequently, the tans, reds and oranges, as lovely as they are, are the result of this catastrophe; the colour of death and decay. In other words, climate change has directly affected the colour palette you see in the video.

In the end, the video is intended to beguile the viewer and stir interest in the power, beauty and predicament of our ecosystems.

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Tord Gustavsen – Opening

The first Vancouver Jazz Fest since the “end” of the pandemic happened in the summer of 2022 just as I was headed out of town for a much delayed getaway. Fortunately I was able to catch just one concert, one which required a pilgrimage to deepest, darkest North Vancouver (where I’m actually from) to see Tord Gustavsen’s current trio featuring bassist Steinar Raknes and the redoubtable and magnificent Jarle Vespestad on drums.

The clouds were gathering and threatening rain and I arrived to find the band without their luggage (courtesy of Air Canada whose motto remains: “We’re not happy ’til you’re not happy!”) and Tord’s iPad, which he uses to control electronic effects, was smashed. But at least there was some time to sort things out prior to showtime so we took the opportunity to do an impromptu shoot. The light was failing and the darkening sky was starting to spit, but we managed to squeeze in a number of photos against the concrete backdrop of the Blueshore Centre’s exterior wall. It was all very fitting.

I made mention of the concerts I’d seen at pevious jazz fests where gear was lost but the concerts turned out to be great successes. I’m thinking of Eivind Aarset’s improvised gig on a borrowed Stratocaster sans effects rig (due to lost luggage, again Air Canada) at Performance Works a number of years ago. Then there was Marcin Wasilewski’s 2016 set at The Ironworks where there was, for some reason, no piano at the venue and it was a Sunday night! He made great use of a borrowed Fender Rhodes and a hastilly arranged upright!

I’ve written before about how Tord’s music, on first impression, seems almost too tasteful and consistent, largely lyrical and romantic. But his numerous recordings on ECM have marked a subtle and very personal forward-looking evolution. The latest CD is called Opening and in addition to the title track there is piece called Re-Opening. Both titles can be viewed in light of the recent pandemic-driven societal convulsions, the shutting down of cities and personal connections. Indeed just meeting up with Tord again and being in a concert hall felt like an enormously reassuring return to some version of normality, but with a fraught air as we all acknowledge things are now permanently unsettled for a greater number of people for a greater number of reasons.

In the end, it all worked out. One thing I’ve learned form the live experience of Tord’s music is that the equal measures of seriousness, lightness and joy that characterize the bulk of his early recordings can be quickly given over to the unexpected and you can soon be galloping along with the trio on a sudden, improvised bolt before settling down to something like an exquisite cover of Suzanne by Leonard Cohen. Between songs Tord speaks to the audience in a whisper, as if in church. And for him I suppose it is. There has always been a kind of devotional aspect to concerts by this soft-spoken artist and I’ve rarely been to jazz concerts of any stripe where the audience is so quiet. The relief at being able to rejoin this kind of communion (and I say this as an athiest) was palpable and as long as things remain open we will likely enjoy many more visits, though hopefully the airlines will have sorted out their luggage handling procedures!

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Time – Veda Hille

I’ve photographed Vancouver’s much-loved and spectacularly talented Veda Hille since 1998. I’ve done cover shoots for the Georgia Straight, feature spreads for Vancouver Review (both netting regional and national magazine award nominations) and, most recently in 2016 for Vancouver Review Media around the time of her work and performance with Harold Budd.

In my view, her two most recent albums are her very best, both in terms of songwriting and production. Love Waves even included covers of Bowie and Eno/Roedelius that were truly transformative. Her latest is called Beach Practice and includes an adaptation of a much loved poem by W.H. Auden which she’s performing as Time.

I had some things lying about my desktop that seemed to fit the mood so we endeavored to do a video for it. Above is a portrait/still associated with the video which can be seen via the Vancouver Review Media site. We’re pretty happy with it!

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EVENT – Summer Breeze


I’m very glad to be wrapping another cover for the illustrious EVENT magazine. This was taken pre-pandemic on the ferry to Port Townsend, Washington in 2019. It fairly sums up the mood of many of us as we face an uncertain summer…and beyond. Yet it also feels nostalgic for summer island trips beloved of many of us coastal inhabitants. This is a slightly tweaked version that removes the barcode and shifts the back cover text to allow for better viewing as a double page spread.

https://www.eventmagazine.ca/

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Aquatic Gestures

There is really no point to trying to achieve a “perfect” image. Yet when one arrives, unbidden, it’s worth noting. For years now I’ve been working on a seemingly endless series of images derived from local waters. I’ve come to realize it’s a kind of meditative/obsessive practice where, gradually, I become attuned to subtle oceanside palettes at random times of day at the same location. Then I look for “compositional” elements and wait for the light to give me points of focus. Then it will be a matter of combining practiced (but never fully controlled) gestures while holding the camera and leaving the shutter open. Intentional camera movement photography is nothing new. But the practice of revisiting the exact same location for years and divining endless semi-random compositions featuring colours and patterns unique to that very spot teaches patience, letting go and endless flow. And occasionally you land an image that is somehow all that *and* a fully formed composition in the traditional sense, and in no need of a filter or any other technological intervention.

