December 25, 2006

20 Years

Digital original, 10 image stitch
It was twenty years ago today, On December 25, 1986, that I received my first camera, and unknowingly began this life-long journey. At the age of 17, my parents gave me a used Olympus OM-10 and a handful of film, to begin my exploration with. Weeks later I entered my first darkroom, and processed my first wet chemical print.

Since then I have custom built three darkrooms (with one, three and two enlargers in each respectively), and one digital “lightroom”. I have owned at least 25 cameras (small, medium and large format, and digital), and well over 50 lenses (not counting duplicate copies of the same lens), and almost a dozen tripods. I have lost one camera, light meter and a lens to a river, worn out (as in killed through excessive use) three Manfrotto tripods, and one digital SLR.

By rough estimate, I have made 70,000 film images (1,600 rolls of 35mm, 1,400 rolls of 120, and more than 8,000 sheets of 4x5 and 8x10 film) and 48,000 digital images (which after stitching make up about 22,000 actual photographs), for a whopping total of over 118,000 images (the irony here is that the 70K film images were made over 18 years, and the 48K digital were made over four years).
This does not include discarded film images (messed up in processing or incorrectly exposed), or deleted digital files (the 48,000 digital images were made on four cameras which collectively have made 147,000 photographs, meaning I delete approximately two images for each one photograph I kept).

My photography has introduced me to some wonderful people, from my partner, Joy, to supporters, patrons and models. All of these people have helped shape and fill a world that revolves around the creation and celebration of beauty. I have been privileged to photograph some wonderful individuals, both on their own, and as part of couples, with friends and as siblings. I have been granted the gift of photographing one of my best friends through not just one, but two pregnancies. The reward of working as I do is not only the images I create, but the people involved in the process.

The years have not been without the negative, however. I have lost wonderful images through darkroom and computer errors, had an image stolen from an exhibition, and had permission to use a complete body of work revoked by a model who’s life changed in a way incompatible with her modeling history. Permission to use still other images was lost to the end of my first marriage, as part of the fallout of the end of the relationship. These are small prices to pay for the rewards that photography has brought me

Other sorrows are felt deeper, and have taken longer to work through. Five years ago, a friend and model took her own life, something which I have not spoken/written about before. Her passing shook all who knew her, and took much of the magic out of the images we’d made, until I realized her own troubles didn’t tarnish the beauty she created with me, and that the images she’d left behind celebrated her. I still think of her often, and can now look at her photograph and smile.
So the first two decades are complete. I still have much left to say, visually, and with luck and fortune, lots of time to say it all in.

Celebrating 20 Years of Photography!

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This session marks the completion, to the day, of twenty years of photography, a milestone by any measurement. It was completely spontaneous that L_contacted me early in December, asking if I'd have time to work with her when she was in town for the holidays. After a bit of planning, it was decided that we'd have a session with her and her sister, Fern, on the exact anniversary of receiving my first camera two decades earlier.
Digital original, 16 image stitch
The session was planned for a couple of hours in the afternoon, so I put up a white sheet over a large sunlit window, and we worked with the beautifully diffused light coming through that. In many ways, this was a mirror of my second session working with L_ and Fern in 2002, which was also my first figure test of digital cameras (then a Canon D60).
Digital original, two image stitch
The vast majority of the images were nude portraits of the two, focusing on the affection and comfort that exists between the two sisters. I did make individual portraits of each sister, but with both of them present in the studio, it seemed a shame to spend time working with them separately, when they photograph so well together!

December 21, 2006

Reall Big Prints

My typical print sales are of 12"x18" prints, but recently a collector ordered a set of ten 30"x45" prints. Not owning a printer that could go that big, I worked with Atlantic Photo Supply, to proof and then print the final images.
The challenging of the project was that the order was a mix of digital and film photographs, but it was really pleasing how well the digital files held up at such a large degree of magnification.

