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Try not to covet anything

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John Hansen volunteers at ArtBeat Studio.

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John Hansen volunteers at ArtBeat Studio.

After shooting an assignment at Studio Central a few weeks ago I met a gentleman on the way out who got onto a bicycle and was about to ride away. I had to stop him; he struck me as someone who would be willing to tell me a story. I really didn't know what to expect. Before I could even finish telling him I was going to record everything (I hardly got the recorder started), John Hansen launched into an incredible slice of his life.

I'm a drunk, I spent time in jail. I spent 276 days in jail for a DUI. I was on bail doing breaches. What the hell else, I'm a doctor. I've got four university degrees, two years of family practice. Got involved heavily in alcohol, lost everything. Lost my savings, declared bankruptcy. Didn't know what the hell I was going to be doing.

Then I discovered ArtBeat, which was a tremendous help, and got back into acting, and still had hope.

Found that the things in life that are important to other people... I'm single, never been married... house, home, family. That might be good for other people, but for me it's just living. It is just really, living with no expectations that anything I do is going to give me a reward. My enjoyment and reward of anything is actually doing something. And that's it.

What's the hardest part that you have experienced in terms of coming back from what you've been through?

Realizing that... accepting... understanding that, it's hard to explain, understanding that I have my own different world than upper-middle class, or upper class, or their acceptance of what existence is. I had to come to grips with my own personal understanding of what my existence is all about without giving in or trying to accept others. I did that, I had a simple apartment at one time. My colleagues said, "Why are you doing that, why do you live like that?" With all that money, right. So, I did, I got a two-storey, three-bedroom apartment. I filled it up with furniture and it was probably the worst thing I ever did. And that was probably the beginning of the end and once I got... every time I got rid of something, I got better. The more I got rid of, the better I felt. The happier I was. The only thing I have left from my old life is my classical guitar. I don't have much but I'm happy with it. I live in a rooming house on Furby. I don't want to live there forever, I'd like to move up sometime, but life has been so much more wonderful without the expectations of getting anything from it.

So, if you could give a piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?

Try not to covet anything. Just let things come as they are. I think if you want to look for the next holiday that's fine, but I don't think you are going to find enlightenment in anything that you get. The only place you are going to find enlightenment is in your own mind, and to examine it, and to look at it.

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About Mike Deal

After freelancing for the Winnipeg Free Press for three years, starting in 1997, Mike Deal landed a part-time job as a night photodesk editor.

His first day in the new position was supposed to be September 12, 2001. But when he woke to the news of the two towers on September 11, he automatically headed into the newsroom.

For the next few years, he split his hours at the Winnipeg Free Press between photo editing and photography. In 2008, Mike was hired full-time as a photojournalist.

Mike’s training includes a journalism diploma from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary. He also spent time at the University of Manitoba, working at the Manitoban and the U of M photo club and taking fine art courses.

Having also just finished shooting a personal project that involved taking 2,013 portraits using just his iPhone in the year 2013, he looks forward to taking the portrait project concept to another level. He will NOT be shooting 2,014 in 2014! Don't be surprised if he stops you in the street and demands a moment of your time. You have been warned!

Another personal passion of his is street photography, capturing the people of Winnipeg amongst the beautiful architecture of its downtown.

In his off-hours Mike enjoys taking photos with his iPhone, walks in Assiniboine Forest, and spending his free time with his partner Ariel and daughter Anna.


"I go to the street for the education of my eye and for the sustenance that the eye needs - the hungry eye, and my eye is hungry."    -Walker Evans


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