For the past three years, I've taken some time at the end of the year to create a holiday card, and it's one of my favourite ways to stretch my creativity and try new things. I try to think about what the year has brought, reflecting, refocusing, and working out a way to portray the past year in a single black and white image.
2020 was a rough one, not gonna lie. And I considered - should I even bother this year? Do I really want to put this pressure on myself and send out yet another holiday card that says something like "in these unprecedented times..." Ugh. I hate that word.
Then, I thought about my friends and colleagues who look forward to it each year. I remembered how I feel when I receive a real card in the mail. There's just something about getting something that isn't a bill, knowing that someone out there is thinking about you even when we are all apart. So, here we go, follow along with me as I create the Magic Box Photo 2020 Holiday card.
It started out with some reflection on the year. What is it I want to say? I try to keep things a little light and share my "wins" for the year, so I spent some time brainstorming ideas and drafting up a message. But still, it was hard to come up with something without having to mention, you know. So, here's what I landed on for my re-cap:
Finding a way to wrap up this year - not least because I refuse to use that “un-“ word we are all so tired of- is difficult. For me, the year was long, the year was full, and the year was hard, as I know it was for a lot of people. Despite a global shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of things still happened.
I was laid off from April to July, and during that time I started a balcony garden, learned to bake bread (who didn’t?), and said “I think you’re on mute” 4000 times. 18 books were read in 2020 and we camped through beautiful Interior BC in July. Saying goodbye to my childhood home was one of the hardest parts of the year, and the highlight was turning 25 on a wine tour with friends, soaking up the Okanagan summer. I learned how to do a headstand and organized a virtual awards ceremony for PPOC-BC, where I received a Best in Class Fashion award. I also re-vamped my website this year, and started blogging (somewhat) consistently. I shot seasonal creatives for Urban Barn, and had an editorial published in a fashion magazine for the first time in my career (Salysé Vol 6 No 35).
From socially-distant coffees in the park to a “teach me how to bake a pie on Zoom” night, I’m grateful to everyone who stayed connected this year. I hope that you can find gratitude in the chaos. I have tried to, and hold hope for better years to come.
Happy New Year from Magic Box Photo
With the re-cap written, I moved to focus on the image.
I wanted this year's card to evoke a sense of calm, at a time I feel we could all use it. I wanted it to symbolize the year we've all had, and the uniting factor I came to was being stuck at home. For some, this was temporary, and for others it's still a reality. I then knew- I had to shoot the view from my window, something we are all so familiar with this year, having spent more time at home than possibly ever before.
I picked a drizzly day in late December, loaded my film, and stepped out onto my balcony to shoot a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus 400.
Now, I've spent a lot of time on my balcony this year. I worked in the sunshine out there, I ate meals alfresco on my cafe chairs and table, and I planted and harvested a small garden. What I had never done, until the day I went out there to photograph this card, was close the door behind me. Yes, I closed the screen door in the summer, but it was cold out on this day, so I closed the actual door, and started shooting.
And then, when I went to go back inside after shooting the roll out, the door was locked.
From the inside.
Now, I'm lucky to have a boyfriend who has keys to my apartment, and was able to call him to come rescue me, but let me tell you, I laughed harder than I had all year when I realized I was stuck out there. What a resounding metaphor for the year, am I right??
Got rescued, warmed up with a cup of tea, laughed about it some more, and a few days later, I unloaded the camera in the darkroom to develop the film and choose the final image
Then, I spent two days printing 51 multiples of the image (0/50 is an artist proof - mine to keep, and 50 go to family, friends, and colleagues). The printing process has a calming monotony to it. Print. Develop bath for 1 minute. Stop bath for 30 seconds. Fixer for 5 minutes. Water rinse for 10 or so. Repeat.
After the prints dry and are flattened for a couple nights under my favourite photography books, I spend a day numbering, signing, and addressing them, adding personal notes as I go.
And then they're off in the world. And another year begins again.
The text that accompanies the print:
This is a limited edition resin paper print of the view outside my window- a view I have become intimately familiar with this year.
It also represents something that gave me solace and hope throughout the year. While the world shut down, the natural world carried on, and I watched spring bloom out of nowhere, summer bring a fresh glow, autumn’s colourful contradiction, and wind stir these trees outside. Nature kept moving, and so did we.
The photograph was made using black and white 35mm film, hand processed by me, printed in my darkroom, and numbered and signed for you.
Thank you for coming along with me on this year’s journey, and I hope you will cherish this print with my sincere thanks for being a part of it.
See 2017 here.