December 20, 2006

A Dance Session

Digital infrared original
Though I knew the focus of the session was to be on dance, I began as I usually do with a set of portraits; it would turn out to be the only infrared work I did during the session.
Digital original
This was my second time working with L_ dancing (the first was in 2005), though it was the first time the session that I worked with L_ dancing nude,. I actually hadn't thought of the possibilities inherent with dancing nude and it was only when L_ showed me several silk veils she had with her that I decided we'd start with nudes.
Digital original
In the end, it turned out that one move in particular, spinning with the veil thrust out, worked the best and for about half of the time we worked with her dancing nude, L_ was spinning in place! Not an easy feat.

L_ in the Studio

This was my second time working with L_ dancing (the first was in 2005), though it was the first time the session that I worked with L_ dancing nude, as well as clothed.
Digital Original
I lit the session pretty much identically to our first dance sessions, two lights per side, with two providing rim light (placed beside the backdrop) and two providing the main and fill light (places to the left and right of the camera. All through the session the flash heads were set to minimum power to ensure fast, efficient refreshing, so I could photography as quickly as possible while L_ danced.

I actually hadn't thought of the possibilities inherent with dancing nude (as our previous session had focused so much on the belly dance photos, it just never occurred to me that another approach could work) and it was only when L_ showed me several silk veils she had with her that I decided we'd start with nudes.
Digital infrared original, 6 frame stitch
L_ was kind enough to indulge me in the experiment, and once the lighting was finalized, she began moving and dancing with the veils. In the end, it turned out that one move in particular, spinning with the veil thrust out, worked the best and for about half of the time we work with her dancing nude, L_ was spinning in place! Not an easy feat.
Digital original
The final portion of the session was spent working with L_'s variety of belly dance costumes, mirroring pretty much the session from 18 months earlier.

December 19, 2006

Elena Indoors

Elena and I have worked outdoors several times, but this session marked our first chance to work indoors together (while Elena lives in Halifax, she is far enough away from where I live to make it difficult to meet up to work together without a car being involved).
Digital original, 6 frame stitch
As is my usual approach to working with a model, I had no definite plans in mind for the session, so once Elena arrived, I simply threw up the white sheets, and began to see what would happen. These sessions focus so much on the model's personality and interaction with the camera that it is impossible to plan images ahead, even if that was my style, as too much is dependent upon the interaction between myself and the model. An indoor session with the white sheets reduces the influence of the space around the model (reducing it to clean, simple white), and while the room lighting is still present, it takes a back seat to the model as the real focus of the images.
Digital original, 12 frame stitch
While I am used to indoor sessions focusing on the model's face as much as body (the vast majority of my nude portraits have been made indoors, as opposed to outdoors), it was a real surprise to discover how powerful Elena's gaze was during this session, and how often small smiles crept into the portraits. I seldom make images of models smiling, but Elena's personality is so rooted in her smile that it was impossible during this session to leave it out. Truth be told, I wasn't sure if the smiling portraits would work, but in hindsight, I am glad I made them, both because of how well they worked visually, and, perhaps more importantly, because of how honest they are in representing Elena as a person.
Digital infrared original
Overall, the session was a great success; I alternated between closely framed nude portraits and more loosely composed full body poses, and made a number of interesting bodyscapes to round out the session. The work that Elena and I produced outdoors was so focused on the interplay between the body and the landscape that I'd somewhat forgotten how well she responded to the camera on a personal level - something that carried almost all the images we made during this session.

December 17, 2006

Christine Indoors

Christine and I haven't worked together for some time, so I asked her if she'd be interested in doing some indoor photos. This was also motivated by the arrival of a large mirror, removed from a friend's house during summer renovations, and only recently relocated to my house use with photographic explorations.
Digital original, 5 frame stitch
I'd already produced a body of work photographing models on mirrors, but as I haven't done much work with mirrors since 2000, I was interested to see how my approach to the setting might have changed over the intervening years. Previously, most of my mirror work has been done in a studio with black walls and ceilings, so one of the challenges of doing this in my current location, was controlling the room reflections in the images. I set the mirror in front on the floor in front of a black backdrop that was extended all the way up to the ceiling. This was a work-around solution, and while I did frequently run out of backdrop in the images, it did give me the deep black backdrop I sought for these images, even though it was with some limitation, in regards to camera angle.
Digital original
Once we'd exhausted the possibilities of the mirror set-up (there are only so many ways to pose on a mirror that lead to interesting reflections), we briefly worked with the studio set-up, removing the mirror, and simply photographing with the black background. A number of very striking portraits were made with this arrangement, with Christine's body forming overlapping curves receding behind her face.
Digital infrared original
The final part of the session was spent working with natural light (all the other images were produced with flash), with Christine posing on the futon below the living room window. I have such a strong preference for natural light, that it is always necessary to hold it until the end of a session, if flash is going to be used, or else I never will end up using the studio lighting. I am still getting used to the visual possibilities of my new home, but there's no doubt of the successes of these images of Christine.

