I have a confession to make: I am judgemental. I am guilty of pre-determining my enjoyment—or lack thereof—prior to attending a festival. Forming assumptions while imagining the things I might do, see, or even eat leads me down a slippery slope of false expectation. My objective from the very beginning was to attend as many events as possible, no matter what; to avoid the path most chosen that we are all guilty of taking when it comes to new experiences that, at first glance, stray from the norm. This decision was not made lightly, but as I did not want to impose any sort of limitations, it was essential. Instead, I wanted to expose myself to endless possibilities and new experiences, a decision that has seldom let me down. But we are all guilty of being human and so I admit I have judged, and still occasionally do. More often than not it is in a negative sense and, luckily for me, in most cases I am wrong.
Early on in the project I encountered a festival that I was not at all excited about, Festival de Casteliers. Those were the days. Only a few weeks into the project my list fit nicely on one sheet of loose leaf paper and my ignorance to the sheer volume and diversity of the festival scene in Montreal that I had yet to discover was truly bliss. And so, it was quite understandable that I was less than enthusiastic at the discovery of a marionette festival for all ages. Nonetheless, I had an empty slot in my calendar so I kept true to my commitment and went to my first puppet show as an adult. To my absolute amazement and utter surprise, I had a blast! Still buzzing from the performance, I wandered into the park around the corner after I left the theatre and came across an independent troupe’s impromptu marionette show held on a section of a frozen pond just below a small bridge. Flood lights illuminated the ice as cello and throat chanting filled the air, creating a presentation both creepy and odd but at the same time absolutely awe-inspiring, especially when admiring the grandeur of the puppet they had created. It was my first lesson learned in keeping an open mind.
Another event that I was dreading from the very beginning was the Grand Prix. From this project’s inception I knew that it was unavoidable, that in order to be considered at all complete I would need to include the Grand Prix in my portfolio of images… and before you jump down my throat, hear me out. Grand Prix for me is the embodiment of everything I stand against in the world: money, high class snobbery, sexism and objectification of women, and cars so expensive that you could eradicate homelessness in Canada with their worth. It’s just not my thing. In fact, I usually skip town for the whole weekend, only to return once the checkered flags have been unmasted and the streets are mercifully liberated from the endless throng of onlookers and suffocating plume of cigar smoke. And yet, amidst the debauchery and over-the-top courting displays of the rich and famous, I somehow managed to surprise even myself and have a great time! I was able to disconnect with preconceived notions and reach out to complete strangers through my lens whilst we all danced together in the human comedy that had become of the streets of Montreal as day surrendered to evening. I’m not ashamed to admit I was wrong, or maybe that’s just the magic of a city in celebration. Will I attend next year? Who knows, but definitely not without a camera.
Forrest Gump famously said “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”, and I think the same goes for festivals. Sometimes it can be the experience of a lifetime, like getting to see a musician you love at Jazz Fest, or discovering a new dish you never knew existed. Other times it can be the complete opposite and might leave you feeling a little cheated or let down, you just never know… and unless you open yourself to new experiences and adventure, you never will.