Hatley Castle and Empress Hotel Victoria Wedding

First, huge thanks to Ryan Flynn Photography, who took me on as a seconding photographer for this assignment of his. Ryan is a great guy!


As I am based close to the city of Vancouver on the British Columbia mainland, heading to Vancouver Island and the city of Victoria is always a treat. I love the feel and sense of adventure and travel when I make my way out there. In order to make the ferry to get to the wedding on time, I had to wake up at a very early hour (i.e. it was still dark and it was Summer time) and make my way through some winding roads. Eventually, I managed to get to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal and soon relaxed once my car and I were on the ferry and on our way across the water.

The first part of this wedding took place first in the Empress Hotel and the ceremony took place at Hatley Castle. My day started with the groomsmen at the Empress Hotel, where the groom and his groomsmen were hurriedly putting on their clothes in order to make it out the door in time. Once we boarded the wedding bus, I met with the bride and the bridesmaids inside Hatley Castle and documented their time hanging out together moments before the ceremony took place. Hatley Castle and the castle grounds surrounding it are beautiful. I later found out that Hatley Castle was used in some of the original X Men movies (the ones with Patrick Stewart)!

After the ceremony, I went with Ryan Flynn and the videographers to Beacon Hill and photographed some of the in-between shots and documentary moments while the more posed photos were taking place.

Story continued below…


The second part of the day led us back to the Empress Hotel in Victoria. At one point during the night, the couple strolled along Victoria’s Downtown Harbour at sun set and had a band on a neighboring dock play their first song dance while they danced to it. The night ended with dancing to an amazing band (to who’s names I did not catch unfortunately) and I went back to my hotel room satisfied that I had been a part of an amazing wedding.

Chinatown at Night

It’s been a while since I blogged about Chinatown… or blogged at all for that matter. Life keeps getting busy and taking the time to sit down and write stuff to a general internet audience sometimes (in all honesty) ranks a little lower on my list of priorities. Lately, I’ve taken to exercise more and stay in shape, I’ve attempted to learn to dance a bit, I’ve been catching up on personal film work from the last year and a bit and I’m trying to finally put together that Chinatown book I’ve been meaning to do.

However, as I sit down and dedicate some time to blog, I’m reminded of how therapeutic it can be to write your thoughts and share my photographs. Blogging is a chance to just sit and reflect, which I realize in this world of high tech and fast-paced smart phone notifications is a luxury these days… but is one luxury I intend to do more of. :)

I started my Chinatown blogging on my old blog at jonathandesmond.blogspot.ca but eventually moved it to this blog. However, a lot has happened between the old blog and now. My Chinatown project has grown into something much bigger than a photography project; it has become an immensely personal documentary project that I hope will provide a narrative of the last 6 years of Chinatown’s community, lifestyle and constant changes.

During this one particular evening, I met with some fellow friends from the Wong Association and we had some time to have pizza together and hangout. While we did, I took some photographs of Chinatown.

 Obligatory (?) Window Selfie. Maybe I should trademark that…

Obligatory (?) Window Selfie. Maybe I should trademark that…

Chinatown at Night-3.jpg
 The Chinatown Summer Market was on in full force last year. This year (2018) it was shut down.

The Chinatown Summer Market was on in full force last year. This year (2018) it was shut down.

 This is the place where the old Daisy Garden used to be before a fire burned it down.

This is the place where the old Daisy Garden used to be before a fire burned it down.

 Most of Chinatown is seen from the exterior of the buildings and on the streets. However, the inside of these buildings show signs of a larger and vibrant community. (Note: I only explore these places with permission granted from the owners).

Most of Chinatown is seen from the exterior of the buildings and on the streets. However, the inside of these buildings show signs of a larger and vibrant community. (Note: I only explore these places with permission granted from the owners).

 The Mon Keang School at night

The Mon Keang School at night

 Two chairs are lighted by the street lights outside.

Two chairs are lighted by the street lights outside.

Remembering Popo

I wrote this post originally in 2010 and don't recall if I ever published it. I'm putting it up here on my blog as a reminder of her and her impact on my life BUT also to recollect a time when I used to write without photographs. It also serves as a personal reminder for me that there are bigger things in life than all the minutiae and Angry Bird high scores and other distractions in our lives. Sometimes we just have to sit, reflect and be still… and write.

Not too long after I wrote this post, my Popo (Chinese for “Grandma”) passed on. It’s been quite a while since her passing but every now and then a photo of her pops up in my Facebook feed and I recollect some of the moments I had with her.


My car rumbled to a stop. Turning the key towards me, I promptly yanked it out of the key hole. I opened the driver side door, stepped out of the car, and felt the rain drops instantly. 

Looking to my left, I saw my destination only a few meters away from me. After work, I would normally either take the bus home, or get into my car in the train's car park lot, and promptly drive myself home. Today was different, though. I had putting it off for a while, but it finally came to the point where I knew that was my chance to do it.

I entered through the sliding doors and into the warm building. Old folks' homes always smell a little different than any other place.

I found my grandma walking back to her room after eating dinner. It had been a long time since we had sat down and talked. As she walked to her room, I showed her my work attire.

"I have to wear this to work everyday, Popo," I said, showing her my shirt, tie and dress pants.

