Portraits

When you recede by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin

 Today was a strange day, I think because last night I had trouble sleeping. I lay there, floating in and out of my body in that cottony space between waking and dreaming. The backs of my eyelids alive with traces of light, exploding from darkness like fish flitting quickly through bioluminescent depths. Part of me is terrified of that vibrant stillness, and part of me wants to remain there forever. It's like being back in the womb, I imagine, where there is no up or down; no close or far or big or small or heavy or light. Just you before you were a You.   And the world turning on its axis, hurtling through space as if to say Silly Baby you don't know anything - you still think I'm talking to you? Psych that was rhetorical. No really shut up you're missing the point.

Today was a strange day, I think because last night I had trouble sleeping. I lay there, floating in and out of my body in that cottony space between waking and dreaming. The backs of my eyelids alive with traces of light, exploding from darkness like fish flitting quickly through bioluminescent depths. Part of me is terrified of that vibrant stillness, and part of me wants to remain there forever. It's like being back in the womb, I imagine, where there is no up or down; no close or far or big or small or heavy or light. Just you before you were a You. 

And the world turning on its axis, hurtling through space as if to say Silly Baby you don't know anything - you still think I'm talking to you? Psych that was rhetorical. No really shut up you're missing the point.

Out of the Vault and Across the Bridge by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin

Out of the Vault and Across the Bridge ...

This one's from the vault.

I made this print when I was 13 and just getting interested in photography... back when I was using the real tangible stuff. To say I was rough with my negatives would be an understatement. I sliced them up and scratched designs into the emulsion. I left dust (the arch-nemesis of photographers and housewives alike) where it lay.

Despite this betrayal of the medium's integrity, I felt no remorse as I navigated a summer of experimentation. At that age, unacquainted with failure and brimming with a confidence inflated by chemical fumes in a light-tight room, I became a serial surrealist.

Who are these children split down the middle? If you were to shrink down and travel across their faces, you would be met with a fracture on nearly every plane - an abyss that would keep you searching and hopeless for miles, ever the stranger in a strange land. Eventually, though, you would reach the nose. That vast mountain of common ground. "How could I have missed this?" you'd say out loud (to no one in particular) and you'd proceed to carve "__________ WUZ HERE" into the ground before walking across the bridge.

...

TOP 10 PARTY! So close to the trip... (No Pressure) by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin

balloon_trap

Today has been a CRAZY day! Found out this morning that I made the TOP 10 for My Destinations Biggest Baddest Bucket List Competition (check out my 3min video submission in my previous post) but I'm not out of the woods yet! Next step: I'm off to the UK on May 18th for a week of challenges to duke it out for the final round the world trip. Looks like I'll be on my toes for another 5 weeks!

I took this picture while exploring a hilarious interactive exhibit by Martin Creed at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa (for more on our capital city, check out my fellow BBB top 10 finalist, Véronique Morissette's video ). It was a room filled with 20,000 black balloons which you could move through, often in total darkness. They were so tightly packed that sometimes a step forward meant that the balloons you displaced would cause one on the other side of the room to be squished until it burst! It was unnerving and exhilarating all at once, navigating this sea of unpredictability... and the exit was all but impossible to find. The balloons were 5 deep overhead, and flung my hair out in every direction. I could hear other visitors laughing or yelping with every snap crackle & pop, yet had no idea where they were. After much shuffling around, I saw some light filtering through. Aha! At last! But as you see, I came face to face against the glass, far from the exit and able to see the stairs up, up and out, but I still had a journey ahead of me.

...but of course some self portraits were in order, and despite the confused and innocent museum visitors outside, I took my time and collected as much static as possible.

Ok, so that analogy got de-railed a bit, but the point is that I'm not entirely sure how I got here, but I ain't done yet! I'm honoured and flabbergasted by this new reality, especially given all of the amazing submissions I watched when the competition was open. To all my fellow entrants I just want to say: wanna come surf on my couch? ... or, can I come surf on yours? If any of you are in Montreal, drop me a line!

