John Woods

Photojournalist

Recent articles of John Woods

A life celebrated: Award-winning musician Vince Fontaine remembered

Photos by John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press 1 minute read Preview

A life celebrated: Award-winning musician Vince Fontaine remembered

Photos by John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press 1 minute read Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022

Award-winning musician Vince Fontaine was remembered in a celebration of his life on Sunday afternoon at The Forks.

Fontaine died of a heart attack on Tuesday at 60.

The musical icon from Sagkeeng First Nation has been revered for his contributions to Indigenous music.

With the group Eagle & Hawk, Fontaine was awarded a Juno Award in 2002 and, in more recent years, he found success with his musical collective Indian City.

Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022

Approximately 100 people attended the celebration of life event for Manitoba musician Vince Fontaine at the Oodena Celebration Circle at The Forks Sunday afternoon.

There’s a reason pickleball is the hottest court sport around

Jen Zoratti / Photos by John Woods 6 minute read Preview

There’s a reason pickleball is the hottest court sport around

Jen Zoratti / Photos by John Woods 6 minute read Monday, Nov. 29, 2021

Welcome to Jen Tries, a semi-regular feature in which Free Press columnist Jen Zoratti will try something new and report back. In this instalment, Jen Tries… pickleball.

It’s 3 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, and the gymnasium at Sturgeon Heights Community Centre is echoing with the pleasing, rhythmic “pop” sound of paddles making contact with pickleballs — neon plastic balls with holes, not unlike a wiffleball. Members of Winnipeg West Pickleball have just taken to the courts, where they will play for the next couple of hours.

It was that sound that first hooked Rose Sawatzky. Sawatzky, 49, is not only a bona fide pickleball champion — she was ranked No. 1 in Canada within a year of first taking up the game during a trip to Arizona in 2017 — she’s also an organization director for Pickleball Canada and a certified instructor who has kindly agreed to school me in what has fast become the hottest sport at community centres all over the continent.

Monday, Nov. 29, 2021

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Pickleball is played with a lightweight paddle and ball.

In-tents encounters

David Sanderson / Photos by John Woods 8 minute read Preview

In-tents encounters

David Sanderson / Photos by John Woods 8 minute read Saturday, Jul. 31, 2021

Shaelene Demeria has worn a lot of hats during the past eight years, among them mom, foster mom, program co-ordinator and employment counsellor. The 28-year-old Winnipegger can now add fairy godmother of date night to the list.

Demeria, who is Métis, and her fiancé Mike Ross, whose family is from Lake Manitoba First Nation, are the owners of Backyard Bookings, a spanking-new operation that rents out everything you need for a romantic getaway in the comfort of your own backyard: precisely, a posh, teepee-style tent attractively furnished with a double foam memory mattress, throw pillows, champagne bucket, floor mat… even your preferred munchies and board games.

Maryn Conrod, 22, discovered the venture on Instagram in late June, days before its official launch. She reached out to the couple within minutes, convinced Backyard Bookings would be the ideal way to toast her and her boyfriend’s 18-month anniversary, which fell in mid-July.

“The first thing that caught my eye was the setup, just how cool and classy it looked online,” Conrod says when reached at home in St. Andrews. “Secondly, although I’m Métis, I grew up without learning too much about my culture, something I’ve been trying hard to rectify the last couple years. When I saw it was a teepee we’d be spending the night in, and read the reasons why they had chosen to go that route, I was like, ‘OK, this is something we need to do.’”

Saturday, Jul. 31, 2021

Photos by JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Shaelene Demeria, co-owner of Backyard Bookings, with one of her rentable teepee-style tents .

Hell-bent for leather… pottery, too

David Sanderson / Photos by John Woods 9 minute read Preview

Hell-bent for leather… pottery, too

David Sanderson / Photos by John Woods 9 minute read Thursday, Jun. 17, 2021

Let’s kick Father’s Day weekend off in style with a yarn involving Chuck Allen, a married father of four and founder of Earth and Hide, a home-based venture that turns out hand-crafted pottery and quality leather goods.

Four years ago, Allen, 43, was seated at the dining room table in his and his wife Amy’s St. James abode, struggling to come up with a moniker for his just-hatched business. He’d always liked the ring of this-and-that tags such as Deer + Almond or Elephant & Castle, so he was busily looking up synonyms for clay and leather, the two primary mediums he works with, hoping to settle on a pair of words that sounded good together.

