Tag Archives: Portland

Kiriko Made: The Post-Industrial Bespoke Movement

Kiriko One

In a world where consumer goods are meant to be opiate for the masses, and shopping is a sport to numb the pain of daily life, a new movement has risen from the ash and garbage that fill the streets: Oregon Industrial. Perhaps it would sound better as Bespoke Industrial or Artisanal Industrial Mercantile? Regardless, there is a higher end, post-hipster movement that seems to have originated in Portland, of all places. The premise is that Gen Y and those whose talents are no longer appreciated have abandoned the lure of tech internships that may eventually lead to a low salary in ten years. Citizens have walked away from the idea that New York, Toronto, Washington and Los Angeles are the only places on earth to purchase property (or, rather, rent at suicidal monthly rates). Comrades have chosen Portland as a place to come together, take back the heavy-duty sewing machine, wipe off the grease from abandoned motors, and start crafting authentic, low-production goods for people who appreciate materials that were de rigeur before plastic became our mantra.

My past few purchases have not been inexpensive, nor have they been simple. Toronto is far from the Pacific West, which means that USPS has become a pusher for my material needs. First it was a key fob and Leica-style camera strap from Tanner Goods. Then came a straight razor strop from horse hide arrived from Bison,  a suit bag from Seattle-based Filson, and a mint green, leather knife roll from Butcher and Baker. Before I knew it I found myself surrounded by beautiful materials that made me feel more connected to the items I used. They key idea is that I use all of these items in an almost religious manner. I appreciate the feel of the strop; the look of the simple key fob as it rests in my hand or dangles from the ignition of my Ducati Monster.  My desire to use an item often means that I must take the time to pack my clothes for a trip in lieu of rolling them into a ball, and I need to spend ten minutes sharpening my straight razor on the strop before I even get to the bathroom sink for shaving. I have become mindful and present. I am in the moment as the material serves as a catalyst for an intellectual slowing down of my time. Time has become precious.

Kiriko Two

Yesterday’s post brought me two scarfs and a pocket square from Portland-based Kiriko. I came across a few of their pieces in a small shop in Nashville’s 12 South area. The deep indigo colours and Japanese fabrics caught my attention immediately. Since travelling to Japan a few years ago, I realize the unique tension in fabric and foreign colour palette that are signature to Japan. A week ago I came across a Boro-style scarf online and fell in love with the contrasting indigo/floral pattern. I ordered the scarf which is made from Japanese heirloom fabrics, a Kimono striped scarf and a deep indigo pocket square. Within a few days all arrived in uniquely gorgeous packaging, and I now had items that I know will be with me through a great many made adventures, adding points of style to what can be a bleak world.


There may have also been an impulse need to purchase a NATO-style watchband from Worn&Wound, a purveyor and reviewer of watch ephemera. You see, Old Sport, I inherited more than my fair share of beat up, broken down watches from my father upon his death this past summer. I never wear a watch. I hate having things on my wrists. I care little what the time is. But…this black strap sang a siren song: rebuild the watch the Chinese restaurant owner gave your father when he was a young boy. Mystery surrounds this watch, and it is a relic of my father’s imagination that I remember since my own birth.

It has no intrinsic value in the metals or craftsmanship. The watch must be hand-wound on a daily basis. I am still unsure whether it will even keep time. The point is that I have chosen to take a piece back from the landfill, ignore that my iPhone keeps perfect time, and live within a different reality as the Horween-produced leather strap hugs a piece of metal tightly to my wrist that once belonged to men I  should have known better. Perhaps it serves as a talisman to make sure I know those who follow me better than those who came before.


My day starts, and will end, with an espresso and slice of molten chocolate cake inspired by our dinner at Montreal’s Joe Beef this past weekend.  My version uses up the wide variety of aging chocolate that filled my cupboard, blooming and losing its sheen. I would like to think that the French pan adds more beauty to the cake, than the skillet ours was served in at the restaurant. The flavours are dead on, the texture is perfect…now if I only had a soft serve ice cream machine that could spit out perfect peppermint-infused dollops of ice milk, then I would be king.


