Artist, writer, and photographer Donna James on Messages:
“But, I also found that the messages that I encountered were strangely encouraging to me, occasionally poetic, sometimes amusing, and often personal.”

April 2016

Come Out of Hibernation

The stuffed bear in the store window, nudges me.

Encourages me…time to wake up, venture outside…seeing anew

Time to start wandering the city streets…time to begin…again…to pay attention.

Spring is around the corner

Copyright © Donna James

What do you love?

Sunday morning on my way to buy the New York Times.

The window knows the question to ask, the attention getting “psstt”, that stops me, at the florist window reflecting back at me.

The question raises the bar, a touchstone for my creative pulse in this 1st quarter of 2016.

Whatever the answer, I should be spending more time actively loving it.

What do you love
Copyright © Donna James

 Pooh Advice – Reflected

I love Pooh advice … 

The wisdom of Pooh and my reflection … hmmm. I consider myself more of an Eeyore character, but it doesn’t matter really, because I’m always open to gifts from Pooh.

Pooh advice
Copyright © Donna James
October 2015

During my morning walks to work my attention floats, not really landing anywhere specific; a form of moving meditation.

2015-09-23 15.10.42Copyright © Donna James

Walking with a close friend along Wellington Street we share our current preoccupations, for her it’s her family, for me it’s thoughts about moving and wondering what the benefits, if any, would be. I would be disrupting my world for some longed for quiet; the magnitude of a move after 18 years overwhelms me and I wonder.

EnoughCopyright © Donna James

The following week, I return to the same neighbourhood hoping the bus stop sign is still there, it is. Rather than wait for a bus at that stop to return to my neighbourhood, I walk to the next bus stop.


FearCopyright © Donna James


In a shop window a pillow with a message sits on a chair, intrigued I look through the window inside the shop, messages are everywhere. My eyes bounch from one to the other, but I experience a dilemma: should I buy the sign with the message I want to photo or sneak a photo of it and leave? I look at the price tag and decide that I want to see that reminder every day, it needs to be hanging in my home.


You are lovedCopyright © Donna James


Sometimes these messages are like a whispering presence, that abides with me through the urban streets. But I have to be quick, it’s so dependent on the route I decide to take, almost like a board game. Turn left instead of right.


BeautifulCopyright © Donna James


Occasionally, I see questions, but recently, they are confidence filled declarative statements.

They push aside my doubt, and adjust my state of mind. Why would I argue?


I want thatCopyright © Donna James


The universe seems to be nudging me -all these positive confirmations at eye level.

These messages provide a virtual buffer against the micro-aggressions of living in the world.


MysteryCopyright © Donna James


Most of the following photos were taken during my habitual ambulations through Ottawa streets, though a few were taken on a recent trip to Newfoundland.


Newfoundland Welcome

Newfoundland welcomeCopyright © Donna James

Uprooted on the 215

Uprooted on the #215Copyright © Donna James


Tourist Advice in Goobies

Tourist Advice in GoobiesCopyright © Donna James

Not only are these signs a palpable evidence of the presence of other urban dwellers, but the signs I encountered weren’t self-referential, the “Kilroy is Here” type  – quite the contrary, they were addressed to the public, the anonymous viewer/reader – like me.

Vanity affirmation

Vanity affirmationCopyright © Donna James

But I also found that the messages that I encountered were strangely encouraging to me, occasionally poetic, sometimes amusing, and often personal.

Cosmetic advice

Cosmetic adviceCopyright © Donna James


I started to ‘read’ them as my private missives, encouraging my resilience; especially since I would encounter them in an happenstance kind of way.


Since they left these behind, I wonder what they needed

Since they left these behind, I wonder what they neededCopyright © Donna James

I would vary my routes through the city and walk at different times of the day. Often if I returned at a later time the message would no longer be there.

For Weary Empathizers

For weary empathizersCopyright © Donna James


Sometimes I wouldn’t stumble upon one for weeks.


The Universal Truth has a Sense of Humour

The universal truth has a sense of humourCopyright © Donna James

This fallow period might have to do with where my attention was focused, although that remains only a theory.

Perhaps Faith is this Straightforward?

Perhaps faith is this straghtforwardCopyright © Donna James


By Donna James

To see more work by Donna James please visit:

One Response

  1. Laurie Steven

    Fantastic! I love the words that accompany the photographs. An glimpse of our mysterious photographer. Overall the tone like a winding river, like the ambulations of the artist, gentle, deep, questioning, hopeful, eloquent. We can feel the stretches of time and the shifts they bring. But with sense of humour too – there are moments of words and images that made me laugh out loud.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.