Brick and something, he asked himself? Something else and tannery?

John, his second eldest, stopped to ask what he was scribbling down. The elder Allen replied he was trying to think of a name for his company and offered a few points of comparison. That’s easy, John announced; why not call it Ground Beef?

Thursday, Jun. 17, 2021

Chuck Allen’s introduction to pottery was a Leisure Guide ceramics class; he taught himself leatherwork by watching YouTube videos.

Look out, here comes Winnipeg's Spider-Man

Photography by John Woods 1 minute read Preview

Look out, here comes Winnipeg's Spider-Man

Photography by John Woods 1 minute read Friday, Jun. 4, 2021

Winnipeg's Spider-Man has fun putting a smile on people's faces and helping out whenever he can. Read the full story on his arachno-antics. |

Friday, Jun. 4, 2021

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

“I don’t want to go into it too much because I don’t want it to sound like a boast, but for sure, I’ve seen a few things that made me think, ‘Wow, I wonder what would have happened to that person if I hadn’t come along when I did,’” says Winnipeg’s Spider-Man.

As homelessness continues to grow, political promises offer little comfort to the frozen souls on the street

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 8 minute read Preview

As homelessness continues to grow, political promises offer little comfort to the frozen souls on the street

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 8 minute read Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020

 

The only hint of yuletide colours is the red-and-white Canadian flag fluttering atop the old firefighter museum just off the Main Street strip.

Otherwise, this morning — Christmas morning — is quiet, indistinguishable from the previous day and the one that follows. 

Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020

Behind the Manitoba Metis Federation building, pressed up against the fence near the sidewalk, a ramshackle structure has been built from scavenged materials.

Once-derelict Main Street flophouse's transition to stable, supportive housing facility proving successful in helping homeless people turn their lives around

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 11 minute read Preview

Once-derelict Main Street flophouse's transition to stable, supportive housing facility proving successful in helping homeless people turn their lives around

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 11 minute read Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020

 

The days seep and ooze into one another.

As the seasons change, the weather changes too: bitterly cold in winter, sticky hot in summer, pleasantly mild come fall. But otherwise, much about life on the Main Street strip remains the same, as it has for a very long time.

Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020

Ramona walks to her room at the Bell Hotel. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

Spectre of losing common bond inside encampment adds to despair

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 8 minute read Preview

Spectre of losing common bond inside encampment adds to despair

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 8 minute read Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020

 

The crowd is angry.

You can hear it in the chants erupting from the protesters, in the drum beat rippling through the tangle of bodies, in the tremble of the speaker’s voice in the bullhorn.

Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Desirae, right, and another resident look through carts of clothing as city crews dismantle camps on Austin Street and Henry Avenue in downtown Winnipeg in June.

Devoted couple offers warm-hearted welcome, generous spirit twice a week

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 15 minute read Preview

Devoted couple offers warm-hearted welcome, generous spirit twice a week

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 15 minute read Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020

 

The car pulls to a stop at 8:26 a.m.

Ted Martens swings open the door and steps into a windswept winter morning. His balance isn’t what it used to be, so he walks gingerly across the icy parking lot, doing his best to stay upright as he heads for the front doors of the grocery store.

Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Volunteers make sandwiches at the Love Lives Here drop-in at Austin Street and Henry Avenue in downtown Winnipeg. The Christian mission supports about 100 people several times a week.

Tent settlement remains a home for street family

Ryan Thorpe, Photography by John Woods 10 minute read Preview

Tent settlement remains a home for street family

Ryan Thorpe, Photography by John Woods 10 minute read Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020

Desirae has a pair of lungs on her.

“Don’t stare at the zoo animals!” she screams, as people walk down Henry Avenue, past the encampment, just off the Main Street strip, where she lives. 

The world around her is chaos.

Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
People walk down Henry Avenue in downtown Winnipeg.

Salvation Army trio focuses on others' well-being during frigid overnight shift in pandemic

Ryan Thorpe, Photography by John Woods 12 minute read Preview

Salvation Army trio focuses on others' well-being during frigid overnight shift in pandemic

Ryan Thorpe, Photography by John Woods 12 minute read Monday, Dec. 28, 2020

 

The night begins with a prayer, an incantation from the lips of three faithful members of the flock, standing in dim light with clasped hands as they implore God to direct them where help is needed most.