How to Photograph a Live Concert: Minutes With The Brilliant Sarah Jackson-Holman

Everybody wants to photograph weddings, models and musicians. When your Uncle Louis shows at an event with his new Nikoncanon Rebel D5012 and a giant flash, you know you are in for a gauntlet of pain. He will blind you with the flash, cut off your head in every photo, blur his one good composition and then get in the way of your paid photographer. Concerts are often the same, but this time your buddy from work, Stan, decides to capture the entire concert with his iPhone, and backlights the event while making your fans angry. But still…everyone wants to be the guy who captures the next Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar or Elvis wearing the white jumpsuit. They really, really do.

I have a slightly different perspective. I love to play music, but hate the stage. I also know that what a musician wants from his or her stage photos is to be emotional, to look cool, to be shown connecting with the audience and never appear fat in any way shape or form. Musicians want timeless, they want shots for promo use and they like to see how the gig went. As noted in my previous blog, I decided to cover an event in Portland without any direction to do so, because the young songwriter seemed truly cool and at the stage in her career when a few extra photos might be useful.

What does it mean to cover a concert, and what gear might you need? I only had one lens [Canon 50mm f.1.2] and one camera body [Canon 1DmkIII], and I did a decent job. I might have benefitted from my 135mm f.2 lens for close-ups, but remember that I had no idea whatsoever that I would be taking any photos that night – I went downstairs for a pint of Fat Tire and to hear a band. Flash cannot ever be used. Flash is the anti-christ of concert photography. It will disrupt the flow of the gig and signal a bouncer to extract you, which is why my rig works so well [it does not even have a pop-up flash on the body]. I shot the entire session at f.1.2 at 10 frames a second. I did not raise the ISO. I just stood, shot, and moved out of the way until the next moment. Remember that the artist’s audience paid to see the show, not to see you taking shots throughout.

While I read a few reviews after the show, I think that what people missed out on was how smart and edgy Sarah’s lyrics are. Yes, she is attractive, indie cool, and can wickedly bounce stride piano lines out while dancing with the loop machine, but it is her lyrics that struck me. Her ability to find a poignant metaphor, a raw image or a strong narrative connection while still manipulating a strong vocabulary was impressive. As she writes in “Cellophane”:

Sun soaked, high hopes
Wear them as my winter coat 
To keep out the cold
But try as I might
I can't hide the mysteries that you read in my eyes

When it came to the actual session, I had shot 338 photographs. Unfortunately for Sarah, the lighting never changed during the set, so that makes it a challenge for the photos not to all look the same. While the purple, red and blue lights worked well for the gig, they are a nightmare to work with as a photographer in post-production because they do not translate well with cross-processing or cross-balancing the image. In the end I decided to produce a series of black and white photographs with a slight amber paper toning for her – I knew there was another photographer there whose photos would all be the same purples and reds, so the bw shots might be useful to Sarah later on beyond the show.

What do I like about the photographs? Sarah was wearing a fabulous dress/tiara/bracelet combo that made her stand out from the other plaid-wearing hipsters. She moves her left hand in a way that makes you want to grab ahold of it as her words spill into the microphone. Her look, her natural beauty and her stage presence made it easy to take solid photos of her. What would I talk to her about as a photographer being hired before the show? I would have warned her about the microphone shadow and I would have asked her to look at me once per song whenever she felt like it. Two simple things would have made it easier to capture the deeply penetrating look that musicians want to be staring out from beyond their instruments. Microphone shadows can sometimes create interesting effects, but generally people want clean face shots and by moving back from the microphone every now and then the artist provides an opportunity for more clean shots to be taken.

Overall, it was a truly engaging session for me even though I had no chance to speak to Sarah and she had no idea who the weird guy taking photos was. As a courtesy, I looked up SJH on Facebook and sent her copies of the first round of selects for her free use if she likes any of them. While these are not the style of photographs I normally produce for musicians, they strike me as being worth the time to take and process them. If you have not heard Sarah, then I strongly suggest that you look her up on MySpace before she hits the big time, which should be sooner than she might think. Personally, my favourite song from the killer set was “Do I Make It Look Easy.”

Show Me A Sign: Portland’s Food, Music and Signage in 24 Hours

After all was said and done, I probably had about 24 hours to explore what I could of Portland, Oregon. The time to photograph had to be shared with eating dinner, shopping for clothing and accessories, and walking the streets. Personally, I rather liked the city and would never hesitate returning if a reason came for me to go. The vibe of the city was quirky, but authentic, and I appreciated that. People were not overtly friendly, nor were they nasty, but if I made the effort to connect, then conversation usually followed.

