We didn’t know if he was going to kill us or invite us into his home. We had been shooting the hand-painted “PLEASE-DON’T-BLOW-OR-PUSH-SNOW-AGAINST-MY-FENCE” sign in the parking lot adjacent to his house and he must have seen us from his window: three men, all with cameras, faces covered by their hats, pacing back and forth across the sidewalk at 1:30 AM on a Monday… in the rain. It’s no wonder he came out to confront us.
We had crossed the border into Canada at dusk and were holed up in Campbellton, New Brunswick for the night. Campbellton, the last town before the Gaspé Peninsula, has a five-block downtown and boasts of two things to do: go fishing or go to Quebec. We chose to make our own third option and took our cameras out into the night.
Late night stragglers, people driving in and out of the Tim Horton’s, and signs both neon and handpainted dotted the landscape. The closed storefronts told the town’s story: a barber shop covered in Canadiens signage, a used sewing-machine store, murals of clipper ships and frontiersmen… save for the local branch of the Dooly’s pool hall chain, this was a sleepy little town we were canvassing. Then we circled back for that Get Off My Lawn sign we had seen earlier.
We found the sign, and shot. And shot. And changed angles and shot some more, Rob and I in the lot and BJ across the street, standing watch. In essence, we did everything we could to look suspicious to anyone watching us. It likely didn’t help matters that as Rob continued to shoot the sign, I walked across the street to BJ, who gave a wary nod toward a figure eyeing us from the second story window of the house next to the lot. As BJ walked away from the figure’s line of sight, I took his place and changed my lens so that I could shoot all the players in the scene, both known and unknown. It was like seeing a bear in the woods and walking closer to get a better shot.
Then the figure disappeared from the window and appeared on his landing: “Uh, can we help you guys?” he asked even thought there was only one of him. He and Rob began an exchange where the figure became more and more hostile as Rob answered in a non-aggressive yet annoyed monotone that followed the lines of “Just shooting some pictures.” “Why?” “That sign is the type of shit we’d see where we grew up.” The figure replied with an icy “Huh?” and seemed more than ready to come down his stairs. Rob replied with simple honesty, “We just drove here from Boston,” and with that, the threatening demeanor of the figure changed.
No longer paranoid or suspicious, he almost seen honored to have people from a “real” city come to his for their leisure time. “Fuckin’ Boston? What the hell are you doing here?”
“Some hiking and shit.”
You could almost hear the figure thinking as those last couple exchanges registered in his mind. A few beats passed and he called out into the night: “Welcome to fuckin’ Canada, man!”
He stayed on his landing a few moments to watch us finish up the shoot before going back into his apartment. We left his block, only to find an old Buick Regal lit by a green porch light – it looked like the cover of El Camino if one of the Gremlins had set the lighting. More photographs ensued.
Text & Photo: Dan Meade
July 15, 2012