equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
30 Mar 08

Solo Artist

This week, the sound from my right head­phone started crack­ling and promptly died. I’ve been lis­ten­ing to my music with only the left chan­nel until I can find a replace­ment pair.

This has led to the unfor­tu­nate dis­cov­ery that when singing to your­self at a cer­tain vol­ume, OTHER PEOPLE CAN STILL HEAR YOU.

28 Mar 08

How To Interpret Nothing

(I’ve been writ­ing this in my head for four years. Four years and seven months, to be precise.)

So one last touch and then you’ll go
And we’ll pre­tend that it meant some­thing so much more
But it was vile, and it was cheap
And you are beau­ti­ful but you don’t mean a thing to me

—Death Cab for Cutie, Tiny Vessels

Ghost picture

I got this pic­ture in New Jersey. It’s the most pecu­liar size for a pho­to­graph: 3 7/16 by 4 13/16 inches.

For some rea­son, I see it prop­erly like this — land­scape ori­en­ta­tion, with the white stripe on the left — when it could just as well be rotated any other way. This is the bias I place on it. The way I view it.

It almost looks like a room with a wall in frame on the left, and the cam­era has metered for a flash off the wall, under­ex­pos­ing the rest of the pic­ture. There are two smears in the black­ness. Maybe an out-of-focus object, maybe a fin­ger­print on the lens.

I didn’t take the pic­ture. Someone else did, thought it was bad, and was about to throw it out before I asked for it. Someone who took me for granted. Someone who’s world I lived in but for a week, in the midst of the intense sum­mer humid­ity and coitus inter­rup­tus.

I’ve kept it in one of my note­books since. The edges have turned yel­low, and the cor­ners blunt from handling.

Every time I look at it, I like to think that I see some­thing in that grain and that noise. That something’s there; I just don’t see it because there isn’t enough light to expose it, but it exists nonethe­less. Some pho­to­graphic kōan, where I become that which I seek.

But I know there isn’t, the way I know it was noth­ing more than pass­ing moment, a week for­got­ten, a life unchanged.

And I’ve been hap­pily fool­ing myself ever since.

26 Mar 08

Psychoanalytic Reflections 03

My ther­a­pist is on vaca­tion now. When he gets back, I’ll start to see him on a bi-monthly instead of weekly basis. At first he sug­gested that we slow down only once I get a han­dle on my anx­i­ety, but when I explained that the ses­sions were putting me in a neg­a­tive cash-flow sce­nario, he under­stood and agreed1.

  1. We’re both baf­fled by the fact that the ses­sions aren’t cov­ered by OHIP, whereas phys­i­cal health prob­lems are. []
23 Mar 08


Glamourous Paige

Thumbnail: Innocent Paige
Thumbnail: Paige's smirk
Thumbnail: Hopeful Paige
Thumbnail: Mischievous Paige
Thumbnail: Model Paige's
Thumbnail: Paige's purse
Thumbnail: Muted Paige
Thumbnail: Stoic Paige
Thumbnail: Paige's eyes
Thumbnail: Three quarters Paige

Usually I don’t post this many pic­tures of one shoot of a sin­gle per­son because there’s often a lot of redun­dancy, but Paige has a thou­sand expres­sions that must be cap­tured and shown to the world.

There’s a com­plex­ity in her face that betrays the lay­ers and lay­ers of her char­ac­ter. By turns ebul­lient, hope­ful, play­ful, and uncer­tain — every frame is dif­fer­ent. I feel like I could write an essay on her look alone.

Best viewed on large and on black, of course, so click the pic­tures. Commentary at full size.

22 Mar 08

Like A Moth To Flame

I’m think­ing this and writ­ing this and I have to say some­thing to some­one but Pat’s busy, Julie’s out of town, and John’s gone miss­ing. Not that they would under­stand any­way. Not that even I understand.

De-loused in the Comatorium is cranked on my speak­ers right now because it’s how I feel. Last week, my neigh­bour told me he’s never heard a peep from me. Now I ques­tion whether I’m push­ing my luck. It’s like I stepped out into the dark­ness of a cool night from a pro­duc­tion of Equus. These synapses fir­ing. The jit­ter­i­ness. It’s ten, I haven’t had din­ner, but I’m shak­ing too much to eat.

