The Images of Peace category called for: "A digital photograph representing peace. Photographers should feel free to create original work using any one or combinations of visual symbols or representations of peace taken in Shawinigan, Mangalore, Kaga or Hamilton." I knew immediately that I should try to enter a peace poster-type image, and had a pretty good idea from the start what elements I wanted to use in the composition. I just wasn't sure if I could get all the elements together in time by the submission date.
I find that a lot of times when people create peace posters, they clutter them with too many peace symbols. The best ones I've seen have not much more than three typical symbols--usually just one, and they are presented in a non-conventional way. This was my approach and I conceptualized use of a rainbow, a solitary or flock of white doves and various written peace symbols--any ones except for the overused "Ban the Bomb" and mystical Hindu "Om" symbols.
Establishing the written symbols was the first thing done on this project. I wanted to simply say "peace" in the dominant languages and typographical symbols of all the localities being celebrated in this contest. Representing Hamilton first, the word was written in English using a script font. For Mangalore, I learned that shanti, written in Indic text, was the best Hindi word to use. I used paix in a Romanized font for the Francophone city of Shawinigan in the Canadian Provice of Quebec. Finally, the Japanese word heiwa written in kanji was used to represent Kaga. I planned to simply tie all this together with "2008" written in basic but elegant universally recognized numerals.
As luck would have it, 2008 was a great year for photographing summer storms in and around Hamilton. We had recurring troughs that would linger and hold highly active low-pressure storm systems over southern Ontario for days on end. After one evening shower, I had an occasion to photograph a rainbow from my mother-in-law's home in the west end of Hamilton as it appeared before the city skyline. The warm gray subtly shifting tones of the receding sky accentuated the quickly vanishing rainbow as the golden light of the setting sun pulled out details of the distant downtown buildings from the misting rain. The rainbow is internationally recognized as one of the world's oldest symbols of peace. It has a special significance to me as I first learned about it as a small child when my mother would teach me about Noah's Ark from the Holy Bible. The rainbow is referenced in the Book of Genesis which is theorized by archaeologists to be a final 5th century BC telling of similar deluge stories dating back to the 10th century BC. That makes the rainbow a very old symbol of peace indeed.
The white dove is also a very old symbol of peace, and has an important place in the story of Noah's Ark. Looking through my stock photos of birds I had only one shot of a white dove. Unfortunately, it was flying away. Not a particularly encouraging symbol of peace. So I headed out to get more images of white doves, and I knew exactly where in downtown Hamilton I could find one or two wild white pigeons to photograph. That was the easy part. The difficulty lied in getting satisfactory shots of the birds in flight from the side or, even better, head on. Morning-after-morning I spent trying to get the best wildlife action shots of these doves until finally there was a moment when one all-white dove and a feral rock dove came straight at me.
With all my elements acquired, I began composing the final image. I considered presenting the typographic symbols in gold for quite some time. I felt, however, that it was more important to write the year in large golden text. I needed the words of peace to stand out from the numbers but also convey the most important message in the overall composition so I chose to display them in white with white rules above and below them, and white dots in between. The birds were processed for refined colour, pulled from their original picture and inserted in front of the year because while 2008 is the anniversay of the twinnings of Hamilton and the other cities, it is still just another fleeting year, whereas the efforts to establish peace is to remain in the forefront forever.
Despite all my worrying about aesthetics, this submission didn't even place in this competition. I am grateful, neverthless, to the Hamilton Mundialization Committee for the challenge, and I am thankful to them for the wins I did secure. My congratulations to the citizen who won this outstanding category.
I hope people will look at this image and be inspired to come up with ways to encourage and sustain peace among their neighbours each day.
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