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Documenting memories through the Camera Lens

Miranda and Reilly Lievers are photographer husband and wife duo at Blue Olive Photography who captured Cinnamon and Galib Bhayani’s intercultural wedding in Vancouver. I sat down with them at their Gastown home studio over looking the Pacific Ocean for a Q & A session.

Miranda and Reilly Lievers- the force behind Blue Olive Photography

Faiza: Why did you choose to be a wedding photographer?

Miranda: It was kind of by accident. We were into other types of photography. This one time Reilly booked a wedding and in a panic he made me come with him. We found that really rewarding and fun. I know what the photos from my parents and my grandparents weddings look like. These photos will stay with the couple for generations to come. Their children and their grandchildren will be looking at the pictures we created for them. There is no better job than this in the world.

Reilly: We enjoyed it so much that we’ve been doing wedding photography for eight years now. We’ve photographed over 200 plus weddings.

Faiza: How many mixed/intercultural weddings have you covered?

Miranda: About 25-30 per cent of the weddings we have covered were intercultural. Especially being in Vancouver you come across many as it is a very multicultural city.

Reilly: The trend seems to be growing and we are getting more and more mixed culture weddings as time goes by. More people are stepping away from traditional roles and people tend to choose partners different cultures with much more ease than before.

Faiza: Have you found that Vancouver is particularly more focused on mixed unions than other cities?

Miranda: Vancouver is definitely unique because the city has a very multicultural character. We have covered weddings in Edmonton and Calgary where there is less diverse population. Majority of the people living there are Caucasian. Here in Vancouver due to the large number of mixed population you will see more mixed culture weddings

Faiza: What challenges have you had to face on intercultural shoots?

Reilly: Language mostly. Spending an entire day in a room where people are talking to each other in entirely different languages can be a bit tricky. You have to watch body language to understand whats happening. Because we shoot in a very photo journalistic way we have to pay attention to whats happening and why its happening when there are four different languages floating around in the room.

Miranda: So it has happened that the bride’s family is speaking Cantonese and the grooms family might know only English. Both families may be experiencing the same thing as us where they are unable to understand the language. So we follow along and understand the traditions that way.

Faiza: Can you think of a funny story that happened on a mixed wedding shoot?

Reilly: One funny story we had was at a Hindu wedding . The groom had not really been prepped for what ceremonies will take place. He sat there looking stunned the whole three hours while the couple had to walk around the fire. I think he really wasn’t prepped at all. He did not realize he had to all these traditional ceremonies. His eyes got wider and wider and wider and by the end of the day- he seems pretty exhausted

Miranda: (Laughs) Yeah that was pretty intense.

Faiza: Have you noticed any common trends among intercultural weddings in Vancouver?

Miranda: One of the common things we have noticed mostly with South Asian and East Indian weddings is how the timely and untimely things are. Some of our clients affectionately call it “brown time” . Things will just run an hour late, or two hours late or some times even longer. We have had scheduling conflicts that way. We worked with a wedding planner who just had done western weddings and she was planning this south Asian wedding. She was panicking because everything was running late.

Reilly: It wasn’t really even that late…probably by like 45 minutes which was actually pretty good for us. We were the ones who were trying to let her know that everything was fine and things were running on time as was expected for that wedding.

Faiza: So you guys were the experts on mixed weddings there then?

Miranda: (smiles) Yes. We were. We had worked with clients from different cultures before.

Faiza: Any outrageous demands mixed couples make?

Miranda: Probably the number of family photos that are expected in some cultures. It is important to capture photos of literally everybody that’s there . We have had a six hundred people wedding and we have had to go through a whole bunch of family photos in a very small amount of time. It is not impossible and it can be done but it requires the cooperation of everyone that’s involved in the shoot.

Reilly: We don’t tend to get a lot of outrageous demands. We’re pretty laissez faire about how we do things and what somebody thinks as an outrageous demand might really be status-quo. So we go with the flow. A lot of our clients come from outside Vancouver to get married here. We also get a lot of clients from mixed cultures who come here to get married.

Faiza: Makes me want ask another question. Have you asked people why are they choosing to get married in Vancouver?

Miranda: People have ties to family here, some have lived here before, or studied here. Simply also because it s beautiful place. It is cheaper to go to a tropical destination and Europe or the US. It is actually more expensive to come to Vancouver to get married as compared to a destination wedding. Its more expensive to have a wedding in Vancouver than other places.

Faiza: Which one was the most unique multicultural wedding?

Miranda: I think the Chinese and Filipino wedding. It was such a great combination of two cultures. They had the filipino cord and veil ceremony, the 13 coin money dance followed by the Chinese tea ceremony. It was very elegant.

Faiza: Thanks so much for your time Miranda and Reilly. I think you have one most special job in the world.

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Environment and Climate Change, life

Livin’ the high life “off-gird”

Rooms inside an off-grid house
Rooms inside an off-grid house

The push for becoming environmentally friendly and responsible has now taken a new turn. Its not just reducing your carbon foot print or disposing your recycling in the appropriately marked bins.

There is more to it than taking three minute showers or using a plant based product as popularized by Jennifer Aniston. Some Canadian households are turning to a completely different lifestyle. They are going “off the grid”.