I feel like I could write for days and days and days and days. Maybe I’m just happy to have some­thing to write about. Maybe I’m just happy to feel this way again. This self-destructiveness, even in the face of cer­tainty.

A lit­tle clock in front of the turquoise man says I’m away, but I’m here. Talk to me, Darren. Where are you? Only you would get it. Only you know how I feel, because you’re prob­a­bly feel­ing the same thing right now.

We’re drawn to that which hurts us. In this way, we reveal our vul­ner­a­bil­ity, and only those who are so vul­ner­a­ble rec­og­nize their own.

It’s time I turned down this music. It’s time I put some food in my stom­ach. It’s time I scalded myself in the shower. It’s time I got some sleep.

Sometimes you don’t know you’re alive until you’re burn­ing.

21 Mar 08

Update: March '08

It’s been a full year since I did one of these update entries. It’s inter­est­ing to read the last one. Addressing the sub­jects I wrote about: I’ve changed lay­outs three times, I’ve received over 2000 com­ments, Balls of Fury was hilar­i­ous, and my trip to New Hampshire changed my life.

The Car

I finally, finally, finally got a car.

For years I took the bus, just so I could put the money — oth­er­wise spent on a loan, insur­ance, gas, or main­te­nance — towards my mort­gage or photo gear. Things like heavy gro­ceries, pur­chases of large or bulk items, and trips to remote areas with no bus ser­vice would leave me depen­dent on the favours of friends with auto­mo­biles. No more.

2008 Honda Civic Coupe

It’s black 2008 Honda Civic Coupe, like the one above with­out the tint­ing. At first, I wanted it in grey metal­lic but it looked rather blah in the showroom.

I should have it next week. Trips to Montreal (for pho­tog­ra­phy and food) and Toronto (to visit John and Darren) have already been planned, as well as the sur­round­ing areas dur­ing the spring­time. And if Bronwen and I were still on speak­ing terms, I’d drive her to the Casino du Lac-Leamy to gam­ble on the horses.

The Temporary Housemate

Alex is stay­ing with me for two weeks while he does a med­ical intern­ship at CHEO. The com­pany will be a wel­come change. It’ll be nice to have a room­mate for a bit and give me an excuse to watch movies that I don’t oth­er­wise make time to watch.

The Photo Gear

Fed up with the deep red of my stu­dio and tap­ing black con­struc­tion paper to the walls, I bought a black muslin backdrop.

Dolly against the black muslin backdrop

Dolly, being a cat who must sleep on any­thing new in the house to mark her ter­ri­tory, promptly set­tled her­self on the back­drop as soon as I had fin­ished iron­ing it.

I also got a Chimera XXS soft­box for one of my next projects, which will heav­ily use macro shots. The soft­box will allow me bet­ter con­trol of light, as well as more even dis­tri­b­u­tion of light than an umbrella.

Me in a softbox

Next on the list is a sec­ond flash and stand, but it’ll be some time before I can afford that.

18 Mar 08

The Peeing Sound

Sometimes, when I pee, I shud­der a lit­tle bit. Not only that, but a sound may escape me. The only way I can describe it is a soft, trem­bling, exclamation.

Sometimes, this hap­pens at a pub­lic bathroom.

Sometimes, there hap­pens to be some­one stand­ing next to me, also peeing.

Sometimes, I get funny looks.

16 Mar 08


Snow surrounds a bus shelter

Snow weighs down branches

Snow taller than a trash bin

Townhouses in winter

Snow is a rel­a­tively hard thing to cap­ture on film. With so much white, there’s very lit­tle con­trast or tex­ture, so noth­ing to lead the eye. You want to give a sense of being suf­fo­cated by all this now, but too much of the same thing in a pic­ture becomes bor­ing. It’s bal­anc­ing the sub­ject and work­ing with avail­able light that becomes important.

I don’t think we’ve reached the record for snow­fall yet, but we’re close. I tried to walk to work, but gave up. Even trudg­ing through the snow to get these shots left me sweat­ing. It’s days like these that I’m thank­ful that I live in a condo, because my condo fees go towards shov­el­ing the park­ing lot. People told me they had to shovel their dri­ve­ways a cou­ple times in one night.

