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September 15, 2019 September 15, 2019

Photography brings friendship into focus

Posted on May 16, 2019 by Vauxhall Advance
Frans Brouwers

By Greg Price
Vauxhall Advance
gprice@tabertimes.com

It’s never too late to make new friendships.

Making friends in childhood is easy. Some might even say one is forced into friendships at first. You know what I’m talking about, your mom making playdates with other young moms in preschool, talking about the stresses of child raising during adult time over the third glass of merlot, while the young ones play. Meanwhile, you as a toddler, are trying to comprehend why your mom has you sharing time with Little Timmy who seems to be hell bent on doing a hostile takeover of all your toys, including Mr. Snuggles, who with how roughly Timmy is dragging around your beloved stuffed bear, it is almost akin to a hostage situation with torture, where Mr. Snuggles now seems to have stuffing coming out of him.

Then as you get older in school, you tend to gravitate your friendships to people who live close in your neighbourhood, or have common interests be it music, arts, hobbies sports or other academic and leisure activities. You move on onto college and university, and there again is a whole other fertile ground for friendships to blossom.

During your teenage and younger adult years, there may be someone who catches your fancy and you end up dating… and there is a whole other subset of friends that emerge, although there may be a battle of who you spend more time with be it your friends or your partners, both in courtship and later, marriage.

In your younger years, the opportunities are plentiful to form friendships of all shapes and sizes.

As you get more into your ‘adulting’ years, it gets more difficult, as while you have your ‘work’ friends, chances are, those being your ‘main’ friends you choose to spend the majority of your free time while spending eight hours a day with at work, are usually as rare as a Bigfoot sighting.

In my 20-plus years in the newspaper business, I’ve had the opportunity to interview all types of people for all types of stories. In the nature of some of the stories I’ve written, I doubt there are some who get the warm fuzzies when my name comes up in conversation, nor will I be getting a Christmas card anytime soon.

Others I’ve formed either acquaintances or long-time friendships, be it coaching or covering sports, writing about initiatives that have benefited the community or feature stories on interesting individuals.

One, I make a point of eating lunch with at least once a week. Another interesting character I met just this month and clicked with almost immediately was a man more than 40 years my senior.

He is none other than retiree and internationally-known photographer Frans Brouwers. And the funny thing is, when I first embarked on doing the feature article on the man who currently has his work showcased at the Barnwell Library, I was not even in a good mood at the time.

Stories were piling up and I was getting stressed. All I could think at the time was ‘man, this story is going to take me a whole day to do’ where I was hoping to do a quick 10-minute interview, a picture and then hightail it out of there.

But good surprises come when you least expect them. I was invited into his home where I got to tour the many rooms and walls in which his work was showcased before we made our trip to the Barnwell Library. That ‘10-minute’ interview turned into a length 10-fold where probably only half the conversation that was recorded was used for the eventual story, as the stress melted away and the conversation flowed. Along with the five-Ws, we shared travel and photography stories and just life in general. Then I toured his adjacent studio and found a man more passionate about his craft than many 50 to 60 years his junior, as Brouwers still shoots nature pictures many miles away from his Barnwell home on weekend treks. Any stress that I had at the time vanished, where the interview did not even feel like work, but rather catching up with an old friend I hadn’t seen in a long time.

The interview went so well, promises were made to come for a visit again some time to talk shop not only about photography, but life as well.

I have no idea if Brouwers thought I was sincere or not in wanting to hang out some more as I took down his cell and home number at the Barnwell Library…. but I was. Maybe because when I remember one of my grandfathers fondly, Brouwers has some similar traits which reminded me of him.

With more than eight decades of life experience, Brouwer’s boldness was something that I admired in the initial interview. Continuing to enjoy a full life now in its winter, as we joked around at times during the interview, he came off as a guy that called a spade a spade.

Certainly an attribute someone in the press can admire. I inquired what type of coffee he’d like that I could bring over in my next visit, in which he inquired about beer instead. Again, this guy continued to grow on me.

Eventually that follow-up phone call did arrive and instead of beer, dinner was agreed upon… at a place that served beer.

Conversation flowed just as freely pre and post dinner as it did at the dinner table.

I picked the brain of a man that has more wisdom than I hope I will ever have who is the definition of ‘Down to Earth.’ Perhaps fitting, in his love of Mother Nature.

We have both travelled many different countries and we compared our travel stories, as Canadians for the most part are admired world wide with our reputation as pleasant and friendly foreigners. Decades apart in age, we discovered just as many similarities as differences in our lives.

So count one more friendship made. You will never get rich monetarily with the job I possess, but the perks every once in a while are the people who grace your life for the better.

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