It’s a predictable start given the setting — the Salvation Army — where Merv Halvorsen, a longtime pastor with the non-profit religious group, is preparing to lead an outreach team into the streets of Winnipeg during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday, Dec. 28, 2020

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Salvation Army (SA) cadet John Burton, reflected in a vehicle window as people enter the shelter, feeds and supports people as they drive around in their Extreme Environment Response Vehicle in downtown Winnipeg Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Reporter: Thorpe

Decision to raze tent city a blow to community who called it home

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 9 minute read Preview

Decision to raze tent city a blow to community who called it home

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 9 minute read Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020

 

The cold is cruel and unrelenting.

An extreme weather warning has been declared in Western Canada, and in Winnipeg, the temperature is projected to hit -40 C with the windchill.

Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020

Word spread through the camp on Austin Street that the city was going to get rid of it the next day.

Main Street strip somewhere to drive through, avoiding contact with 'them' 

Ryan Thorpe, Photography by John Woods 16 minute read Preview

Main Street strip somewhere to drive through, avoiding contact with 'them' 

Ryan Thorpe, Photography by John Woods 16 minute read Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020

 

On many nights, Chris Hauch left the peace and quiet of his suburban apartment, boarded a city bus making its way downtown in fits and starts as exhaust burst from the tailpipe, and stepped into the chaos and clutter of the Main Street strip.

In winter, the wind blew stiff and cold, knocking dead leaves from trees, and the sky looked smudged with soot and ash. In summer, the air was thick with warmth, and winos sat in parks sweating drink under the fading sun.

Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020

Winnipeg Free Press files

Finding a way to live and someone to love on Winnipeg's bitterly cold, perilous streets

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 11 minute read Preview

Finding a way to live and someone to love on Winnipeg's bitterly cold, perilous streets

Ryan Thorpe / Photography by John Woods 11 minute read Friday, Dec. 25, 2020

It all started the night Kyle gave Desirae the dress.

People stream in and out of the vendor door at the Manwin Hotel, spilling onto the sidewalk with cans or cases of beer in hand as vehicles clip down Main Street at a swift pace. Gang graffiti stains the wall and trash is strewn about the ground.

Around the corner, an ambulance is parked in front of the Salvation Army, the emergency lights flashing in the darkness as the last traces of sunlight drain from the sky.

Friday, Dec. 25, 2020

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Desirae and Kyle, who live in the Austin Street camp off Higgins Avenue, head off to Portage and Main to see if they can find some New Years Eve celebrating in downtown Winnipeg Tuesday, December 31, 2019.

Thunderbirdz rise on Winnipeg streets

Julia-Simone Rutgers / Photos by John Woods 9 minute read Preview

Thunderbirdz rise on Winnipeg streets

Julia-Simone Rutgers / Photos by John Woods 9 minute read Monday, Oct. 5, 2020

Midway through September, Salena May Blunderfield realized her close friend, Katelyn Fontaine, hadn't been heard from in more than three weeks, so she decided to plan a community search.

She reached out to several groups before stumbling across the phone number for Thunderbirdz — a new initiative that aims to support marginalized and houseless people in Winnipeg.

"Right away, right when I asked for help, they were like okay, yeah, let's do it tomorrow," Blunderfield said in an interview the day after the search.

More than 80 people combed the streets with flyers in search of Fontaine. They travelled up Main Street to her known locations, then down Portage Avenue, showing her pictures to passersby.

Monday, Oct. 5, 2020

Volunteer community patrol group Thunderbirdz has been hosting walks since April 1.

Graeson Fehr is forging a name for himself with one-of-kind knives and other edgy art

David Sanderson / Photos by John Woods 9 minute read Preview

Graeson Fehr is forging a name for himself with one-of-kind knives and other edgy art

David Sanderson / Photos by John Woods 9 minute read Friday, Aug. 7, 2020

Graeson Fehr, founder of Fehr Forgeworks, a West St. Paul-based enterprise specializing in one-of-a-kind, handmade knives, gets it all the time.