14 Mar 08

Traces of Me

I’m just com­ing off a mod­er­ate cold I’ve had for the last week. All the clas­sic symp­toms — runny, stuffy nose, con­ges­tion, slight headache, yel­low phlegm — but oddly enough, barely a hint sore throat. It’s been unpleas­ant to say the least.

A lit­tle while ago, Tiana wrote “I look in the bowl after to see how impres­sive it was. I’m pretty sure you do too”.

This cold has made me real­ize that I not only look in the bowl (I’m sure Freud would diag­nose us as being fix­ated in the anal stage of psy­cho­sex­ual devel­op­ment), but I open my Kleenex after blow­ing in it as well, to check for dis­coloured mucus, phlegm, blood, or bits of brain that may have escaped through my nose.

12 Mar 08

Moo Minicards

Moo Minicard montage

Thumbnail: The Moo box
Thumbnail: The Moo Minicard package
Thumbnail: The Moo Minicard holder
Thumbnail: The Moo Minicard detail
Thumbnail: The Moo keyfob

My Moo Minicards are in! I wanted a set to hand out at art shows and to peo­ple I ask to model for me. I also throw a few in with each print I sell. People have really enjoyed them; many have a hard time decid­ing which one they want to take. The great thing about the Minicards is that you can order up to 100 dif­fer­ent pic­tures on the front, so that peo­ple get a sense of the range of pho­tog­ra­phy you do.

Read the rest of this entry »

09 Mar 08

A Thousand Kisses Deep

I can gather all the news I need on the weather report.
Hey, I’ve got noth­ing to do today but smile.
Da-n-da-da-n-da-da-n-da-da and here I am
The only liv­ing boy in New York

Half of the time we’re gone but we don’t know where,
And we don’t know here.

—Simon and Garfunkle, The Only Living Boy in New York

Every day, we get caught up in our lives.

We adopt pets to give us a sense of fam­ily. We eat break­fast at work or in the car to save our­selves time so we can work some more. We scorn those who express emo­tion, we avoid eye con­tact with strangers on the street.

Everything we do — the food we eat, the movies we watch, the home team we cheer for, our cof­fee shop romances — they’re just try­ing to fill that hole, that gap that’s miss­ing, the only way we feel alive.

We don’t slow down, we don’t fig­ure things out. We don’t reflect and appre­ci­ate what we have.

Like straw­berry cheese­cake ice cream with a thick gra­ham cracker swirl. Like the seren­ity of the snow that falls around us, when heaven decides to bless the earth.

Life gets in the way of liv­ing.

And now I real­ize just how guilty I’ve been of this. I’ve been look­ing for love, but never rec­og­nized it when I found it. All I ever wanted to do was lie in bed, look into your eyes, and go through my favourite albums with you. But I never did. And now I won­der. Why can’t we just live? We can’t we just love?

Sometimes you have to stop. You can’t cap­ture every­thing. You need to throw your­self in.

A thou­sand kisses deep.

07 Mar 08

Channel Mixer

One of the photographer’s great­est assets is the nude model. Without cloth­ing, there’s no chance for some­one to out­wardly project their per­son­al­ity. Only a human stripped to the bare essen­tials, naked to the world as the day they were born, pure and with­out bias.

This was an exer­cise in mix­ing mono­chro­matic colour chan­nels to bring out details such as cuts, scars, stub­ble, and goose­bumps. Also, some good prac­tice in com­po­si­tion and fram­ing. Best viewed large and on black (so click the pic­tures1).







And, of course, it doesn’t hurt if he looks like he’s been carved out of marble.

  1. Feed read­ers may have to visit the perma­link to take advan­tage of the black Lightbox script. []
05 Mar 08

Therapy in 140 Characters or Less

Twice in one day? What?

Five years ago, I wrote that hope was the mind­killer. It can be a euphoric feel­ing, but as the result of sev­eral bad expe­ri­ences, the poten­tial for dis­ap­point­ment out­weighed the gain.

My way of deal­ing with dis­ap­point­ment was to assume the worst. It made me com­fort­able. There was cer­tainty, and I could move on.

So I had learned never to hope. This is how I changed. This is how I adapted. A defence mech­a­nism I used to pro­tect myself from being hurt. I had been fine with this, until today.

