I have been a still photographer for more than half of my life. I first picked up a camera with my father even before I was in high school, but to be reasonable about it I started get paid to shoot (for the local weekly) when I was in the 11th grade.
That’s a lot of shutter cycles, a couple of bad knees and an occasionally wonky shoulder, but for the most part I’ve made it to this point largely unscathed; nothing broken (well, there was that four day old AF Nikon 80-200/2.8 that I landed on when I tripped up a set of concrete stairs at the 2003 World Series, the repair for which cost me half of what I paid for the lens), not much overly battered, and only a few bruises.
Often times people talk about photographers developing a style, a look, and there are absolutely some photographers’ work which can be immediately identified as theirs. I really have no strong opinion one way or the other on the merits or otherwise of have a particular, defining style, and that may be in no small part because I’m quite certain I don’t have one. Sure, I have done work that has a consistency to it, but that was very conscious; my Musical Ink book in particular was shot so that it maintained a sameness throughout. Beyond that though I don’t think much of my work looks like much of my other work image-for-image, and I think that’s largely because a good portion of my work has been in the media; you can’t (or at least you absolutely shouldn’t) set up a news picture. You shoot what’s in front of you. There’s no question that exposure, composition & lens choice play a role, and there have been volumes of incredibly artistic news images made by freelancers, staffers, and wire shooters who have handed me my ass on assignments where we’ve been working for competing entities (more than a couple of those right here in Toronto; photographers like CP staffer Frank Gunn, Reuters long-time stringer Mark Blinch and former Globe and Mail Staffer Peter Power to name a few) but most often you take what you’re given.
Now having said all of that, I think to this point in my career, be they portraits, live music or straight up news, for the most part I think I’ve made some pretty solid images and I’m rather happy with my body of work. Now having said THAT…I’m making something of a change. You don’t need to be my accountant to know that the news media world as a whole is becoming an ever increasingly difficult place to make a living. Publications are laying off staff, some with very long tenure. That increases the pool of quality freelance photographers so the phone rings less often and even then a lot of publications are turning to wire or file images rather than assigning a shooter to get something new. Rates are staying the same or worse, are dropping; overall it’s just not pretty.
Something that is a positive trend though is video. Now I’m not talking about newspaper or magazine video that publications are using on their web sites with more and more frequency. I’m talking about the corporate sector. Even small businesses recognize that people want to see video when they visit a web site. They want to see behind the scenes; what goes on behind the curtain?
To that end, after more than 25 years as a still photographer (which I still am – make no mistake there!), I’m branching out into video. Here is a piece I finished this week for custom acoustic guitar builder Garren Dakessian just outside Toronto. He has built custom guitars under the name Loucin Guitars (after his late mother) for the likes of Sammy Hagar, Zakk Wylde and is currently building a guitar for Alex Lifeson of RUSH. The video takes us around his shop through almost every step of him building one of his music making beautiful works of art. Garren very specifically didn’t want a voiceover in this video; he wanted the visuals and the acoustic music to tell his story;
With shooting video a new tool in my belt from which to draw and make compelling images, essentially revisioning my vision, I have recently been provided and amazing opportunity to tell a remarkable story in the form of a feature-length documentary film. Details will be coming in a new post in the next week or so, so make sure to check in…