peripheral vision

photography by Kate Wilhelm

Roller derby is one of the few full-contact sports available to women and probably the only full-contact sport played almost exclusively by women. It throws any notions of femininity in your face. Yet many Derby Girls are mothers (perhaps the ultimate “feminine” vocation), and the bouts are extremely family friendly. Immediately I wanted to know more about the women behind the derby personas. So I invited myself into their homes, their most private, domestic spaces, the arena that is historically and culturally seen as a woman's place.

Yes these bones shall live isn't only about derby. Rather, it explores how real women contradict and conform to traditional gender codes in performing their identities. What better way to subvert the gender stereotypes and prescriptions than to don fishnets and engage in a legitimate, full-contact sport that toys with performance, sexuality, aggression and our expectations of femininity?

I've been told that roller derby may be changing. In an effort to gain legitimacy and sustainable funding, many leagues are creating men's and junior teams. Some are losing the campy 'boutfits' and punny, subversive names. In short, the sport may lose all the parts that intrigue me most.



May 18th, 2008

we are who we are through other people

we are who we are through other people

May 12th, 2009

"We are who we are through other people" is a loose translation of the Zulu concept of Ubuntu.

“A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu but it will have various aspects.”
~ Nelson Mandela

I've been volunteering at the local drop-in centre, which provides hot meals, access to housing and other services to anyone who drops in, since January 2008. I've been photographing some of the people I meet there since July 2008.

not like the others

not like the others

June 10th, 2009

Belly dance is thought to have originated as a way to prepare for and articulate the experience of womanhood. This series places belly dancers in urban and suburban settings to foreground the sterility of modern North American culture and highlight the absences that may draw women to this ancient dance form. If the dancers are not on stage, then what are they performing?



June 14th, 2009

  /ˌbrikəˈlɑʒ, ˌbrɪkə-/ bri⋅co⋅lage.

1. a construction made of whatever materials are at hand; something created from a variety of available things.

2. (in literature) a piece created from diverse resources.

3. (in art) a piece of makeshift handiwork.

4. the use of multiple, diverse research methods.

“In its old sense the verb 'bricoler' applied to ball games and billiards, to hunting, shooting and riding. It was however always used with reference to some extraneous movement: a ball rebounding, a dog straying or a horse swerving from its direct course to avoid an obstacle. And in our own time the 'bricoleur' is still someone who works with his hands and uses devious means compared to those of a craftsman."

"The 'bricoleur' also [...] 'speaks' not only with things ... but also through the medium of things."

~ Claude Levi-Strauss, The Savage Mind

These photographs record spontaneous family moments and leftover scenes from my son's play.

many scars

many scars

May 15th, 2009

A man comes up to order a coffee, no sugar, sugar makes you crazy. He's wearing a tweed sort of English golf hat, and has eyebrows like my dad's right before he gets them trimmed. [...]He talks about his theory of madness caused by sugar in a good-humoured way, then comments that we look like new volunteers. He comes in closer to me and lowers his voice, "This place is amazing. You will meet people here... well some of them you'll wish you'd never met, but some people here are so wonderful, in what they do, and just who they are." And I know he's not only talking about people like Sister Christine. I like him already. I hear someone call him John later and I hope I get the chance to use his name.

That is what I wrote after I met John during my first volunteer shift at the Drop-In Centre, which serves two hot meals every day for people staying at the shelter and anyone else who wants one.

It's been nearly two years now since we first met, two years of me spending a couple hours every weekend at the centre, two years of serving him sugarless coffee. He was among the first people I photographed for my “We are who we are through other people” series of portraits made at the Drop-In Centre. After I gave him some prints, he invited me to photograph him again and it quickly became a collaboration. The photographs in this series were shot over a six-month period.

For 25 years, John has lived with multiple sclerosis, which means literally 'many scars,' and he's finding it increasingly difficult to walk. He says he knows time is running out and eventually he won't be able to walk at all. At the Drop-In Centre, we've started carrying his meals to the table for him, because one time he fell. All of his tattoos honour his family: one for his grandmother and one for his grandfather who both raised him. His most recent tattoos honour his son, his daughter (both grown), and their mother, his ex-wife.