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Behind the lens with photographer, Baljit Singh

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It was an average night of me laying on my bed, wasting time scrolling through my Instagram feed when I saw Toronto based photographer @Bsinghh was coming to Vancouver. I instantly knew I had to sit her down and capture her thoughts to share with all of you.

Baljit has always had a way of captivating my attention with her thought provoking portraits and stories on local Canadian immigrants, as well as, being behind the incredible images for well known artists such as Rupi Kaur, Kiran Rai and powerhouse designer Mani K. Jassal.

Baljit Singh is a photographer based in Mississauga, Canada. Her style ranges from travel/documentary to creative portraits, with her main focus on analog photography.

Join me as we get to known the woman behind the lense together:

Did you always know you wanted to be a photographer?

I have always wanted to be a photographer, I was on the yearbook committee during highschool and was blessed to have teachers who encouraged my creativity throughout school.

After highschool I thought “this is something I really want to do” but after weighing my options and circumstances I chose to do a business degree – which was cool in the end, by doing what I didn’t want to do, I was really motivated to do what I do want to do – photography.

Take me further back before business school, before the yearbook committee, how did you express yourself creatively before all of that?

In middle school there was this popular girl in school and she started posting artsy pictures on Facebook and I wanted to be that artsy too, so… I took my dad’s little digital camera and started to take pictures of flowers and the sky and posted them. People liked it [laughs], I guess I started because I wanted to be cool too, but I turned out to be really good at it and enjoyed it too.

Why did you choose business school when you knew you wanted to be an artist?

In high school I did want to go to art school, however, I didn’t know anyone who went to art school that was like me – I didn’t have anyone to ask about HOW to go about things but when it came to business everyone around me was either in business or academics.

It felt like the smart choice and the one that would make everyone the happiest. Now looking back on it, I am grateful I went to business school, because now I know how to run my business.

What was the most positive thing you gained out of school?

Having a schedule, deadlines, being on time and someone holding you accountable – that helps. Being a freelancer you have to check yourself ALL the time and hold yourself accountable and it gets hard but you have to keep checking yourself and keep yourself accountable because no one else will.

How do you take time off as a freelancer?

I personally work night hours and my day is my time to chill, clean and hangout.

At the beginning of this year I had a lot of projects happening at the same time and the timelines did not allow the space for self-care for me or the people I was doing projects with. We didn’t have any time off or any weekends/days off and that was hard and incredibly draining – but it’s been a learning experience. I’m still learning to balance that.

What is your go-to self care tactic?

Honestly, just chilling at home or hanging out with my family, I don’t get to see them often so I do that whenever that might be.

I like watching movies with my sister and letting her know I still love you and am here for you, regardless if I never see you.

What do you do to make your client/subject comfortable?

When I shoot people who are not models and are not comfortable in front of the camera, I make jokes and try to make them feel at home and remind them “Hey guy’s I’m just as awkward as you – It’ll all work out”

I know everyone already knows what they want the image to look like in their head and it’s my job to figure out how to get that out of them, so I ask them to share mood boards and inspirational shots so I know how to position them and get the shot they’re looking for.


Baljit’s portrait of Poet, Rupi Kaur

Okay so, you finish business school, you’ve acknowledged you want to be a photographer, what was the process of finding your creative family like for you?

It’s funny, because in a way I feel like I manifested them into my life. In my third year these “internet people” were just starting off, Rupi Kaur and Kiran Rai were JUST starting.

At the time, I started shooting for the Sikh community events and programs, I was their intern photographer so I would chat with the girls and then run back into my corner and take pictures like a shy little girl. At this time I was only posting my images on tumblr.

This was my first introduction into the art space. A little while later Rupi hit me up for a shoot and this was my first opportunity to use my creativity and share it in a public space. I was shooting her book launch and it was in a gallery in Brampton and I put up my own work as well.

In the following months Kiran reached out to me to do a Bloom Series with her and a bunch of well-known Toronto based artists. After the successful event we all looked at eachother and asked “how do we work together” and from there we all made sure we kept in touch.

What does it feel like for you to create the visual experience for women who are creating monumental change in society?

I feel like it took me a long time to call myself a photographer or an artist, a lot of that came from imposter syndrome – having not been to art school and wondering “am I really that good?” The girls would continue to tell me my work was good but that still took a while to grapple with.

