Photography Website Writer

Field Notes – Sandra Shields and David Campion


Partners in life and work,  writer Sandra Shields and photographer David Campion work together on long term projects, chronicling subjects they find both important and interesting. They now have a site dedicated to their work, The stories here have appeared in a number of places, magazines such as Geist, online at The Tyee and in books such as Where Fire Speaks, published by  Arsenal Pulp Press.  They’ve looked at, and explained, life with a disability, a tribe in Africa facing wholesale lifestyle changes and the Calgary Stampede.

I’ve always thought that documentarians were the poets of the journalism world, under appreciated and under paid,  but they get closer to the core of a subject than anyone else and these two certainly prove that.

These are the two opening paragraphs from Sandra Shields essay in Valley To The Sea:

‘JEN SLEPT IN HER CAR outside the Deroche Hall for a few nights the spring she met Rope. She was seventeen and had just gotten a rose tattooed above her right breast and didn’t want her dad to find out. Her parents lived across the field from the Deroche Hall in a house they built when they got pregnant with Jen, next to a trailer court named in honour of Jen’s great-grandfather Joe Kelly, who had once been chief of the Lakahahmen Indian Band.

Rope was twenty-five and lived in his own trailer in Joe Kelly Estates. He was a white kid who grew up on welfare in Surrey. He moved out to Deroche when he got a job in a sawmill near Mission. When he learned Jen was sleeping in her car, he said she could stay with him for a while. They had met a few days earlier on a double date and had gone to a movie that none of them liked, and in the back seat on the drive home Rope fell asleep and spilled beer all over Jen. They became buddies but didn’t want to date each other. He slept on the couch and gave her his bed. ‘

Those two paragraphs draw you in and tell you more than you thought possible in such a short burst of writing.

David’s photographs both complement Sandra’s writing and tell their own version of the story.


This is the full uncropped version of the photograph at top.  Photograph © David Campion


©David Campion

See much more of their work on their field notes site. You can also look at some of  David’s fine art work at


Dooney’s Cafe

Dooney’s Cafe, the website, bills itself as a news service. Not like any news service I’ve known though. Essays with a literary bent from a series of semi-regular contributors are not your average news service fare. It is named after the Toronto cafe where a number of the writers hang out (or perhaps hung out as the restaurant was recently sold).

Essays range from Stan Persky’s recent ‘How Dumb Can You Get’ which is mainly a review of Mark Baurlein’s ‘The Dumbest Generation’ but Perksy does manage to get his own views in. Read the following paragraph:

“That’s when I had my little vision. The spines of the books, instead of reminding me of trees in a forest, as they often do, suddenly began to look like tombstones. Each date on a book spine recorded the death of a book. I was standing in the middle of The Dead Library. Book reading was over.”

Persky, who teaches at Capilano University in BC, and like many of the Dooney’s contributors, touches on subjects close to his heart. He also appears to be the most prolific of the regular writers.

Terry Glavin, noted for his books on First Nations, the environment, fishing and British Columbia, recently contributed an essay on the Fraser River and history and how First Nations’ names and stories overlap with current names. That’s an awkward explanation for an eloquent and evocative piece. Here’s Glavin:

‘The world is a palimpsest, and as soon as a story is told to make sense of things, it is a rare thing for it to vanish out of the world entirely. Once you hear these stories, you will never see the river we know in quite the same way, nor the cosmopolis that has grown up along its banks, and those stories will echo in everything you hear for as long as you may live.’

Brian Fawcett’s essays maybe roam the most, book reviews to examinations of people and neighbourhoods.  His ostensible review of Stardust by the late Bruce Serafin, subtitled Losing The Best Canadian Writer No One Know About, is really about the Serafin not his book.

Here’s the beginning of the piece; ‘When Bruce Serafin allowed a Victoria, B.C. publisher of poetry monographs called Ekstasis Editions to publish Colin’s Big Thing in 2003, I wrote that the book contained the best writing about Vancouver ever committed to paper—and felt absurd saying it. The sense of absurdity didn’t come because I was exaggerating. It was because I didn’t think anyone would listen, least of all Serafin himself, who made a career of underplaying whatever hand had been dealt to him. So let me start out again, also feeling absurd, to say that this book, Stardust, flat out contains passages of the best prose ever written on Canada’s west coast. This time, I’m saying it purely for posterity. Serafin died in June 2007.’

Fawcett’s ‘A Kings Life‘ takes a look at Bill King, jazz musician, photographer and jazz festival honcho, to wonder why we don’t notice the extraordinary people in our midst.

These are just a few examples of the diversity and quality of work available here. Over and over with this site I find writing worth reading. Not everything is a gem but it is often enough to make this a regular stop on the online literary troll.