And to my dear readers (or watchers, if you only dig pics) I still need your support! You can "follow" me via facebook traipsing around London in the lead-up to the Big Winner Announcement by clicking on the green tab to the right at:

http://www.mydestination.com/users/nasuna/bbb#tab

and...

To get a better picture of the Martin Creed Balloons Exhibit, check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QrKvDhcmXE4#!

YIPPEE!  (fun fact: I just had to look up how to spell YIPPEE!)

MONTREAL MUST DOS - the original vid by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin

Hey all you lovely blog readers/followers... welcome to my 3 minute whirlwind tour of my favourite city: Montréal!

This is my entry to My Destination's Biggest Baddest Bucket List competition, where I can win a trip around the world AND 50 grand! This is the craziest prize I've ever heard of, so I had to give it a shot.

I need your votes, shares & likes, so take a gander and vote away :) You can vote using one or all of the following: Facebook, Twitter, Stumble-Upon, Pinterest & Google+.

10 finalists are chosen in the first round, 5 which are picked by judges, and 5 picked by popular vote, then they head to the UK on an all expense paid trip and a new set of challenges! If I get that far then I'll pee my pants! But I can't do it without your help, so please take a second to vote here:

http://www.mydestination.com/users/nasuna/bbb#tab

Voting closes March 31st (Sunday) so get your share on!

Merci!

PS.    It was impossible to cram everything into this short video, even though I was running around like a madwoman, but I think I've captured at least a little slice of this city. What do you think I missed? I'd love to hear about your favourite spots!

Siesta Eternal by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin

mom_hammock

My mother naps, wrapped in a hammock in Mexico. She is alive and well, but here, she seems to sleep eternally.

The other day I watched the film Amour, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and best foreign film at the Oscars this year. It shed light on the final stages of life, which I think few people dwell on until they find themselves there, and then they haven’t got a choice. That’s the scariest thing – getting to a place where you no longer have a say… where you can’t assert your identity. What does it feel like to lose control over your own existence?

I listened to a really interesting podcast this week by Radiolab called “The Bitter End” which wrestled with this question. They found that there’s a surprising gap between what doctors will do for us when death is near, and what doctors want done for themselves. While most of us would say: save my life at any cost, doctors know the invasiveness of many life-prolonging interventions. The majority opt for an earlier death soothed by painkillers, rather than a few extra months with a breathing tube. A study done in 1996 found that TV medical dramas depict CPR as having a survival rate of 75%, but I was stunned to learn that in reality, it's only 8%! And of that, only 3% return to a normal quality of life. No wonder our perception is skewed.

In the end, all living things share the same inescapable fate. I guess doctors think about that more than most. To me, the thought is simultaneously comforting and terrifying – the idea that we’re all in it together, and yet

completely

alone.

… but what can you do?

The World is Flat by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin

1_Alumia_Stuart-Ulin

This is an optical illusion.

Years ago, I was given a book called Masters of Deception, a fascinating anthology of optical illusions which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to gain perspective… or lose perspective. Whatever your poison, just like everyone needs a good cry once in a while, so should they pour over that book.

In any case, I can’t look at this photo without being reminded of a mind-bending drawing by Jos de Mey, a Belgian artist, called Uit- en Inzichtraam voor Ars et Mathesisvrienden… whether it’s more befuddling to say or to see is up to you.

Some friends of mine were building their new house in Westmount in the adjacent lot to their current home, and asked me to photograph the foundation in an abstract way. I had a good window to do so during the construction holiday, so I scouted the location and came upon an angle that played tricks on the eyes. The rebar posts, sticking vertically out of the concrete, aligned themselves in such a way that it seemed to create a step in the plane.

The safest passage to the lot was through my friends’ backyard, so they had given me keys to their house while they were on holiday. I resolved to shoot later that week, just before dawn, when the light would be best.