Once I realized, okay if I do have this talent then I have to use it to do something, I don’t want to say I want to use it to change the world – because that’s a lot of pressure but I know I could contribute to it.

I’ve noticed you share a lot on immigrants and their stories, why is it important for you to share the immigrant story?

Honestly, I feel like our grandparents are walking, talking libraries. They have these stories and we have to document them. I feel like documenting stories is so important to me. I’ve seen a lot about how people complain about their grandparents and parents and I think it’s so important to document these stories because we can tell the stories on colonialism from our perspective.

Out of everything that you do – what are your goals in three in years, what are some accolades you want on your belt?

A lot of this is hard to think about in the long term, I want to be able to continue to document stories about our community and hold a solo exhibition for the community.

I want to continue to bring out storytellers from our community and have our community see themselves in white spaces where they haven’t even considered they could be.

I want to show young kids – ‘Hey little brown boy, you can have your face on a billboard” and you’re not constrained to what you see in mainstream media.

I would love to shoot for a bigger brand and continue to encourage young brown girls that they too can be photographers.

To learn more about Baljit you can find her work here.

Vancouver-based content creator, Summan Kandola talks about what we think about. Summan talks art, creativity, media, social justice and more. If you can't find her covering a story - you'll find her dressing you in her XOANDHUSTLE clothing line of custom-hand painted jackets. Join the conversation on her YouTube channel: @summankandola. Drip in custom swag: www.xoandhustle.com

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Famous Wrestler ‘Shakes Up’ Surrey Artifact Collection

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John Tenta ‘Earthquake’ memorabilia now on display at Museum of Surrey

Surrey, BC – The legacy of WWF wrestler John Tenta, known worldwide as ‘Earthquake’ is being celebrated with a display of memorabilia in the Museum of Surrey’s latest feature exhibition ‘Shake Up: Preserving What We Value.’

Visitors will have the opportunity to see the former Surrey resident’s iconic 1991 action figure, “The Wrestler” Magazine, featuring Earthquake vs. Hulk Hogan from 1990, a deck of trading cards and more in the exhibit’s pop culture section.

“Earthquakes are some of nature’s most powerful forces, and John Tenta certainly evokes that energy with the persona he created, which makes his legacy a perfect fit for the exhibit,” said Curator of Exhibits, Colleen Sharpe.

‘Shake Up: Preserving What We Value’ was originally developed by the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. Using cultural objects, art, and multimedia displays, the exhibit tells the story of earthquakes—and other natural disasters—through Indigenous knowledge passed down through oral histories.

To complement the multi-media installations, MOS added Surrey-specific content from the Heritage Surrey Collection, including the recent acquisition of Tenta’s memorabilia.

Kristin Hardie, Curator of Collections, says the memorabilia acquired for the Surrey Artifact Collection is one example of how objects can serve as a connection point with our community’s memory.

“We are thrilled to be able to preserve the amazing story of a ‘Surreyite’ who rose to the highest levels of his sport and who became famous on a global scale.

We hope that these items both preserve John Tenta’s legacy in his hometown and encourage his neighbours and fans to share their memories and stories about him.”

Hardie recently reached out to Tenta’s son, Jeff Tenta, who resides in Florida with his wife and two children. When asked how he felt about his father being included in the exhibit and his story being preserved and shared at the museum, he responded that it was a proud moment for the family.

“We’re happy that his community appreciates it – it’s good to know people care,” he said. Preserving and Sharing Surrey’s Stories. Heritage Services administers a large civic artifact collection, which consists of over 20,000 objects.

Already a world junior wrestling champion by age 20, Tenta first rose to fame in Japan, where he spent eight months as a sumo wrestler. He and his family returned to his hometown of Surrey from approximately 1989 to 1996, where he was affectionally known as ‘Big John’ to local media.

By 1989, Tenta was a full-time member in the WWF with the name, Earthquake. In 1993, Tenta headlined a West Coast wrestling competition at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.

In 2006, Tenta passed away from bladder cancer at the age of 42. His sister, Brenda, currently resides in Langley.

‘Shake Up: Preserving What We Value’ runs until June. Visitors must pre-register for one hour long self-guided visits, which are available from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. from Wednesday to Saturday. Visitors can register by visiting emailing or by calling 604-592-6956.

