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EXPOSURE: After the Storm
One week ago, on the evening of Saturday, July 13, the community of Pipestone received the brunt of a powerful storm that pressed through to western Manitoba from Saskatchewan. In less than half-an-hour powerful winds destroyed buildings and homes, flipped vehicles and trailers, toppled gravestones, brought trees and hydro poles crashing down and caused other widespread damage. Brandon Sun reporter Graeme Bruce and I were already pulling into Souris on Highway 2 in anticipation of what weather radar predicted could be a powerful storm when we received word that Pipestone had been hit and damage was widespread. We arrived in town approximately an hour after the storm. I spent the next three days, two with Graeme, wandering the streets of Pipestone and the surrounding area talking to residents and documenting the destruction. The first night we were there everyone gathered in groups surveying the damage and swapping stories of what they had just been through. Pipestone was full of out-of-towners in for the Pipestone Fun Days and despite the damage and the shock many kept the positive atmosphere of the fun days going by candlelight or car headlights. By the next morning everyone was in clean up mode pulling together to help those who needed it most. As word got out about the storm, volunteers began to pour in and by Monday the town already looked different than in the days previous with many of the large trees that had fallen removed and debris cleaned up. For this weeks Exposure I wanted to create a portrait of the community and the volunteers that is different from the hundreds of images of the destruction and clean-up I had taken for the daily paper. I decided to create a series of portraits of the clean-up effort by combining digital and analog tools. I used both a Canon 5DIII digital SLR camera and my wife's old Rolleiflex twin-lens-reflex medium-format film camera to create the images. They may remind some photo enthusiasts of the filter effects that can be applied to digital photos using camera-phone apps such as Hipstamatic and Instagram but they took a great deal more effort to create. I mounted the Rolleiflex (circa 1960's) on a tripod and using a black shirt to block out the sunlight I pointed my digital camera down at the top-level viewfinder on the Rollei and photographed portraits of the subjects I had framed within. The Rollieflex viewfinder displays images backwards so the images you see are actually flipped 180 degrees along the horizontal plane from how they were in reality. So with the Rollie on a tripod in one hand and my digital SLR in the other I walked around the town meeting people and explaining my project. Despite being very busy with the clean-up almost everyone I met generously gave a few minutes of their time so I could take their photo. The RM of Pipestone has had an unfair share of bad luck when it comes to weather events this year. Here's hoping they catch a break.
Each summer, home-grown festivals sprout up all across rural Manitoba. From seeds planted decades — even more than a century — ago, these events are nourished by the people who volunteer their time and effort. By looking carefully, you can learn a little about each town and what matters to the people who call it home.