The Hungry Eye
with Mike Deal
06/3/2014 12:41 AM
A couple weeks ago I was sent to go and take photos of someone who dresses up as Spider-Man, Iron Man and Elmo for birthday parties. I wasn't sure what to expect from the person behind the mask and I honestly wasn't expecting to meet someone with so much passion for the job.
I met Gregory Marrast at the Cube in Old Market Square and every time he changed into a new costume he became the character. As Spider-Man he didn't walk: he crouched on the ground, jumped up onto a picnic table, then leapt back to the ground. All the while strutting and making witty comments. He probably had his photo taken with a half dozen people before we were finished with the Spidey costume.
By the time we got to the final costume, Elmo, I was convinced this guy could play any character. Elmo was the icing on the cake though: this time, he changed his voice as well as his body language. I couldn't keep from smiling and I wasn't the only one. People in passing cars were honking their horns and shouting, "I love you Elmo!"
After he changed back into his street clothes I asked Gregory if I could have a little chat with him.
What is your greatest struggle right now?
Right now, as an actor, I think it's finding opportunities in this city. Just because Winnipeg is such a hard place to break through in terms of actually becoming a success. I have a bachelors of arts in theatre and film at the University of Winnipeg, but so far the most jobs that has gotten me is a job at a shoe store downtown.
It's kind of a struggle, opportunities come and go, you have to audition a lot. You've got to put yourself out there, but what I have found with what I am doing right now, is that I'm kind of creating opportunities for myself.
What about doing this makes you happy?
I just like seeing that smile on kids' faces and it doesn't matter what I'm doing, whether I'm Spider-Man or another superhero or I'm Michael Jackson, I'm just coming up to them and smiling at them or giving them a sticker or just taking a picture with them, I'm making their day. I like seeing that sense of joy and passion in kids' hearts when they see someone that they admire. I never got that opportunity when I was younger.
Do you have a story of a particular moment while doing this that you remember that has stuck with you?
One birthday party I did, I was in my Spider-Man costume, and a little girl had fallen off a slide and she was hurt and crying. I was just like, "Oh no! Spider-Man is going to fix this!" I ran into the house and the mom handed me a Spider-Man ice pack and I ran to her. I put the ice pack on her head and I said, "It's ok, Spider-Man's got you." She looked up at me and said, "Thank you Spider-Man, you saved me." That kind of stuck with me more than anything else I've done, just because that little girl just really believed with all her heart that I was the hero that I was presenting myself to be. Even though I'm just a guy in a costume. I honestly felt like a superhero in that moment, just because I had saved her in that instance.
Have you ever gotten to that point where it is the complete opposite, you're like "OMG! What am I doing?"
Where I have doubts about this? No. I've never had a doubt about doing this. Acting and theatre, I've always just known it's a passion of mine and I've never wanted to not do it.
05/12/2014 4:28 PM
On Sunday afternoon there was a great gathering of community on the steps of the Manitoba Legislature. A rally to raise awareness about the nearly 300 abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria.
Many of the people gathered were dressed in red to show solidarity, but off to the side was a man dressed in the most amazing suit I had ever seen. It was a beautiful lavender colour.
After introductions Daswell McLeod said that he had a red suit, but thought it might be too much.
I asked him if he had any advice he could give.
"Let us come together and work together and be as one."
Has there ever been a situation where you felt that getting people together, getting the word out, and it wasn't happening?
"Yes, there are times when we get together and we want to get the word out, but it never materialized. I think it's time for us to really push hard. That an event like this, get out there and people pay attention. All of us, all of us as citizens, all of us that love this beautiful country of Canada can get together and help our fellow human beings around the world. That's what we are here for as a people."
What might your greatest struggle be right now?
"What I struggle with is the injustice, it's the unfairness that I see, even to some degree creeping into our country. I think we need to understand that people are people and everyone of us needs help. We can be selfish in what we have, we need to help each other."
Have you ever been in a situation where you couldn't help others?
"I have never been in a situation where I couldn't help anybody. In terms of money, I don't have a lot of that... but I've given my time, my energy, my input, I'm always there ready to do that. I have done that in the past, over and over again."
04/14/2014 10:04 AM
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.
04/10/2014 12:39 AM
It's not everyday that you stand around chatting about life with a funeral director, but that's exactly what I did a couple of weeks ago when I was sent to take Mike Vogiatzakis' photo for a story about his decision to run for mayor.
After taking his portrait I took a moment to ask him why he decided to become a funeral director.
"I think becoming a funeral director is almost a gift. I wanted to find purpose in my life. That's the bottom line and I guess it's been about fifteen years now where I've changed my life around totally 100% and found a purpose in life and that purpose was to help people through troubled times."
When you started out did you have any particular fears?
"I think when I started out I feared death. I feared the unknown. Coming into the funeral industry was the unknown. Working with deceased bodies, working with families and it was just such a learning experience. Even after going through mortuary school and actually working in a funeral home, it was a real eye opener. It was a great experience. If I could do it all over again, I would definitely become a funeral director and live this experience all over again. It's the most rewarding job you could ever have in your life, because you help families. I look at my job, you have to draw a picture in your mind, but there's a bridge and it's the "Bridge of Life" and in the "Bridge of Life" there's holes and those holes are "Death." I look at myself as a person who helps a family over that hole. You can't fix it, you can't take it away, but you can help a family over to the other side where they have to walk on their own again."
As a funeral director you've had to deal with personal issues as well, did you learn from other people's experiences?
"You don't. As a funeral director, when my dad was about to pass away it was probably the biggest burden that ever came across me. You have to find a spot that's going to bring peace to your heart. Losing a parent and being a funeral director was extremely hard for me. The build up to that, the fear of that happening the fear of knowing that I would have to pick up my dad. I would have to embalm my dad. I would have to dress my dad. So, you have to find something that's going to bring you peace.
So, as hard as it was for me to lose a father, I found peace in something and that was sitting with my dad and saying, "Dad where do you think you're going after you die?" My dad said to me, "Mike, I'm going to be with Jesus and I'm going to wait for you guys at the gates as you come, one by one." He had a lot of tears in his eye, and I had tears in my eyes and that there brought the biggest and the best gift in life I could ever have. Hearing my dad say that, those words brought me comfort and peace."
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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