December 06, 2006

Winter Light

Digital original, 3 image stitch
As the winter sun sets, its warmth underlights the December clouds, and provides a luminous backdrop for the screen of snow covered trees.
The cool blue sky has just hints of warmth from the winter sun, providing a delicate contrast to the image.

November 22, 2006

Miranda, the New Brunswick Portfolio Book Released

My fourth book, Miranda, the New Brunswick Portfolio is published today. The portfolio was produced over one week in the summer of 2005 working with Miranda in one province of Canada. Focusing on the ten image portfolio, the book also contains a session by session photo diary of the creation of the portfolio and more than sixty photos, including numerous documentary images that provide an intimate, behind-the-scenes view.

October 26, 2006

Three Models in Fredericton

The reason for the visit to Fredericton was to do a session on figure photography for the New Brunswick Craft College, as I have done for the past three years. In addition to presenting at the college, the trip gave me a chance to catch up with Kayla, and work with her and Jenn for a second time this fall (the first was during a similarly brief visit to Fredericton).
Digital original
The initial hope had been to work with Jenn and Kayla the previous evening, and with a new model, Paige, on this afternoon, but as things turned out, we couldn't find a location to work in on the previous evening, so I negotiated to work with all three models on this particular afternoon. Finding a space to work in was a concern as well, until we secured a room at the local arts centre. The location have beautiful large windows, and while the weather was poor and a little damp, that didn't really impact the light coming through the windows.
Digital original, 22 frame stitch
I began the session working with each model individually, before working with first two, then all three of them together. When working away from home, where time is limited, and scheduling is of the essence, I frequently try to book photo sessions one after the other, to maximize my use of time. In this case, with three models to work with during the afternoon, I tried hard to be fair to each and make the contribution they were making in terms of time and enthusiasm as valued as I could.
Digital original, 10 frame stitch
One interesting thing about this session was how much the room we were in influenced the images; with large windows on a second floor, it permitted me to work with a great deal of natural light, and even when I shifted to working with flash, the 5 meter ceiling let me light the models in a much for flexible manner. After setting up the black backdrop (as a strong contrast to the well lit room we'd worked in at the start of the session) because of the high ceiling, I could actually place a light coming directly over the backdrop, opposite the camera position. Usually I have to light from the side of the backdrop, in rooms with 3m ceilings, but in this case, I had the freedom to light in anyway way I wished!

Gothic Revival in Fredericton

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I have not worked with architectural subjects in any concentrated way since my trip to the USA in 2000. This is due to the strength of my interest in a specific period of architectural history (later 19th century military fortifications), and my lack of interest in most modern architecture (the fact that Halifax, where I live has little in the way of interesting modern architecture doesn't help this either). All this being said, I have a deep and unsatisfied love for architectural photography, so when I was driving through Fredericton in search of a source of breakfast foods, and passed by a beautiful stone chapel, I knew I'd have to return and photograph it before I left town to head back to Moncton.
Digital original
The chapel (St Anne's Chapel of Ease) turned out to be a 19th century Gothic revival church, based upon the older designs from Europe, as opposed to more contemporary designs of the era in which it was built. As such it had great resonance for me (I lived in England briefly as a child), and as soon as I could, I was back at the chapel, camera and tripod in hand, exploring the exterior, and making what images I could in the time I had. While I was photographing outside, Joy went and tried to gain permission to photograph the interior as well, but the chapel was in use for the day, and it would only be possible to photograph the interior on another day, which wasn't possible for us, given the schedule we were on.
Digital original
In retrospect, the most interesting thing about my photographs of the chapel is that they are all details. I had no interest in showing the building as a whole, set in modern day Fredericton. I was looking for the grace and beauty of old-world architecture, and found the juxtaposition of the "real" world around it, sidewalks, power lines, and single family dwellings, to be jarring and problematic. So I kept my eyes on the details for after twenty cold minutes or so of photographing, before heading off to make plans for the the rest of the day.

