Kimberley resident Gerry Feehan has been honoured with a first place award in the Best People Photograph category at the Travel Media Association of Canada’s (TMAC) annual national conference.
Feehan has owned a condo up at Kimberley Alpine Resort for the past 25 years, but finally decided to move here permanently last year.
Gerry Feehan worked as a lawyer in Red Deer, Alta. for 27 years, up until he closed that chapter of his life in 2010.
The law firm he worked for wrote a monthly column for the local newspaper the Red Deer Advocate.
“Most of my partners would write stories about the importance of incorporating your small business, and I always read those and they were very dry and full of legalese and probably not very interesting to anybody other than the person that wrote it or maybe some other lawyers or something,” Feehan recalled.
He said that for the columns he would submit occasionally, he would endeavour to make them funny and true stories about life as a lawyer.
After he retired, he and his wife Florence began doing road trips and started a blog documenting their travels, calling his webpage Camping America. Every second year their trip would be a big adventure in their motorhome, and the alternate years would be to a more exotic location.
You can check out his blog here: http://gnfeehan.blogspot.com/
He got some encouragement from friends who had read the blog and started submitting stories to the editor at the Advocate.
After submitting a few articles, Feehan received a letter saying that if he wanted to be a travel writer, he had to give them ten examples of what his story ideas are.
It worked out that the editor not only wanted his stories, but that Feehan would be paid for them, and wouldn’t have any hard deadlines for their submission. He was submitting four to six pieces a year to begin with.
“I said, ‘okay that works for me!’”
Feehan said he’s been a bit of an amateur photographer for a long time.
“Not that different than most other people,” he said. “Other than, I guess I probably have a bit better eye for composition, but it isn’t something that I’ve ever pursued professionally.
At the same time he started doing articles for the newspaper, he was posting blogs to Camping America, and as they progressed they became more lengthy, complicated and formulaic.
The stories were always in the 1000-word range and they were always accompanied by four to ten of his photographs.
“The idea for me is that the photograph that accompanied the article enhanced the article, number one, and also they kind of proved that what I was saying true. So if I say something outrageous but I take a picture of it people have no choice but to believe it.”
At TMAC’s annual award ceremonies there are numerous different categories, both written and photographic. Feehan has been a member of TMAC for about five or six years but has only been submitting for about the last three.
The first year he won a third place award for a piece he did on Jiggs Dinner in Newfoundland and he won an award last year as well. This year he was nominated in three different categories. A story he wrote on fly fishing won a third place award in that category.
In the photographic category that won, the people category, there were only five photographs that were shortlisted and two of them were his, so he wound up getting an honourable mention plus a first place award.
He’s now won five awards through TMAC, but this was his first time taking home first place.
The awards stipulate that the photo or article must have been published and garnered a certain amount of hits to be nominated for an award.
This particular image that won the Best People Photo award was entitled “A family on the street of India’s sacred city of Varanasi” and he shot it on a trip to India four years ago, but the story was published last year to Todayville.
“Varanasi is the sacred city of India where they have the funeral pyres on the Ganges river, so that was taken on the street in Varanasi and it’s full of pilgrims from all over the world,” he said. “Honestly I don’t know if that family was a pilgrim family, they may have been, but they were dressed in those specific colours and not everybody dresses like that.
“I asked if I could take their picture and that composition took about three seconds and I think I took two photographs. And I happened to get their attention for that very brief moment and the composition worked out perfectly.”
The judge’s comments for this photo read:
“The photograph powerfully encapsulates the realness of urban and street life in India. The approach the photographer employs on this image gives an interesting and appealing ‘vintage’ look to the composition, which really adds to its overall appeal. The faces of the individuals precisely illustrate a sort of ‘mixed emotion, as you can see both the hardness of their life situation, yet the beauty of their togetherness. A stunning photo.”
His blog has over 100 entries in it now, comprised of stories from his adventures both all over North America as well as the rest of the world. He said he initially felt a little afraid before going to India, but said the trip was absolutely amazing and he and his friends and family were treated wonderfully.
It’s hard to pick a favourite out of all the places he’s been to, although New Zealand ranks near the top, and Feehan says that there hasn’t been a place he’s been to that he wouldn’t want to return to.
However there are many other places in the world that he hasn’t been to yet, so once the pandemic subsides and he’s able to travel again, there will be many more locations added to the blog, and chances for more awards in the future.
He wrote a very relatable and humorous blog describing his experience with lockdown entitled “Adventures in Pandemica, or, What I did on my Isolation Vacation.”
While the pandemic has changed some of his travel plans, he said he feels very lucky to have been able to move to Kimberley.
“I tell all of our family and friends that are in the big city, you don’t want to brag, but we have been so, so fortunate to be able to spend this world lockdown time in a place like Kimberley,” he said. “Where you’re not locked down at all because you can still do all the incredible things every day that we get to do any other normal day in the world. So we really dodged the bullet living here I think.”