The museum follows all citywide COVID- 19 safety protocols as per Health BC, City of Surrey and Worksafe BC. Masks are mandatory. Registration required for every person in your family group, including infants. For more information, visit us.

For more information about the Surrey Artifact Collections, visit our site. The City’s artifact collection can also be viewed virtually using the Surrey Archives & Museums free Online Access (SAMOA).

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A Symbol of Welcome at Museum of Surrey

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The Rivers that Connect Us by kʼwyʼiʼyʼe Spring Salmon Studio

Surrey, BC – A new public artwork has been installed at Museum of Surrey, the final component of the Museum expansion. The artwork is easily viewed by those travelling along Highway 10. Designed and fabricated locally by kʼwyʼiʼyʼe Spring Salmon Studio (Drew Atkins, Phyllis Atkins, and Aaron Jordan),

The Rivers that Connect Us is a monumental sculpture that makes an important contribution to the Cloverdale Historic District by acknowledging and reflecting the longstanding presence of First Nations peoples.

The artwork’s five-metre-tall, illuminated paddles are raised to the sky recalling a traditional Coast Salish gesture indicating peace and respect made when a canoe traveller approached a village.

The artwork’s welcoming gesture is intended to honour the diversity of newcomers arriving in Surrey and the traditional lands of the Coast Salish peoples.

The sculpture’s four paddles encircle a 3.5-metre round base that features a design inspired by the traditional form of a Coast Salish spindle whorl, a tool used by Coast Salish women to spin wool for weaving.

The base also references a compass and the four directions. The Salish Eye designs around the base of the paddles represent the seven traditional teachings of the Kwantlen peoples: health, happiness, generations, generosity, humility, forgiveness, and understanding.

While referencing the deep history of the land and the traditional territory of the Coast Salish peoples including the q̓ʷɑ:n̓ƛ̓ən̓, q̓ic̓əy̓, and səmyəmɑʔɬ (Kwantlen, Katzie, and Semiahmoo First Nations) and traditional Coast Salish design, the sculpture also incorporates innovative technology with its steel and polycarbonate materials and programmable LED lighting.

Community consultation guided this public art opportunity from the outset. Multiple community engagement sessions were held, culminating in a group of Cloverdale residents serving on a panel to select the artists and artwork concept.

One of the key recommendations from the community was that the sculpture serve as a gateway feature for travellers to Cloverdale and the City of Surrey. The lighting will ensure the artwork is visible at night and fulfills the expectation of the Cloverdale community.

The artwork also offers an invitation to learn more about Surrey’s history, located beside Museum of Surrey (17710 56A Avenue) and Surrey Archives (located in the 1912 Municipal Hall).

For the artists, The Rivers that Connect Us provided an important opportunity to mark the traditional territories on which Surrey is built.

They say, “The Fraser River and its local tributaries—the Salmon, Serpentine, and Nicomekl Rivers—formed a transportation network that connected First Nations people in the area since time immemorial. Relied upon for resource gathering, travel, and trade, these rivers were traversed by canoes from many nations. Presently, the Highway 10 corridor, and its many connecting roads, is today’s river.”

The artwork’s title, The Rivers That Connect Us, is a reminder and an invitation to a shared human connection regardless of cultural or ethnic backgrounds.

About the Artists

Drew Atkins (Nəq̓ɑɬc̓i) is a member of the Kwantlen First Nation community by marriage to his wife and fellow artist, Phyllis Atkins (q̓ʷɑt̓ic̓ɑ’s). He works in many mediums including painting, drawing, carving, and sculpture.

He was trained in the Coast Salish carving tradition while apprenticing with his dear friend and mentor Xwa-lack-tun (Rick Harry). Atkins owns and operates K’wy’iye’ Spring Salmon Studio and Gallery in unceded Fort Langley, BC with Phyllis Atkins. springsalmonstudio.com

Phyllis (Qwoy’tic’a) Atkins is an artist of the Kwantlen First Nation whose name means “I wear the clouds like a blanket” or “Shrouded in clouds.” Her name comes from the Nɬeʔkepmx language and it was given to her by her maternal grandfather Hereditary Chief Anthony Joe of the Shakan Band (Thompson River People).

