Jeff Downer’s solo exhibition Handsome Rewards is currently on display at Duplex Projects in Vancouver as part of the Capture Photography Festival. His work has been featured in publications internationally as well as online, and he has two self-published photobooks: Gol Nu Get Mote and [Ver-seylz]. He was chosen to be included in Index: Five Emerging Vancouver Photographers at Gallery 295 in 2013. He has also participated in residencies at the Or Gallery in Vancouver, at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, and most recently at Tenjinyama Art Studios in Sapporo, Japan.
The first time I saw it I had no idea what it was. It was sitting there in this square Styrofoam cup on my breakfast tray that contained fourteen other compartmentalized food items, most of which I could recognize. I was in a very, very small town in Hokkaido staying in a cheap motel, the only motel actually. I was alone in the dining hall that smelled like a gas leak. The concierge came from behind a curtain, bringing my breakfast mackerel that she must have originally forgotten, and turned on the seven o’clock news. I sat in that dining hall, looking out the window, watching the snow pile up, watching the commentary that adjoins Japanese public programming, thinking the room would burst into flames, saving my odd smelling and ghostly looking bean item for last. Natto is a fermented soybean food from Japan that is most commonly served with breakfast. I loved it so much that I started actively seeking it out in restaurants when I was there. Luckily for me, there are some places where you can purchase natto in Vancouver, although it comes frozen shipped from Japan and is five times the price.
2. Sha bop sha bop
The sound of The Flamingos record skipping on I Only Have Eyes for You while I write this list. “Sha bop sha bop,” eternally.
3. Shelley Duvall
I have been a big fan of her well before the recent episode of Dr. Phil during which he took advantage of her current mental health issues. She is not necessarily a great actress, but all of the characters she has portrayed, when viewed in totality, have formed a very unique personality in the history of cinema. In most films, I feel like this personality is Shelley Duvall; we are watching Shelley be herself. The great director Robert Altman cast her in her first film and many of the films throughout her career, including my favourite Duvall film, 3 Women. It is a combination of her commonplace narrative delivered in her southern tone, her endless cigarette that she is always smoking, and her peculiar attractiveness that make Duvall absolutely “transplendent.”
Lately I have been drawn into these spaces of pop music, sweet and sticky snacks, and sterile strips of concrete full of shoppers. My favourite local malls are Yaohan Centre, Aberdeen Mall, and Henderson Place Mall. Growing up in the suburbs, I came of age in Coquitlam Centre. Smoking cigarettes inside Zellers, breaking into the hallway arteries that link all of the stores together, waiting until sunrise in the parking lot, crashing shopping carts into each other. Maybe my current love for malls is nostalgic, or maybe a good food court is hard to find.
5. Reading CBC news headlines on my phone over morning coffee and finding bizarre or banal events happening throughout this country
“Mysterious brown “goo” strewn across North Vancouver.”
“Naked man takes a shower, steals tomatoes from Toronto backyard.”
“Senators oppose clunky, pedestrian gender-neutral changes to O Canada.”
“Thieves steal $45K worth of lettuce in east Hamilton.”
“Joe Feeney, former mayor of Mahone Bay, dies in the Bahamas.”
“Cat dies in fire that destroys east-end townhouse unit.”
“Deer smashes through triple pane window, ransacks living room.”
“Gun stolen from Greenstone home.”
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