Super 8 Filmmaker John Porter, Toronto, Canada
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John Porter's CineScenes:
Edited by Clint Enns, designed by Leslie Supnet,
Hours: Sunday-Tuesday, 11am-7pm;
Listed retail price $35 CND
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by Scott MacDonald, Nicole Gingras,
Portraits of a Homespun Cinema:
L'homme de lumière / Man of Light
These Events Happened Here Once:
by tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE, March 5, 2016
LAUNCH EVENT DECEMBER 2015
small-gauge film festival (Jan 29-31, 2016)
John Porter's CineScenes
Wednesday, December 9, 8:30pm, free! (unclassified)
CineCycle, behind 129 Spadina Ave., Toronto
10th annual edition - January 27-29, 2017
at Polish Combatants Hall, 206 Beverley St., Toronto
This book is their first publication!
John Porter and I first met in 2010 at the Winnipeg Cinematheque, where he showed up to a screening of his work dressed as a super 8 sheriff, complete with kid’s cowboy hat, plastic badge, one of his many super 8 shirts, and two toy cap guns in holsters. We all thought he was a madman given that we didn’t know he was wearing this costume for Shootout with Rebecca (1983), a film/live performance in which John duels it out with his on-screen nemesis. The films I saw that night were entirely unique and demonstrated a mastery over medium, space, and time while still maintaining a childlike sense of play and curiosity. Since moving to Toronto in 2011, I have had the opportunity to see many of John’s other films and we have developed a lasting friendship out of our love of moving image culture.
There are many affinities between John’s films and his documentary photo portraits. In fact, many of John’s films reflect the main purpose of his photography, namely, to document an event or performance. For instance, many of his Condensed Rituals can be seen as documentations of ephemeral events, like his 1976 film Santa Claus Parade or his 1978/1979 documentation of the rides at the Canadian National Exhibition in Amusement Park. His Camera Dances, such as Shovelling Snow (1992) and Light Sleeper (2010/2011), can be seen as documentations of his performances involving, you guessed it, shovelling snow (one of John’s favourite activities) and sleeping (another one of John’s favourite activities). The composition and subject matter of his films and photographs are often chosen to provide historical insight into the events depicted, that is, to include information about the location and time in which they were shot. Furthermore, John’s dedication to the act of documentation and his use of extra-diegetic text (in the form of written captions for his photographs and oral descriptions for his film presentations) transform the films and photographs from mere documentation into significant works of historical importance.
The photos in this book were selected for their documentary value, with attention paid in each case to the aesthetic quality of the photo, the historical importance of the event, the filmmakers present, and the technologies on display. It is worth stating that John and I did not make a conscious effort to exclude any filmmakers; however, in view of the limited space of this book, I am positive that many great filmmakers (local and otherwise) will have been left out. In fact, John has over 1,000 subjects in his collection, and this book only contains a portion of them. Given that John and I are both anti-hierarchical, it is not the intention of this book to develop or promote a canon, but we would be ecstatic if this project brought some attention to any of the filmmakers documented. Following the philosophy of Helen Hill we believe that a filmmaker is anyone who makes a film, hence emerging filmmakers are presented here alongside established filmmakers. With that said, the subjects presented in this book inevitably reflect John’s personal and political interests, which include his devotion towards super 8, bicycles, and DIY/alternative modes of filmmaking, in addition to his support of community building and his opposition to censorship.
John and I would like to acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and of the8fest (in particular, Milada Kovacova, Andrew James Paterson, and Scott Miller Berry), which made this project possible. We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to our copy editors Cameron Moneo and Andrew James Paterson, and to our designer Leslie Supnet. Finally, we would like to thank all of the writers who contributed thoughtful essays and interviews to this book, namely, Scott MacDonald, Nicole Gingras (and Jeffrey Moore), Tess Takahashi, and Dot Tuer.
On behalf of all of us who so appreciate this book, thanks first and foremost to Clint Enns. It’s his “baby”. It was his idea, he applied for and received the funding, and he gathered the talented team whom he names individually in his Introduction. Thanks to them all.
Personally, I am eternally grateful to many people who over the years have helped me reach this accomplishment, beginning with my family. My mother Marion, who turns 100 on the same day this book is launched, inspired me to be an artist. My father Larry gave me my first camera and darkroom kit, my sister Susan later gave me a better camera, and then my sister Nancy helped me get into the Film & Photography course at Ryerson University.
My most enduring friend Edie Steiner shared her equipment and expertise, and I have always used her early technique of printing the negative’s full frame, without cropping, a technique I later also applied to my in-camera edited super 8 films. Christina Zeidler gave me my first major exhibition of 100 photos at The Gladstone Hotel in 2007, and those prints formed the foundation of this book. I am delighted that you can see Edie, Christina, Clint, and most of his team in photos in this book.
To all of my subjects, I am grateful for their cooperation and patience with me, especially those who provided beautiful backgrounds by lugging their film projectors to unusual locations. The standout among them is Martin Heath who provides a “mobile cinema-for-hire” service in Toronto and operates CineCycle, the world’s only underground cinema and bicycle repair shop capable of projecting 35mm, 16mm, 9.5mm, 8mm, and super 8 film.
I am grateful to the programmers who invited me to show my films in their city, allowing me to photograph members of their unique film scenes. For example when Steve Anker invited me to the San Francisco Cinematheque in 1993, I captured some real gems: Dominic Angerame at Canyon Cinema; Greta Snider and Craig Baldwin at Craig’s Other Cinema; and by amazing serendipity, Donna Kerness Walence and her and Hope Morris’ daughter Tiana dropping in on George Kuchar’s video production class at the Art Institute and dancing in his disco scene.
To all those who regret not appearing in this book, I share their regret. I’ve photographed 1,000 wonderful subjects but most of those photos were not successful for technical or aesthetic reasons, and there are countless other subjects who I regret missing opportunities to photograph.
I hope this book will boost Toronto’s alternative film community, one of the world’s best and most active. Please also visit my website super8porter.ca which attempts to do likewise with: detailed listings of all the screenings since 2005 documented by my photos; my written histories; my Visiting Filmmakers’ Map of Toronto locating many of the venues in my photos; and other resources.
John's Announcement - April 2014
Facebook thread April 2014 with 7 photos, 125 comments, 342 likes!
Facebook thread November 2015 with 3 photos, 68 comments, 260 likes!
Photo Captions from John's exhibit for the 2007 Images Festival.
My friends and I were recently awarded a federal government
arts grant to publish a 100-page book of my photos. Our working
title for now, just to describe it, is:
and are film and video artists, curators and writers at York University. The book was Clint's idea. He'll edit it and write the introduction, and he wrote the grant application. Leslie is also a visual artist and will design the book. There will be 5 essays by different writers.
The Canada Council for the Arts "Project Grant to Media Arts Organization" will be administered by my long-time supporters - the annual Small-Gauge Film Festival in Toronto (next one, January 30 - February 1, 2015). They will be the publishers.