I returned at two in the morning on the last day. The street was dark and quiet – the silence amplified since I had just come from Osheaga, which was anything but sleepy.

I’d arrived with plenty of time to set up and wait for morning. I thought about this as I jostled the spare keys and fiddled with the lock. It took me a while to open the door, but I finally got in and… the alarm starts beeping. Before I could say, “that’s funny, they didn’t mention an alarm”, I hear someone’s voice saying HEY, WHO’S THERE?! And fumbling on the stairs. In my head I said “oh shit” and out loud I said, “it’s Nasuna! It’s me! It’s just me!”

The cops were nearly called, and I had some (very) sheepish explaining to do… they had come back a day early and assumed I’d already shot the property.

… anyway if any of you dear readers would like me to photograph your house and/or break into it while you’re sleeping, you know where to find me.

Frolicking in God’s Pocket by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin

adam.facepaint_1 When you find yourself alone in Tasmania, with melancholia and homesickness beginning to creep around your edges, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and swap islands.

Although I was halfway around the world, I’d been invited by my dear friend Claire to join her and a few friends at God’s Pocket - a cold water diving resort near Vancouver Island operated by her relatives. She was taking care of the place during the off-season, and wanted to share its serenity and beauty.

I had planned to continue travelling in Australia (Dive with whale sharks? Ride the transcontinental Indian Pacific line? What about New Zealand? I was so close to New Zealand!). I was paralyzed by choice for some time, sitting in a park in Hobart, ignorant that the Trees had Eyes behind me.

In the end, I flew back for the gathering, and spent an idyllic couple of weeks frolicking, dancing, exploring, cooking, eating, sleeping and skinny dipping every morning in the freezing cold sea – the plunge making me forget everything I know for a clean instant. Those same piercing waters were lit up nightly with phosphorescence, and at the time it occurred to me that the ocean held a mirror to the starry sky, just as it turns blue on a clear day.

Here, a fellow God’s Pocketeer is being decorated by his fiancée, one of many portraits from that adventure. There’s plenty more where this came from, since (as you may know) face-painting is contagious, and I will be posting more as I sift through them, but this is one of my favourites.

The Universal Wavefunction by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin

IMG_9772 My friend Sarah is a dreamer and a creator. Here she is, looking over a wall on the boardwalk in Chicago, right before we went to Burning Man. It was a dreamy, spectacular summer of firsts: first time taking a transcontinental train (New York to San Francisco, in the company of Mennonites!); first time couch-surfing (our lovely host Michael skipped his first week of school to hang with us on the beach); first time attending a festival (if you’re a Burning Man virgin, you’re made to slam a big gong at the entrance and yell and scream and roll around in the dust, an initiation that will jolt you out of catatonia like a slap in the belly with a wet fish).

This moment, of Sarah peering over the wall…  for me it has the qualities of a hazy memory: idealized in palette and without the 3rd dimension. No future, no past, just a razor thin slice of what it feels like to look out into the unknown. Every possible outcome under your feet. To quote Stephen Wright (more or less) like having both amnesia and déjà vu at the same time.

I feel like this photograph all the time.

The Everyday Experience by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin

Caro.in.the.kitchen This is my friend Caroline, and this is what she looks like in between texts in the kitchen. No big deal.

I met Caroline at theatre school in Montreal, where we did weird things like embody characters behind masks, pretend to martyr ourselves on rafts encircled by sharks and test our intuitive orientation through sensory deprivation exercises. I suppose if you’re the paranoid type, you would say that this behavior isn’t so far from the Everyday Experience of a dog-eat-dog world.

For the past few months, I’ve been making occasional trips back and forth to Toronto to work as a background performer on film & tv sets. You know the crowds of people running from aliens or losing their shit at college football games? I’m one of them. It’s extraordinarily bizarre. Lots of people think it’s glamorous, but when they cover you in fake dirt, lather your hair in vaseline and send you out into the world dressed in full combat regalia, sometimes you begin to question your reality.