My first exploration was around what I believed was called the Pearl District. A bit of a rundown Chinatown, this area had its fair share of soup kitchens and  vagrants. In fact, the soup line at one place was about two blocks long. I may like weird foods, and I love authentic foods, but it would have taken a lot of convincing for me to even consider eating in this area – I like clean. Still, the signs were exceptionally cool, and I spent my walk shooting the ones that drew my eye in with the colours, the patterns and ruination of years passing over them

When I travel, hotel signs have often been a draw, and neon signs are always a fun challenge to set for myself because the light metering is notoriously difficult. My favourites have been the Chelsea Hotel in N.Y.C. and the Floridita in Havana, Cuba. The best part about signs is that they often lead you places. In Portland, one big, pink sign brought me to the doorstep of Voodoo Doughnuts, which is a bit of a mecca for late-night drunks and tv shows like Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations [he ate the maple-bacon doughnut, btw.]

I chose to go all chocolate. Yes, there was a Captain Crunch doughnut, a giant doughnut and a myriad of other flavours, but I just wanted simple, old-fashioned chocolate. For $4.15 I picked put three pieces and headed for my hotel. Each of the doughnuts were essentially the same, but my favourite was the Chocolate Bar in taste – the Voodoo Doll had to be purchased because he was so damn cute and was not expected to taste very good.

Later that night I made my way to Pazzo for dinner with my workshop colleagues. I will be the first to admit that the last thing I needed after my previous night’s indulgence at The Heathman Restaurant was to sit down to another steak, but American beef is just so much superior to what I can access in Toronto that I went with their bavette on a bed of kale. For a tougher cut of beef, it was simply perfect with its seared crust and medium-rare centre. It was a flavour that I could go back to night after night…until my arteries collapsed in about a month.

Portland Restaurants

The next day, my final one in Portland, had me finishing some tasks from the workshop, running about shopping and taking in as much as I could before it was time to check-in to The Jupiter Hotel for my final night. While I could have easily stayed at The Heathman, I decided to cross the bridge and check in to the other side of Portland. The Jupiter had received many great reviews about being hip – bordering on hipster – and I felt like that would be a fun way to end the trip. Exhausted, I took a one-hour nap, and made my way down to the Doug Fir. I grabbed an appetizer of crab cakes and a delicious Doug Fir burger [number four in Portland, and by far the best].

Hilariously, I watched a poor, young girl have a few people photograph her with terrible flashes and cameras. She was wearing a funky wedding slash bridesmaid dress, so I felt bad for what had to be her “last night out on the town.” After a minute or two, I decided to go back to my room, grab the Canon with the 50mm f.1.2 lens and go back. Since it takes different types of memory cards I figured that one of her friends would probably let me shoot a few photos with my camera on her card, and I would have done a good deed for someone who seemed really nice and cool. Sadly, but the time I returned she was gone…until she re-appeared as the night’s main attraction on stage.

Sarah Jackson-Holman just commanded and rocked the stage with her digital piano. Given that I had the camera and a pint of Fat Tire, I decided to shoot what I could of her set for fun.  I will leave my thoughts on the experience to another blog, as I have sent Sarah some of the photos for her use if she likes any of them, and I do not want to post much until I have her permission. Artists should always, always have the right to ask for photos to be taken down if they do not fit their image, which may happen since I just shot for fun and not for her as a client. Needless to say, her music left me with a sense of having watched a truly brilliant songstress balance the stage, her piano, a few digital sample loops and a white dress.

Portland is gone. I came back to Toronto, rode the Ducati up to Newmarket to hang with V. and her family, and will be off to Charlottetown tomorrow afternoon for time with my own family. Prince Edward Island will be nice to go home to. I need the sleep that only the Island air and the safety of my old room can give me in my crazy-paced life. I might shoot Courtney Hogan’s CD release party on Friday for fun, too, and I hope to just have time to rest and touch base with my old, original life.

Jupiter Rising: Last 24 Hours in Portland


Portland has grown on me as I have moved from the old establishment to the new. Today was spent combing the hipster areas to see how they have revitalized the area. Frankly, without the movement the city would be lost. The food, tattoos and artisanal approach make a wasteland into an oasis.