Whenever he’s a registered vendor at a pop-up event or craft show, as he will be Sunday when he takes part in the second Manitoba Night Market & Festival of the summer (1-11 p.m. at Assiniboia Downs), passersby invariably pause in front of his booth, eye his meticulously crafted wares — everything from carving knives to pocket knives to finely etched Bowie knives — and begin directing questions to his father, often positioned to his right.

“They’ll start asking about this or that and he’ll shake his head going, nope, it’s all him, pointing over at me,” Fehr says, seated inside his parents’ double garage, a section of which serves as his everyday workspace.

“I certainly don’t take any offence when that happens. If I was them I probably wouldn’t expect to see a person my age doing this kind of thing, either.”

Friday, Aug. 7, 2020

Graeson Fehr works primarily with professional, knife-grade stainless steel.

Kid-friendly stuffed creations combine 'the perfect balance of cute and creepy'

David Sanderson / Photography by John Woods 7 minute read Preview

Kid-friendly stuffed creations combine 'the perfect balance of cute and creepy'

David Sanderson / Photography by John Woods 7 minute read Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019

Kami Goertz is a fibre artist whose plush boogeymen and hobgoblins have been described as being as much at home tucked in a child’s bed as lurking under one.

With Halloween right around the corner, Goertz agrees that assessment fits her huggable, bug-eyed creatures to a T, citing the television show My Pet Monster, a fave of hers growing up, as an early inspiration.

“He was this stuffed animal with horns and blue fur that came alive and protected the kid, and I guess I liked the idea that monsters could be on your side instead of something you should be afraid of,” she says, seated on a stool in her Exchange District studio, located on the fourth floor of the Silvester-Willson Building, 222 McDermot Ave.

“It’s funny, when I’m doing a craft sale, adults sometimes seem apprehensive about my stuff, commenting it might be too scary for their son or daughter. But seriously, what kid isn’t fascinated by something that’s a little dark and spooky? From my experience as a mom, kids seem to enjoy having a bit of ‘Boo!’ in their life.”

Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019

Kami Goertz has been creating and marketing monster plush toys for a few years from her downtown studio.

Convention centre bursting with culture, enthusiasm as Folklorama kicks off

Nadya Pankiw, Photography by John Woods 3 minute read Preview

Convention centre bursting with culture, enthusiasm as Folklorama kicks off

Nadya Pankiw, Photography by John Woods 3 minute read Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019

Take a trip around the world — or around the RBC Convention Centre — and find four Folklorama pavilions bursting with culture and enthusiasm as they kick off their first night of shows.

Helen Petroulakis, senior ambassador at the Greek Pavilion says turnout for the first show was enthusiastic considering it is the first year the pavilion is being hosted in the convention centre.

"Its a bigger venue and we were surprised when we walked in the door, there was a huge line up," she said.

Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
The Pooja’s Dance Academy performs at the India pavilion at Folklorama in Winnipeg Sunday, August 4, 2019.

Model watercraft enthusiasts make a splash at Assiniboine Park's duck pond

David Sanderson / Photography by John Woods 8 minute read Preview

Model watercraft enthusiasts make a splash at Assiniboine Park's duck pond

David Sanderson / Photography by John Woods 8 minute read Friday, Jun. 14, 2019

It’s Sunday morning at Assiniboine Park’s Riley Family Duck Pond, where members of the Winnipeg Model Boat Club have gathered for their annual, day-long regatta, made more special this year as it coincides with the organization’s 25th anniversary.

Shortly after Claude Dupuis launches a scale model, radio-controlled canoe, a pair of women approach him, explaining they spotted him and his cohorts while they were walking their dogs and immediately felt compelled to wander over to get a closer look.

They’re not the only ones whose curiosity has been piqued. An elderly gent, grandson perched on his shoulders, has been pumping Dupuis with questions about his eye-catching contraption for 10 minutes already. Meanwhile, a family of five is busily snapping pictures of the canoe’s pint-size paddlers, both of which can be controlled separately, allowing the metre-long vessel, made of birch plywood, to travel forward and backward, as well as perform full 360s.

Friday, Jun. 14, 2019

Three Manitoba veterans recount their roles on D-Day

John Woods 5 minute read Preview

Three Manitoba veterans recount their roles on D-Day

John Woods 5 minute read Wednesday, Jun. 5, 2019

Three Winnipeg and area veterans recently shared their D-Day experiences with Free Press photographer John Woods.