Anyway, now she’s a filmmaker and a dancer, currently documenting the krump movement in Toronto. You check out her website here:

http://www.carolinebrassard.com/

& subscribe to her youtube channel here:

http://www.youtube.com/user/CaroLion514

Near-Death! Phone-Sex! (in that order) by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin

Rest at Red Hill Alex takes a rest at 10,035 feet outside Red Hill Cabin, the first stop on our hike up Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano in the world. The attentive viewer will notice the etchings in the cabin door, which read "Mars Hotel" and "When the going gets tough, the going get warm".

Once you're above the cloud-line, the sun can do a number on you, but come nightfall, temperatures can get dangerously low (it snows regularly in the winter). The night before our final decent, we stayed at Red Hill once more. All was quiet. The moon pierced my eyes so I couldn't sleep. It must have been two in the morning when we heard heavy footsteps and the creak of the door... who on mars could it be? It was desolate out there; we hadn't seen another soul for two days and 23 miles.

Alex later said he'd feared it was an axe murderer, but it turned out to be a hypothermic German hiker who had gotten lost near the summit and had walked 11 miles over 14 hours overnight. He'd lost his jacket and his light - using only the moonlight to guide him... and it was his first hike! Just to be clear, the terrain is a never-ending expanse of black, jagged rock, and the trail is marked by other black rocks. His friends had gone ahead of him to the summit cabin (only 2 miles away) and as it got dark he got disoriented and headed down the slope instead, fearing that if he didn't keep moving, he would die.

The next morning we tried frantically to contact his friends, though no-one had reception but me at the top of the hill (pictured) and I couldn't connect to the Swiss phone number. Then I remembered: I have a calling-card! But it wasn't on me.

Completely flustered, I remember it in a flash and with my battery light blinking I dial 1-800...

It rings, a sultry voice says: Hey baby, my sexy girlfriends and I are anxiously waiting to talk LIVE to you...

Ahh!! Did I just call a sex chat-line?! I did! On top of a volcano, with a dying phone and at this crucial moment!

I dial again.

Hey baby, my sexy girlfriends and--

Ahh!! Ok, Nasuna, you can do this. Eventually I remembered the right number and in the end we escorted him down. He was reunited with his friends (scoundrels) and the search party was called off.

... but not before I got a text message which read: Hey Stud - Our busty babes are waiting for your call.

 

You can view a wider shot from outside the cabin in a previous post  here: http://nasuna.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/red-ant-hill-2/

Saint Joseph, I love you. by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin

 St. Joseph, I love you

St. Joseph, I love you

My roommate, Sarah Jane Scouten, is an old-time bluegrass and folk musician with a weakness for flowery dresses (the one pictured here is my mother's). One day after breakfast, we rounded the corner and were struck by the blooming median strip on Saint-Joseph - like someone had unravelled an organic carpet right down the middle of the road. A photo-shoot was unquestionably in order. Later on, a local film crew fancied our style and gave us some granola bars and juice boxes for our effort.

The Trees have Eyes by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin

The Trees have Eyes  

Strange things happen at dusk in Hobart, Tasmania's capital, during the Ten Days on The Island biennial festival. Every two years, the Australian state is host to hundreds of cultural events and art installations. I had been waiting in Franklin Square for my airport shuttle for two hours before I realized that the trees behind me were blinking. Craig Walsh, an Australian projection artist, was responsible for the eerie and mesmerizing faces, which would look around periodically as if to catch your eye. Next year's festival is scheduled for the 15-25 of March, 2013.

Stick n Poke by Nasuna Stuart-Ulin

Stick n Poke Friends gather in my bedroom for a DIY tattoo session. "Stick n poke" tattoos, popular with legions of broke twentysomethings, can be given with little more than a sewing needle and some India ink. The design is a beet growing out of her pants, inspired by the fresh-vegetable-nostalgia that plagues Montrealers in the long winter months.