Phyllis is also part Sto:lo (People of the river). Phyllis has taken oil painting lessons from Barbara Boldt and hand-carved silver jewelry lessons by Master Carver Derek Wilson. She is a renowned painter and jeweler at their home on Kwantlen First Nation in Fort Langley. springsalmonstudio.com

Aaron Jordan grew up surrounded by artists and craftsmen of all mediums. Working for a few years in art galleries and museums led Aaron to attend Langara College to study fine arts. He went on to discover the world of film and was swept up by the creativity and diversity of the industry while working as a sculptor and carpenter building sets and props. ajordancreation.com

About Surrey’s Public Art Program

Established in 1998, Surrey’s Public Art Program contributes to the creation of a lively, beautiful, inclusive, and complete community. The City’s art collection reflects community identity, cultural diversity, and Indigenous heritage.

Public art contributes to placemaking across the City and its sustainable socio-economic development. Among the 100+ artworks in Surrey’s public art collection are mosaics, paintings, and interactive sculptures that remember Surrey’s history, enhance infrastructure, and honour the surrounding natural environment.

From subtle to iconic, public art can be found in the City’s parks, on pathways, streets, SkyTrain pillars, and civic buildings throughout the City of Surrey. For more information about the Public Art Program and the collection, visit surrey.ca/publicart

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Recent Past Meets Speculative Future In Mark Soo’s Video Installation (Apr 17)

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April 17−June 6, 2021
Artist Talk: Saturday, April 17 | 1:00 p.m. –2:00 p.m. PST on Surrey Art Gallery’s Facebook page and YouTube channel

Surrey, BC – Surrey Art Gallery launches their spring exhibit Mark Soo: Twilight on the Edge of Town on Facebook Live and YouTube on Saturday, April 17 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. PST with a talk by the artist that will be available for replay afterwards.

Drawing from an archive that evokes the history of science fiction film, 3D animation, documentary photography, and literature, Mark Soo’s newest video artwork explores the nature of perception and the limits of storytelling.

Through his juxtapositions of visual and experiential phenomena, this project stimulates poetic associations to place, reality, and imagination.

Across multiple screens, the artist creates an immersive choreography of visual elements over twenty-five minutes. Holographic images depict objects and events of the seemingly everyday where surreal log jams and raindrops mingle with flickering streetlights and backyard scenes.

An ambient soundtrack includes the voices of a child and adult simultaneously narrating the images, one in a speculation on the future and the other in a recollection of the past. Experienced in an ambiguous present, remembrance slips into projection and past and future are intertwined.

Mark Soo says, “I’ve tried to make a work that speaks to a complicated relationship to where we are, and of how we perceive that in terms of time and the relation to space.”

The result is part theatre, experimental cinema, and art installation. “By experimenting with the relationship between image and sound, fact and fiction,” says curator Jordan Strom, “Soo’s large-scale environment is a compelling meditation on the nature of individual and collective memory.”

Twilight on the Edge of Town builds on Soo’s work of the past decade and a half, including his interests in photography and film, the history of social movements, and experiments with the technological image. Surrey Art Gallery and Wirklichkeit Books, Berlin, will be co-publishing a catalogue about Mark Soo: Twilight on the Edge of Town in the fall of 2021.

Twilight on the Edge of Town is one of the 200 exceptional projects funded in part through the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program. With this $35M investment, the Council supports the creation and sharing of the arts in communities across Canada.

Other exhibitions at Surrey Art Gallery include Art by Surrey Secondary Students, a display of collages, drawings, and paintings from local youth (closes April 30) and the artist video Yam Lau: Hutong House. At UrbanScreen, Surrey Art Gallery’s offsite art venue, the Flavourcel collective presents I Spy a City, a series of animations that capture different sights in Surrey (closes May 2).

About Mark Soo

Mark Soo was born in Singapore. He graduated from Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design in 2001 and currently lives and works in Vancouver and Berlin. He works in a variety of media including photography, sound, and video, which he uses to investigate notions of perception, modes of representation, and considerations of social space.

Soo draws on diverse sources ranging from art history to popular and social histories. He has had solo exhibitions in Vancouver, Berlin, and London and has participated in numerous group exhibitions.

About Surrey Art Gallery

Internationally recognized for its award-winning programs, Surrey Art Gallery, located at 13750 88 Avenue in Surrey on the unceded territories of the Salish Peoples, including the q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie), q̓ʷɑ:n̓ƛ̓ən̓ (Kwantlen), and Semiahma (Semiahmoo) nations, is the second largest public art museum in Metro Vancouver.

