Interview with Heather Champ Powazek / hchamp.com
Heather Champ Powazek grew up in Ottawa, is a Fine Arts graduate of the University of Guelph and was once a bagel maker. In addition to frequenting Burning Man, she has a personal blog, hchamp.com, maintains the Mirror Project and co-edits the JPG Magazine with her husband, Derek Powazek, who also has great photos. You can buy her prints here. Heather is one of my heroes because she dares to talk about being depressed in public and because she is a killer photographer. Some of her photos make me want to cry, they are so beautiful or true. Her MO is four cameras attached or slung across her body at all times. Because Heather is Canadian, she put bonus letter ‘U’s all over in her interview. I left them there because Canada is a real country with a real language too, eh?
hchamp.com’s predecessor, harrumph! was launched on January 1, 2000. It was the latest incarnation of my personal publishing empire that began as a humble (and incredibly ugly) tilde home page in August of 1994.
Why do you blog?
Itchy artist fingers? Having graduated from University with a degree in Studio Fine Arts, I realized that it was unlikely that I would be able to support myself on art alone. I picked up computer skills along the way and have found a creative outlet through personal publishing. Is it too corny to say that I think of pixels and HTML as my medium?
What do you talk about?
While harrumph began as a more text driven vehicle, my love of photography has won out and I would say that I strive to post a new photograph daily, periodically talk about something odd or annoying that’s happened to me and (in) frequently post links to beautiful and/or silly and/or bizarre and/or interesting things I find online (it’s my link log, baby).
What don’t you talk about? Why?
I don’t want to be that person who craps on the work of others. So much of what I see online is people who don’t do all that much playing Aeron Quarterback, offering words of “wisdom”. It’s crap. If you want to make the world/web/yourself a better place/person, create something. Enough with the punditry, people.
Best experience re: something you wrote in your blog or put out on the net?
I’ve been open about my struggle with depression. Given that it is still a fairly taboo subject, I’ve had some email thanking me for writing about it.
Favorite/worst thing about living where you live?
I love my neighbourhood. I don’t think I’ve lived in a community for some time where I know so many of the people that I see day to day. I kid myself, because it’s all about our cute pups. Everyone knows the Chihuahuas. I do miss the seasons.
San Francisco is very mono season with a little more fog in the summer and a little more rain in the winter. I miss the first hard frost in autumn and the slow melt of spring – snow, I can do without the snow, but I do miss spring and fall.
If you were president of the US
I’m not saying that I have a closet full of skeletons, but I don’t think anyone in their right mind would vote for me. I think I’d make a much better queen than president. I have the wave down (“elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist”) and my first decree would be that all my subjects must install their toilet paper the right way around.
What actor would play you in the movie of your life?
That’s difficult to answer without sounding more than a little vain. Isabella Rosellini? Juliette Binoche? Joan Cusack? Course, were I to forgo the ongoing topiary project of my eyebrows, definitely Brook Sheilds. I’m part Wookie.
I’ve always love the idea of “phthalo cerulean blue” and could have quite happily eaten a tube of that colour while in school. I’m recovering from an overly confident pink phase that must have blinded those around me. Today, I’m all about green – beautiful, muddy greens (as the drying rack in our living room will attest).
Diet Coke, chocolate, peanut butter (on a spoon out of the jar only), caramel, corn on the cob and chocolate. Have I mentioned chocolate? Original Toblerone is the way to my heart.
When you were 10, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A map maker. My father worked for the Canadian Hydrographic Service and was always bringing home gorgeous maps that looked like Jack Goldstein paintings. In the end I think it was the colour gradients of the topography that seduced me.
What are your hobbies besides the obvious?
Is it lame to think of TV watching as a hobby? Watching all manner of crappy SciFi movies and as Derek says “anything with accents” (that would be period pieces and the mystery stuff on BBC America – I [heart] BBCA) and knitting (badly). I like knitting because it keeps my hands occupied. I’m a bit of a fiddler and my mother’s nickname for me growing up was “Miss Fiddle Twiddle Pick Bang.” I’ve made one ugly hat and a scarf that I quite like.
What do you want to tell other bloggers?
Don’t just comment, create. That might sound silly, but the idea of blogging seems to go hand in hand with punditry and writing what others are writing about. Blech.
Astounding facts about you:
— More often that not I turn the bathroom light on in the middle of the night when I have to pee to assure myself that alligators aren’t lurking in the toilet.
— In the last couple of years I’ve lost pigment on the underside of my right arm in a large perfect oval.
— I’m incredibly gullible. I should change my name to “Fished In” Champ.
Who are your heroes?
My sister, Claire, Georgia O’Keefe, Cindy Sherman. In reality, my heroes are people I don’t know. People who struggle daily with depression and the people who love them. It might sound a little “woo-woo”, but battling with depression is such a hard road and more power to people who are putting one foot forward a day at a time.
How would your husband describe you?
“Vaguely foreign,” or at least, he has in the past. I’m not sure that given my five years in San Francisco, that’s still his opinion. I’ve lost most of my Canadian accent though I have a few moments with words that end in “out.”
Where do you weigh in on the ‘is it still a ‘real’ photo if it’s digital and especially if you messed with it in Photoshop’ debate?
The only Photoshop aspect of photography that peeves me to no end is the whole concept of the “lomo effect”. I’m not a photography snob — once captured on film or digital that moment is altered forever, but the adding a lomo effect to a photograph that wasn’t taken with a lomo is just plain wrong headed.
Tell me about ‘walkthrough.‘
I have no idea what’s up with that. I think that some point, in the early time of the web, someone used a background tile on a page (Netscape 1.1, baby) from a “Background Archive” that I created. Somehow an error was introduced where I went from being the creator of the ugly background to the author of the Walkthrough.
You’re the first person who’s ever asked me about it.
Used with permission, Heather Armstong
How many cameras do you own?
Too many! Derek and I embarked on a “big tidy up” over the Thanksgiving weekend and attempted to create a joint “camera box”. It just wasn’t possible.
What are you working on right now?
I’m not one for long term planning. I’m very good at the short terms stuff, but lifting my eyes from my feet to the horizon has never been a strong point.
Herm. We’ll continue to publish JPG, I’d love to have an exhibition of my photos somewhere in the city, getting healthier, SXSW, BlogHer (I had to pull out last year as I was radioactive) and taking photos. More of the same, really, though with less thyroid drama. I do have a far greater appreciation for everything that our hormones do.
Why do you think that your award winning site Jezebel’s Mirror collected so much steam and turned into the Mirror Project?
Perhaps because it was one of the first of it’s kind? I’m not sure that there were too many other collaborative photo sites out there in 1999 so it was new and different. Given the drop in digital camera prices, the Mirror Project gave people an outlet to participate in something most likely a little out of their normal daily life.
Tell me a secret?
Creepy crawly things make me squeal and hop around like a mad woman. Derek comes to my rescue, but I won’t let him kill them. Creatures who visit Casa Chawazek must be released back into the wild.