A&E » Arts

The unpredictable shape of dreams



A tent. A closet. A truck. These are just a few of the unorthodox housing choices made by Whistler residents looking to avoid paying exorbitant rent while skiing their faces off.

These carefully arranged, often cramped worlds have been captured in their various designs by local photographer Carin Smolinski, whose first Living the Dream exhibit during last year's Winter Olympics garnered national media attention, landing her full page spreads in the Globe & Mail and The Ski Journal.

Prior to the project, Smolinski worked as a portrait and travel photographer but has since become hooked on the documentation process of photojournalism.

"I just love it, I get to meet so many amazing people and everyone is so gracious and welcoming into their living spaces," she says of the experience. "It's so good to remind yourself to look beyond the stereotypes or the obvious. Everybody has their own story and in 20 or 30 years who knows? These people that I'm photographing now will be our councillors and mayors."

Public interest in the project encouraged Smolinski to pursue it further. She is currently putting together a book of her work and will be exhibiting her latest subject matter - a sub category focused on families who live non-traditional lifestyles in Whistler - this week as part of the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival.

"It's really interesting, I think the general perception is that Whistlerites have a lot of money and even if we do have a lot of money the cost of living here is definitely very high so people get creative," she said, adding that she is among the quirky set who lives unconventionally with her children. "There are a lot of bunk beds and a lot of A-frames."

To find her subjects, Smolinski first put up posters around Whistler offering a free six-pack to anyone with a good story and interesting visuals. She says those who contacted her were less interested in the beer than sharing their version of heaven. Promising not to disclose the location of their abodes also helped build trust among those staying in places from which they would surely be given the boot. That has meant Smolinski is used to hiking deep into forested areas and rappelling down mountainsides to get to out-of-the-way tents, lean-tos and rudimentary cabins. She clearly relishes the distance some people have gone to stay in Whistler, having done so herself.

"Some shots of my living space are included in the exhibit. We live in a log cabin with only wood fire for heat," she said. "When it was very wintry I had to pull my kids in on a sleigh. It is a little different but I also really cherish the experience...it's all the things we have to do to keep things going. It's an adventure plus the benefits of raising our children here are so amazing. My seven-year-old skis double black diamonds - where else in the world (would that happen)?"

For more information on the Living the Dream project go livingthedreamwhistler.com.

The reception for the Living the Dream exhibit takes place on Thursday, April 14 at Scotia Creek Gallery in Millennium Place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The exhibit will be up until May 14.