With the weather turning cold and snowy, I found a silly project that ended up being a lot of fun to put together. There’s a longstanding December tradition at Embassy Ottawa for the various agencies and sections to decorate their main entrance doors for the holidays. The various efforts, elaborate and simple, face a committee of judges after which the winners receive awards and, more importantly, bragging rights at the mission’s holiday party.
The Public Affairs department has consistently excelled in the competition and entered this year as the defending champions. My beloved Consular group, while competitive, has not won the contest for years. After tossing around a few ideas for theme, we came up with an idea that merged our strategic mission with the season. What would happen if Kris Kringle applied for a visa? The result: Santagate. I put together a mock-up of the local newspaper, The Ottawa Citzen, and wrote a couple thousand words about how Kris Kringle came in for visa and faced some unexpected skepticism from our consular officers given his 60+ aliases, the lack of a proper passport, and some unexpected attitude.
Although, there are a lot of inside jokes that aren’t nearly as funny to those who don’t know our people, it provided the construct for the real star of the presentation — the photographs. We stages a series of shots involving Santa working his way through the visa section, being fingerprinted, pleading his case to an officer, being refused, and finally, being physically removed by our intrepid security guards. From a photographic standpoint, it was a fun lighting challenge shooting through the glass with remote lights hidden on the client side (lighting it directly would have resulted in massive reflection and glare).
Part of the story involved a massive protest and ensuing political pressure for Canada to offer Santa asylum and immediate citizenship. As a Canadian citizen, Santa wouldn’t need a visa to travel over the border. We thought maybe some pictures of crying kids might work, but over the week-end I found a couple of pics online that, with the help of Photoshop, fit the bill.
With Santa’s online visa application, letters from protesting children, and some ribbon trim, the door told a good story.
We had lots of visitors loitering outside the door and, at this afternoon’s embassy party, Ambassador Jacobson called out Consular for both Most Original and Overall Winner.
On to the next obsessive project…