With two slices from Sizzle Pie under my belt I hit Rebel Jewelers where I bought a King Baby silver skull ring. Love the ring though I know the rest of the world will hate it. Go with what moves you…

Finally, I left the comfort of The Heathman for the hipster Jupiter tonight. Imagine a motel updated to kitsch that smells of chlorine in a good way. I leave early so this was the best way to assure a fun night at a low cost. I am looking forward to home, vegetables and some time with V. Until then…live like a rockstar.




You Ate What?: Death by Food and Wine in Portland

Yes, one can eat too much. Yes. I have eaten too much. Yes, I am about to die from too much great food and wine, but, no, I do not regret a single moment of it. Food is one of those things that shape who we are, literally. I know that puritans insist that calories are murder, that fat is a sin, that flavour is not as important as fibre, and that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels…but they obviously are not foodies with an appreciation for the fact that the great food is worth the ups and downs on the scale. I would rather laugh with the sinners, than cry with the saints. There will always be time to repair the damage with exercise and detox.

The past two weeks on the road have not shown me one single mediocre meal. Not a single misplaced bit of food, and nothing that was not perfectly prepared and sustainable; farm to table and artisanal. Still, I feel like an orca whale about to birth a fleet of Moby Dicks with one slip of step. Why? Certainly not from junk food, because I have not had a single junk meal in two weeks. I put it down to a lack of sleep, water retention from travel, and the fact that I am eating deeply from the menu when I do have a chance to eat.

Yes, I fully understand that if I were to eat lettuce instead of pork belly, then I might live a little longer, fit into the most sought after clothing, and fit in at “that” club, but frankly the food I have eaten has made me appreciate the beauty in the world that could provide such a wide variety of foodstuffs. Tonight had me at SouthPark Seafood Grill in Portland, and it was another meal to remember from the Portland visit. While others opted for the fish, I went with a crab cake followed by the butcher’s choice of pork belly and shoulder on a bed of kale and corn polenta. The flavours were rich, clean and live with intensity. Against the bottle of white Pinot Noir, the whole meal moved along nicely and took the edge off the fact that I have not slept well for three nights.

Before hitting the restaurant, I had the good luck to make it up to Portland’s Tanner Goods shop just a few blocks from The Heathman. I appreciate the quality of leather that will last and wear well into my lifetime, and Tanner’s selection of products immediately resonated with me. In fact, I was able to acquire the exact type of fob I had been looking for to attach my Ducati key to so that it would not mar the carbon fibre around the ignition.

The Leica M3 also has been begging for a richly appointed strap, and Tanner made a beautiful version that should would nicely without causing any damage to the lugs over time. I cannot wait to attach the body to the strap when I return to Toronto in a few days.

Lastly, I was able to procure a gift for V. that hopefully will meet with her expectations. When we were in San Francisco she was in love with a wrist strap from Tory Birch, but the leather quality left me cold. Tanner Goods produces a similar, but higher quality piece that I hope V. will like. One never knows…

Sooo…one more day and night in Portland. Tomorrow I move hotels to head to the Jupiter Hotel on the other side of the river. If all goes well, then I will sleep, do some work for the workshop and make my way over the bridge to see how the “hipper” side lives. I will probably prefer The Heathman, but this last night is on my own coin so that I do not need to take the red-eye out with my colleagues, and a change of scene before I get home should be nice. The question is whether I can possibly ingest any more of what Portland has to offer? I have been attempting to capture a few of the bridges and scenes with my Hasselblad SWC camera while using my iPhone and the PocketMeter app to save space in my carry-on; we will have to see if it is accurate enough to be trusted.

With two bottles of Pinot  Noir for my “cellar”, I am at the end of my wine tether, my food possibilities and my rope. One can only hope that sleep will find me and deliver me from the evil of those Voodoo Donuts that were so damn yummy – oh, I guess they were the one junk food that passed my lips – fair enough, and worth every bite. The juicing will begin again upon arrival to my studio…beets, ginger and celery should start the detox!

Dispatches From My Phone: The Pacific Northwest


The past two weeks have been spent travelling through the major hubs of food in the West: San Francisco, Sonoma, Napa, Vancouver and Portland. I have drunk more than my fair share of red wine. I have eaten seafood to die for. The weather has been chilly, but that has been ideal for a body overheating as it processes some of the best food it has been given the opportunity to incorporate.