Founded in 1975, the Gallery presents contemporary art by local, national, and international artists, including digital and audio art. Its extensive public programs for children through to adults aim to engage the public in an ongoing conversation about issues and ideas that affect our communities and to provide opportunities to interact with artists and the artistic process.

Admission is free. Surrey Art Gallery gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of the City of Surrey, Province of BC through BC Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, and the Surrey Art Gallery Association.

Surrey Art Gallery will continue to present Art Together, a series of online programs that began in March 2020 and explore art and artists in the community, spark the imagination, and celebrate the ways that art can impact our lives.

Visit our website, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to our YouTube channel. surrey.ca/artgallery

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Shake Up: Preserving What We Value

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Indigenous knowledge, science and pop culture unite to address ‘the Big One’

Surrey, BC – Museum of Surrey announces its latest feature exhibition, Shake Up: Preserving What We Value, coming March 11 to June 6. Through multimedia installations, art, and cultural objects, Shake Up examines the knowledge of earthquakes and natural disasters that has been passed down for generations through First Nations oral histories.

“It’s about reflecting on what we value, and how we ensure we keep our loved ones and stories safe,” said Museum of Surrey manager, Lynn Saffery, of the exhibit that was originally developed by Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.

As part of the immersive exhibit, visitors will have the opportunity board an electric car and take a simulated drive down a San Francisco street, featuring never-before-seen footage of the big 1906 quake aftermath. Visitors can get up close to an earthquake-proof yurt, built locally in Langley.

The theme of earthquakes in pop culture is explored through movie posters, cards, earthquake toys and the famous WWF wrestler, ‘Earthquake.’ Surrey-specific content and artifacts from the Heritage Surrey collection will also be on display.

Free pre-registered, one-hour self-guided visits of the museum are available from Wednesday to Saturday. The museum follows all citywide COVID-19 safety protocols as per Health BC, City of Surrey and WorkSafe BC. Masks are mandatory. Registration required for every person in your family group, including infants. Call 604-592-6956 or email museum@surrey.ca to register.

Museum of Surrey is a dynamic and accessible community hub and cultural space that reflects the City of Surrey’s innovation and creativity.

It is a people museum, with a mission to connect people and stories through engaging events, interactive award- winning exhibits, programs, textiles and local, national and international exhibitions, as well as public space for rentals. The site, located at 17710 56A Avenue in Surrey, is on the Heritage Campus, home to Veterans Square, Anderson Cabin, 1881 Town Hall and Anniedale School.

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Cloverdale Rodeo Bucks Trend, Saddles Up For 2021 Event

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Cloverdale Rodeo & Country Fair postponed to later in 2021

Covid-safety drives date change for event’s 75th Anniversary

Surrey, B.C. – The BC Lower Mainland’s top spring event, the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair, is being postponed due to Covid-19. Dates in the second half of the year are being considered with advice from health officials.

“Public safety rides high in the saddle for us,” states Shannon Claypool, President of the Cloverdale Rodeo & Exhibition Association. “We are planning another thrilling rodeo, but with less capacity to allow lots of physical distancing to a masked, fun-loving audience. We will work with health officials to determine when the event can be held safely.”

There are two factors that will determine when the event can occur: public safety of Covid-19 and the removal of border restrictions so that competitors, livestock, and entertainment can enter into Canada.

The Cloverdale Rodeo & Country Fair is traditionally held on the Victoria Day weekend each year; however, last year’s event was cancelled by organizers along with most rodeos and fairs around the world. The event will resume occurring each Victoria Day weekend (May 20-23) in 2022.

The roots of this event goes back 133 year’s to the community’s first fair. By far, the star of the event is the rodeo, which will be celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

The Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association is the community-based, non-profit organization that manages the world-famous Cloverdale Rodeo & Country Fair at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds in Surrey, British Columbia.

The Association is also responsible for the year-round management of the Cloverdale Fairgrounds, which consists of 90 acres and eight facilities. The site hosts 1,000 events annually, ranging from trade shows and concerts to sports events and community meetings. The Association pivoted during the pandemic to also rent space for film shoots and currently hosts the set the Superman and Lois television show.

Every year, student leaders receive scholarships and youth programs receive resources from the Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Initiative Foundation, which was created by the Association to support the community’s future.

For more information please visit: www.CloverdaleRodeo.com

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