The EPIC Vancouver, Sustainable Living Expo is to be held from May 08- 10 at the New Vancouver Convention Centre. The three day event features everything “Green”. From Eco-Supermodel Summer Rayne Oakes talking about sustainable style and beauty to Vancouver’s top Green chef’s it is a one stop shop for eco-friendly good samaritans.

Initially the term “off-grid”  brings to mind visions of dark communes and societies that exist on bare essentials without plumbing and eating raw meat, but this is no secret cabal. It is just a human connection and the urge to save our planet’s dwindling resources.

” For a person like me who had never gone camping in the most scenic locations with all the Mopark accessories, the idea of living off the grid seemed outrageous.” said Nathan Barbosa.

Then he got hired as the Business Development Manager for a Vancouver renewable energy company, and that proved to be iconoclastic for his thought processes.

” It was not easy to leave my beautifully equipped penthouse and move to a solar panel equipped house in the suburbs, but it was worth the effort.” Barbosa reminsces.

Now he lives independent of muncipal electricity system without any power lines hooked to his house.  The roof of the house is covered in solar photovoltaic panels and evacuated tubes. These store natural renewable energy in form of batteries for running his appliances around the house.

Solar Panels on an off-grid house.
Solar Panels on an off-grid house.

Given the BC weather it is bad news when there is no sun to store energy in the solar panels, but this is when Barbosa switches to a propane generator, especially in the winters. 

This lifestyle is not cheap. It costs between $40,000- $50,000 for a four kilo-watt hybrid solar and wind system. People seem to be latching on to the idea. 

For those who are not familiar with the concept there are many websites such as www.treehugger.com and http://www.off-grid.net/ that can entice people into starting to recognize the importance of renewable energy.

” When the adjustment period is over it is a healthy lifestyle.  If my TV stops working, I rely on my iPod to keep me energized ” joked Barbosa.

life, Published articles

Google search term: Prorogue

Many young Canadians admit they are not even aware of the word. Still, “prorogue” has recently become stylishly popular and part of the cool lingo amongst high schoolers.

Canadians reached out to the internet as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his minority Conservative government faced challenges at the hands of opposition parties “coalition.”

“I wondered for a long while what coalition meant whenever it was mentioned at school. Now they came up with prorogue. I was like holy cow, ” says Tommy Jacobson, a grade nine student at a local secondary school.

The Google website’s Insights for Search tool, which allows users to compare search volume patterns, shows a huge spike in the number of queries related to the political showdown.

The CBC reported prorogue’s popularity increased by about 100 per cent by the beginning of December. It was about 100 per cent more popular as a search term than it has ever been since Google started keeping tabs in 2004.

Canadians have a history of remaining calm in face of such perilous times but it seems that now the Canadians are having a tough time facing their “cool” about the national political scene

Environment and Climate Change, Published articles

Sustainability and climate change: Need action Now

Cullis-Suzuki at UBC

Severn Cullis- Suzuki and Stephen Lewis were at UBC as part of the “Students for Sustainability” tour.

Here are the two articles I wrote that got published in the NowPublic and The Ubyssey.

Environmentalists Severn Cullis-Suzuki and Stephen Lewis are calling on governments globally to “force” sustainability measures on their citizens and want action now.

Cullis- Suzuki, the daughter of renowned activist David Suzuki and Lewis, Canadian politician and diplomat, were speaking to a gathering of students at University of British Columbia (UBC). They outlined a plan of action to address global warming that includes the urgent need for government leaders to provide pragmatic solutions to climate change crisis.

Lewis called it a “desperate moment in time”. Cullis-Suzuki reiterated, “Human societies never change unless they are forced to, and the problem is that our elected leaders are not implementing them.”

His main concern was about working towards sustainability as a common goal, not for the ways governments planned on handling the issue.

“I don’t care whether the answer is a carbon tax which appeals to me more than other regiments …. I really don’t care what you use…it has to be done and political interventions are necessary.” Lewis said.

The talk was part of the Canada wide 21 university campus tour lasting 30 days. The “Students for Sustainability” tour was aimed at creating awareness about climate change and the environment among university students.

The tour came about after realizing Federal government of Canada’s inability to meet the international obligations for lowering carbon emissions. Canada had committed to reducing emissions 6% below 1990 levels during 2008-2012, instead greenhouse gas emissions had increased by 27% in 2004.

The Canadian Federation of Students and the Sierra Youth Coalition and the David Suzuki Foundation together have mobilized students across Canada to put pressure on politicians to take action on climate change and other environmental issues. The students at each campus were asked to sign a petition to support the sustainability cause which will be presented to the Parliament in November 2008.

UBC was the second to last university for the tour, launched from Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland on September 30 and ended at the University of Victoria, BC.

Cullis-Suzuki put the onus on students to recruit parents for becoming more environmentally friendly, as their challenge is far more powerful than any other person.

“Use your inter-generational power. These people [parents] are still decision makers in our society,” Cullis-Suzuki said.

Cullis-Suzuki had optimistic hopes about the future, “Each of us directs the future by what kind of difference each of us makes. How we make that difference is up to us.”

Faiza Zia Khan