Two were in the air, while a third was on the Normandy beach on June 6, 1944. Hear their interviews, see their photographs and read excerpts of their stories below.

Len van RoonLance corporal, 19th Field Regiment

Wednesday, Jun. 5, 2019

Len Van Roon, D-Day veteran, is photographed in his Charleswood home Wednesday, May 29, 2019 as he looks at a newspaper which described the battle. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

Awash in colour

John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press 1 minute read Preview

Awash in colour

John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press 1 minute read Sunday, Jun. 2, 2019

They were playful, proud and strong.

Thousands lined the streets, taking part in the Pride Parade on Sunday, June 2. Held on the last day of the 10-day Pride Winnipeg festival, the march started 11 a.m. at the Manitoba Legislative grounds, and made its way down Portage Avenue, ending at Waterfront Drive near The Forks.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman was in attendance and participated in the parade.

This year's festival theme, Pride of Colour, emphasized the inclusion of marginalized and generally silenced voices within the LGBTQ community.

Sunday, Jun. 2, 2019

A little TLC at the Teddy Bears Picnic

John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press 1 minute read Preview

A little TLC at the Teddy Bears Picnic

John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press 1 minute read Sunday, May. 26, 2019

The city's teddy bear population had their day at Assiniboine Park Sunday.

Run by The Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, more than 150 health professionals volunteered their time to provide treatment for the furry friends stricken with a variety of ailments at the 33rd annual Teddy Bears Picnic. 

Staff photographer John Woods was on hand to capture some of the activities at the event. |

Sunday, May. 26, 2019

Alexa Twerdochlib with her son Nikko watch as his pet ostrich DeDe is treated at the Teddy Bear Picnic.

A community built through love of creating with needles and yarn

Brenda Suderman / Photos by John Woods 6 minute read Preview

A community built through love of creating with needles and yarn

Brenda Suderman / Photos by John Woods 6 minute read Sunday, Apr. 7, 2019

Shortly after Winnipegger Mary-Anne Derrick pulled out her knitting needles on a recent solo train trip to Edmonton, she stitched together an impromptu knitting club with people from three countries.

“They just saw me knitting and they came over because it’s a universal skill,” the River Heights resident says of the two knitters from Alabama and one each from New Zealand and Halifax who knit with her for two hours on the train.

A knitter for more than four decades, Derrick learned to knit and purl from a patient saleswoman at the former Eaton’s Department Store in Edmonton. The saleswoman sat beside her for three hours showing her the basics, and Derrick left with the skills and supplies to knit a bulky sweater.

Known for its meditative qualities and shown to reduce stress, the solitary craft of knitting quickly becomes social as people — mostly women — gather to exchange tips, offer opinions, and spin a few yarns.

Sunday, Apr. 7, 2019

Pamela Sersun models her Outlander-inspired sweater vest for Frankie O’Brien and Mary-Anne Derrick.

Highway closures, treacherous conditions all in a day's work for hockey-team bus drivers

By Ben Waldman | Photography: John Woods 15 minute read Preview

Highway closures, treacherous conditions all in a day's work for hockey-team bus drivers

By Ben Waldman | Photography: John Woods 15 minute read Friday, Mar. 1, 2019

Roger Hamelin wriggles his nose to steady his glasses as his eyes dart up the day’s schedule, which he smooths out on a table in the break room at the Beaver Bus Lines depot in St. Boniface.He is booked for an hour’s drive to Steinbach, where at 11 a.m., he’ll pick up the Pistons, the reigning champions of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, then stop in Neepawa for lunch before arriving in Waywayseecappo with time to spare before the team’s 6 o’clock faceoff against the Wolverines.

On paper, the drive is a simple one, Hamelin says. But buses don’t drive on paper; they get where they’re going over Prairie highways, where things can go wrong just as easily as they can go right.

A bus driver’s schedule represents an ideal scenario, an unobstructed sequence that takes a 25,000-kilogram machine from Point A to Point B to Point Z and back, with nothing impeding its motion.

To follow a schedule to a T, it’s understood, is aspirational — a dream — but Hamelin is attempting to make it a reality.

Friday, Mar. 1, 2019

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Roger Hamelin, a bus driver with Beaver Bus Lines, updates his log book on his bus as players head into the arena at Waywayseecappo.