This week: Portland, Oregon, a city that is full of contrasts between the rich and poor, the obsessed and the insane, the farm to table movement and shopping meccas. Hipster, foodie, grunge, homeless, mentally ill and traditional all have their place at the table here. For my own part, my days have been spent at a workshop, while my meals have been luxuriating at such fine restaurants as The Heathman or Pazzo. Lunches have been spent at the Rock Bottom Brewery where the burgers are sensational. My after course walk also led me to the den of inequity – Voodoo Donuts.

So what has been great about Portland? For me, it has been all about Pinot Noir wine from the area and local beef. I hate Pinot Noir wine, or at least I did until I began to taste the variety grown in Oregon. It is deeper and more profound in its complexity than many of the Cabernets we drank in California, and it matches perfectly with the local beef. Last night’s 16 oz ribeye at The Heathman, for instance, was heaven-like when paired with the Big Table Farm Pinot. It was everything that a steak is meant to be: fatty, soft, flavourful and medium-rare. As a contrast, the bavette at Pazzo was rich, meaty, crusted and intense with flavor but equally matched with a Pinot from The Four Graces. Photos will follow from my actual camera next week.

But what about those Voodoo Donuts? Yeah…those. Well, I had only half-heartedly looked for them, but while scouting for photograph options tonight, I came across them and had to buy a few for the walk. Unlike Anthony Bourdain, who raved over the maple bacon donut, I opted for three simple chocolate dips – a standard, a chocolate bar, and the voodoo doll. At only $4.15, these were yet another Portland bargain. Fluffy, with an old-fashioned dip, I could see how one could easily eat a dozen oven the course of a night. Worth the visit? Without a doubt, if only for the cute factor of the little voodoo donut.

With two more nights left in the city, I expect to expand my experiences dining out even though I would do well to eat at The Heathman every night if I had to. Portland is slowly winning me over.

Chasing California: San Francisco and Napa Valley

The road to becoming more is never easy. Some people focus on money, others focus on fame, while another group focus on salvation; I focus on experiences and learning new things while travelling, eating and photographing the world as I see it. In San Francisco, I left out a lot of my normal focus on the photography; I just needed time to recoup and be a tourist. I needed to spend time with V. and not be worried about getting that shot before I could go for a swim or head to the hotel.

For this particular trip, I went with the Canon 50mm f.1.2 lens on a Canon EOS T3i  Rebel. I needed light, but a camera body that could still deliver solid food shots while still being able to shoot video if I needed to. I will be the first to admit that while the lens was up to the job, the body just does not deliver the dynamic range that my 1DmkIII does. Still, I love this sunflower shot outside of Sinsky Vineyards. If you are unfamiliar with the brand, then you must check out both the   wines and his sheep photography – sheet perfection.

Ahhh Cervantes…while I seldom like to have my own photo taken, I was wrapped up in the idea of having me pose with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in the Golden Gate Park. Cervantes is one of those authors that can be returned to multiple times in one’s life, and with each return comes a deeper understanding of who you have become.

The best photograph of the Japanese Tea Garden in the Golden Gate Park had to be the reflection of the garden in the tranquil pool. I seldom shoot such photos, but the vibe in this area was truly Japanese, which is a culture that I feel connected to deeply.

Napa Valley brought us to Frog’s Leap Vineyards, and perhaps the nicest wine experience that I have enjoyed to date. For $25 we were able to taste four different wines from their selections and then munch on a nice cheese and dried fruit selection. The birds were creeping close to beg for crumbs  and the flowers were all in full bloom as gentleman played bean-bag toss in the noon sun. On the wide veranda, we relaxed for the first time in months, and all was good. I picked up one bottle of the Rutherford vintage for $75 and will save it for my 40th birthday next year.

Sinsky…carp. If I could only have the space to build a little pond for the carp, then I would do it with wild abandon. Mingus and India could freak out all afternoon long, and perhaps the koy could protect my raspberry vines from the awful Mingus, who loves to chew them out at their roots.

Loved this car. Absolutely, loved it. A Volvo c70 convertible with a metal flake in black/bronze. It accelerated like butterscotch and the convertible in California was $400 well-spent for the two days in the Valley. I am certain that my mom would approve.

I am now en route to Portland, Oregon. My horoscope has predicted that whatever I will experience today will change my life forever; I assert that what I experience every day changes my life forever, and that it should change yours, too, if you are to consider yourself to be alive and living.