It was usual for us to talk about many things. I would recall to my grandma the good old days when she would cook instant noodles a special way (which I have yet to replicate!), or when I found out about the joys of eating handfuls of dried apricots at a time. I talked briefly about my working life, and how it was very different and very time-consuming, yet very maturing. And of course, she brought up the topic of getting married and finding a good wife!

Then I brought up about how one day she'd be able to see great grand kids from me. Suddenly, she said "I don't think I will be alive then."

At that moment, my heart sunk.

"I know that my health is failing. I am sick, and my heart is 23 years old." 23 years previous, my grandma had major heart surgery. She went on explaining about how her health was deteriorating, and how she realized it herself. I don't remember exactly what was said as a flurry of thoughts were swirling in my head at that moment.

My response to this sudden change of mood was to lighten up with a joke: "Haha, I think you'll live until you're 200 years old, Popo." Deep down inside though, reality was setting in.

I soon left giving my grandma a hug. I walked out of the retirement home thinking more broadly about life; about how singleness and dating are only a portion of what are lives are for, about how futile some things are in our lives. 

I opened my car door and sat down in the driver's seat. With a turn of a key, the car rumbled to life. With my left foot, I pushed in the clutch, shifted into first gear with my right hand, and drove off.

Photographs from a Ferry Ride

Recently I was telling a group of photographers at the ARC Conference that “you are not a ‘photographer’, you are more than that.” I really believe this to be true. While we are passionate about our photography work (weddings, family photographs, long-term projects), we are so much more than just a camera person who takes these photos. We are human beings: artists who create with our cameras. And sometimes, this creating leads us to explore other areas other than those that we would normally do in our line of work.

A while back, I was taking photographs while taking a ferry ride over to Victoria… or could have been on the way back? It’s been a while so I can’t recall off the top of my head. Regardless, we were on the water and feeling my usual restlessness, I felt the need to run around on deck with a camera and take some photographs. I felt a strong urge to experiment and take photos that I normally wouldn’t take. I wanted to explore my world with my camera… so I did just that.

 One of the inhabited islands we passed?

One of the inhabited islands we passed?

On The Ferry-2.jpg
On The Ferry-3.jpg
 I forget how powerful the waters can be sometimes. I just have to look down from the deck and I’m very quickly reminded.

I forget how powerful the waters can be sometimes. I just have to look down from the deck and I’m very quickly reminded.

 Another ferry passes in the distance.

Another ferry passes in the distance.

 I wonder if there was anyone on the other side of this window thinking it weird that I was taking their picture when I took this photograph of myself :)

I wonder if there was anyone on the other side of this window thinking it weird that I was taking their picture when I took this photograph of myself :)

 Reflective surfaces are great opportunities for selfies… er, I mean #selfies.

Reflective surfaces are great opportunities for selfies… er, I mean #selfies.

On The Ferry-9.jpg
 The passing ferry ship a little further into the distance. Now I understand what people mean by the phrase “two ships passing in the night”.

The passing ferry ship a little further into the distance. Now I understand what people mean by the phrase “two ships passing in the night”.

What If A Styled Shoot Had A Story?

I didn’t want to do the usual styled shoot. 

When Mandy from “Eventful by Mandy” and I came together to brainstorm an idea for a styled shoot, I knew from the get-go that I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do a styled shoot that was more along my style: unposed and more authentic. Mandy brought in the idea of doing an Asian-Fusion themed wedding.

Through some continued discussion, we eventually came up with this idea of what came to be a fusion of a lot of things. Styled but not posed (cinematic, in fact), old Asian influences and homages to the past but in a modern context, classical Shanghai Jazz from grammaphones and Iphones being used for selfies: Asian Fusion.

The idea then was how to form it. As mentioned, I didn’t want to do the typical posed photos. I wanted a narrative, a story and characters you cared about. This led eventually to the creation of “script” that would dictate the flow of the photographs. From there, we found our location, our actors/models (a real-life wedding couple!) and our props and put it all together.

From my friend Jeffrey’s place to the streets and alleys of Chinatown to the final stop at Chinatown BBQ, we wanted to show that there is beauty in the moment but also that styled wedding shoots can have a narrative. We also wanted to show that you can successfully merge the old and the new and create something beautiful in the process.  

Huge shout outs to the following:
Mandy at Eventful by Mandy who helped plan and organize and give life to this project.
Henry and Katbie (@blanc143 on Instagram) who took time out of their newly married life to be a part of this project.
My friend Jeffrey Wong who opened his house to us so we could create scene.
Cathy at Sweetease Cupcakes, who created the amazingly beautiful cake.
The folks at Chinatown BBQ who gave us permission to use a part of their restaurant to create our final scene.

 Our story begins with Kat writing a letter…

Our story begins with Kat writing a letter…

Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-1.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-4.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-8.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-10.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-11.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-134.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-14.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-18.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-19.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-130.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-34.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-25.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-37.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-38.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-40.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-42.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-58.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-59.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-65.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-62.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-68.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-69.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-44.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-131.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-45.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-46.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-47.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-49.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-48.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-52.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-54.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-133.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-55.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-57.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-72.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-73.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-79.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-82.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-85.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-87.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-88.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-90.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-93.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-137.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-95.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-97.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-144.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-99.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-100.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-103.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-104.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-105.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-106.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-109.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-146.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-115.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-116.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-113.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-118.jpg
Asian Fusion Wedding Chinatown-123.jpg