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Some Smoke – A Farewell to Harold Budd

In the fall of 2020 I decided to approach Robin Guthrie about doing a video for a track from Another Flower, his final recording with the much loved Harold Budd. This album had actually been recorded in 2013 but remained unreleased until now via Darla Records. I had made the same inquiry when I first heard it was imminent, nearly a decade ago. I readied some of my more obscure floral images in anticipation of getting started on something but, alas, it seemed to have been shelved.

So when it finally saw the light of day, in the midst of the pandemic, the project sprung back to life. I gathered the old images I thought I’d use ten years ago along with some new ones. It needed to come together naturally, quickly and with a degree of improvisation and chance. I kept returning to the opening track, Some Smoke. It had that oddly tense, yet fragile gossamer beauty their music can have. Transporting. Sad…but not. Beautiful. But not truly sentimental.

Four days before I finished the video, the news came that Harold had died of covid after entering rehab in LA to recover from a mild stroke. Devastated. The video is dedicated to his memory. I’m grateful to have met him, dined with him and chatted about many things. I’m certain he wouldn’t want people to be too maudlin over his passing. He was very funny and unsentimental.

When we discussed attitudes and methods around the archiving of music and artworks he suggested he’d be happy for all of his master tapes to sort of dissolve together into some kind of palimpsest and be forgotten! Not a chance, Budd!

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Keith Berry – Pearlescent Ornaments

Entelechy was my first video for the generative music of London-based composer Keith Berry and was created during the first phase of the pandemic lockdown in Vancouver. I’ve found Keith Berry’s music to be a delicious sonic balm during this rather distorted, distended and distressing period. I’ve beeen listening to his music constantly.

For these videos, all images were derived from photographs of six pearlescent-finish drinking glasses I found on sale at Anthropologie! Other than that, everything was done in Photoshop and Premiere Pro in an improvised fashion. The images were treated, flipped, colour inverted, cut, pasted, texturized and finally dissolved … and then dissolved some more. I wanted to create works that reflected Keith’s ability to stretch time and envelop a listener with hypnotic, endlessly mutating synthetic ornamentations.

For more on Keith’s music, please visit:
vsmtheory.com
keithberry.bandcamp.com

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Penthouse at the Venue

I’ve been a fan of Luna since the early 90s. Their albums and performances over the years have become perennial favourites for a legion of fans that never quite grew large enough to propel them to arena stages and platinum sales. And while that meant an endless road of playing mid-size halls and small clubs, it also made for more satisfying live experiences. They were not made for coliseums! But the lack of “next level” success tired in 2005 and they called it a day.

When they reformed and returned to Vancouver in 2015 I was thrilled to be able to design a concert poster collectable for the band that was signed and sold at the merch table. I posted about it here https://markmushetphotography.wordpress.com/2015/10/30/tell-me-did-you-miss-me/ . I thought that was likely going to be it for any future concerts though. But then they did a west coast tour again in 2018 and I went to Seattle to see them at The Neptune Theater. It was a cold January night but they were, as always, very warmly received. This is a band people really love. And they’re a real treat as people. Funny, warm and generous with their time. We reconnected and stayed in touch.

And then they came back for more, only this time it was a tour of their classic 1995 Penthouse album which Rolling Stone called “The 99th Greatest album of the 1990s” or some such. Thankfully they played the Venue rather than the Biltmore. It is lovely to see the fan base still holding and even growing and it’s obvious how much fun they have on stage. An added bonus was that we decided to do another collectable poster. Instead of something I cooked up, it was necessary to reference the artwork from the LP. Dean forwarded me the original art files from the LP, a set of images by legendary New York photographer Ted Croner whose mid-century B&W images of the city are now iconic. I chose the image they’d used on the back cover, a slightly shaky winter night’s view of buildings on the upper west side as seen from Central Park, and adapted Gotham to imitate the original font. I snuck Ted’s credit in the lower right, kept the gig info minimal, and the band signed in white ink.

I’m going to trust that after the Covid-19 pandemic is done, Luna will be back and we’ll have another poster for you!

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Nova Pon – Wrenegade

The summer of 2019 saw the beginnings of a very fun new video project featuring the music of Bowen Island-based composer Nova Pon. The piece is for solo flute and is based on the song of the Pacific Wren, an unremarkable looking little bird that makes a grand impression through its calls! The piece largely alternates between a degree of actual birdsong transcription played on the flute and imagining it slowed down to be performed so the human ear can appreciate its structure. It ends with the performer whistling the song as though it had been finally processed and internalized!

Naturally, the performer is the irrepressible Mark Takeshi McGregor, clearly one of the nation’s best flutists. When I saw the lovely and eye-popping jacked he’d chosen for the shoot (we’d wavered between wanting him to stand out, like the birdsong … or blend in, like the actual bird) I decided to add a hint of fire weed to the edge of the video frame to complement the jacket.

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Gordon Smith – Tangle Master

One of Canada’s best loved painters, Gordon Smith is approaching 100! Still painting at his West Van studio/home, this was taken a decade ago for Vancouver Review’s spring 2009 article on landscape painting in British Columbia.

You can check out his work and peruse his extensive CV at:

https://www.equinoxgallery.com/artists/portfolio/gordon-smith

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