Perhaps it was hav­ing Julie tell me that I’m bet­ter than the atti­tude I have, or the life I lead1, but I’m filled with hope again. For once, I dare to dream of some­thing greater.

I want it and hate it at the same time. It gives me courage, but throws my world into uncer­tainty, like I’m set­ting myself up to be hurt again.

But Julie’s strong enough to believe in me and stub­born enough not to give up, because I’m not capa­ble of believ­ing in myself.

And maybe that’s enough to break the cycle.

  1. It made me real­ize I need some­one else to tell me cer­tain things, because I can’t see them for myself. I hate the fact that I can’t be strong enough for myself. I prob­a­bly shouldn’t. It just means there’s some­thing else about which I’m being too hard on myself, which I’ll have to tell my psy­chol­o­gist about any­way. []
05 Mar 08

Mute And Muse

Assume as necessary.

Why is it so polit­i­cally incor­rect to show your feel­ings? Would it be inap­pro­pri­ate to tell you that I’m in love?

That your dim­ples are like hinges that purse your lips in the most adorable way, and I want to kiss them. That I want to have you here next to me, to feel the weight of your body press­ing against mine. That I want to smell you on my fin­gers, I want to fold my sheets around you, I want to feel your curls under my hands as I lather and rinse.

Because I’m sick of being polite and I’m tired of propriety.

So let’s deal with this attrac­tion. Let’s not ignore what’s between us.

03 Mar 08

Emergence Exposition Opus 02

The last three months led up to this night.

Gallery viewing

Thumbnail: Ysabella's sculptures
Thumbnail: Baby dance
Thumbnail: Ceramic tower
Thumbnail: Ceramic sculptures
Thumbnail: Jacqueline plays piano
Thumbnail: Chocolate truffles
Thumbnail: Louise performs
Thumbnail: Frédéric plays the harp
Thumbnail: Prairie Cat
Thumbnail: Tree sculpture

After attend­ing Opus 01, I knew I wanted to be a part of this.

John, as a true friend, flew from Toronto to be there for the night. Alex, who was doing a med­ical intern­ship at a fam­ily prac­tice in a nearby city, drove there. Even Pearl also dropped by and I got to meet her.

I was so busy talk­ing with my guests that I didn’t even have time to go into the other rooms to see how the other artists were doing. The house was packed with peo­ple again, young and old.


Jacqueline’s sec­ond piece was Sonata in A Minor, by Franz Schubert (unfor­tu­nately, her first piece was over ten min­utes long, which isn’t allowed on YouTube). I found it to be a rather mas­cu­line piece, begin­ning like a som­bre funeral march, lead­ing to a jour­ney of bub­bling emo­tion, so it was mes­mer­iz­ing to see a girl play it with such con­vic­tion. Pay spe­cial atten­tion to the burn­ing trill at 5:28, which leads back to the main theme.

Misun told me that when she handed Jacqueline a rose after the per­for­mance, it looked like she had run a marathon.

Afterwards, Jacqueline told me after she couldn’t stop look­ing at my penis through her per­for­mance, then quickly cor­rected her­self and said the penis pic­ture, which was hung across from her.

Louise plays the harp by feel­ing only. She doesn’t have for­mal any musi­cal train­ing, so she doesn’t write any of her com­po­si­tions down. It just flows from her fin­gers, and quite well I might add. As a result, her music is semi-improvised.

John kept telling us how not drunk he was, even though you can clearly see­ing him down­ing glasses of wine in this video.

The after party

Thumbnail: Hors d'ouevres table
Thumbnail: Alex plays piano
Thumbnail: Cary and Ysabella
Thumbnail: Alex, me, and John
Thumbnail: Salon window

When the peo­ple left and the doors closed, the real party began for the artists, their guests, and the vol­un­teers. Frédéric and Misun broke out the cold cuts, the fresh and fancy bread, the wine, the cheese and we cel­e­brated a suc­cess­ful night. We had been stand­ing for five hours, so it was time to take a break.

When Dan gave me a read­ing two years ago, and said that I would be mak­ing money off my art within the next 15 years, I never would have believed him.

Note: All media in this post has an extremely warm colour tone. I decided to keep it instead of bal­anc­ing it to neu­tral white, because I enjoy the cozy feel of it, which expresses the mood of the house-gallery.