October 22, 2006

A Field Trip

Digital original
I find it fascinating that for all the time I spend photographing outdoors, working with the Nude in landscape, I still find a straight landscape hard to create. Every time I have a class field trip, I focus on working with the landscape, trying to make the most of the experience, but it usually ends up lacking something.
Digital original
I suspect much of this is rooted in two distinct and different aspects of the issue. First, while most successful landscape are created within a couple of hours of sunrise or sunset, my class field trips are usually conducted during the middle of the day, when the light is the least conducive to good photograph. If I developed a strong and focused interest in landscape photography, I could of course overcome this by simply getting up earlier, or staying out later to photograph. The second aspect is much more influential, I suspect, and that has to do with my connections to the subject. When I photograph the Nude, I am working with a subject that has been at the heart of my creative endeavors for almost two decades, and when I am photographing the landscape, I am simply making images because I happen to be in the space. The two subjects in no way share the same space in my heart, and I think, ultimately, this changes how I approach the subjects at the end of the day!
Digital original, 4 frame stitch

October 10, 2006

A Final Pregnancy Session with Carol

While Carol and I had a full studio session ten days earlier, we still managed to fit in one final session before she delivered a healthy baby a week later.
Digital original, 8 frame stitch
The session was short, as I'd really headed over to Carol's house just to keep her company for the afternoon, but when she said she'd be up for a short photo session, who was I to say no? I quickly put up my white sheets and had Carol sit on some cushions in the middle of them. Fortunately the weather was cooperating, and the sun came through a window onto the sheets, providing a brilliant highlight, and some wonderful contrast to the scene.
Digital original
It is a very different way of photographing, when all you seek is a single, archetypal image.For the past six months or so, Carol and I have been following a series of poses through her pregnancy, working towards a final image compositing the six months of photographs into a single frame (like this image of Carol's first pregnancy). This session was totally different, with us simply making new images for the celebration of light, beauty and the fruition of Carol's second pregnancy.

After half an hour of photographing, I strongly felt like I'd made a couple of very striking images, and packed up the equipment, and headed off with Carol for a walk (which was actually the original idea behind the visit).
Digital original
This afternoon's photographs marked my final session of Carol's second pregnancy; as a couple of days later, she went into labor, and delivered her second healthy child!

October 03, 2006

Kayla & Jenn in Fredericton

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In the fall of this year, Kayla moved to Fredericton for school; in early October, I had to head up to Fredericton (about two hours from where I was living, in Moncton, NB) for a meeting, so I got in touch with Kayla, to see if it would be possible to spend some time working together when I was in town. As it turned out, in addition to being keen to get in a session, Kayla offered to put me up for the night, taking some of the rushed quality out of the visit and giving us even more time to work together.
Digital infrared original
In addition to setting aside some time to work with me, Kayla mentioned my visit to several friends, and let them know I am always interested in working with new models. Several expressed interest, and one, Jenn, ended up modeling, first on her own, and then with Kayla, during the session. The session was in the evening, so I set up my flash equipment in Kayla's small dorm room, bouncing the light off the ceiling to give a soft, diffused light to the entire room.
Digital original
In the end, as much as this was first session for Jenn, the biggest influence in the session was the small space. I had to work hard to make compositions that worked in the location, and in the end, the best images of the session were the ones of the two models posing together, and those images tended to use closer compositions that focused more on details and the overall view. I am always impressed by how well first sessions often go with new models, but in this case, I was even more impressed, as I was so distracted from the session by location issues (all of which were overcome during the session) that I couldn't provide all the attention, encouragement and support which I usually try to provide to someone working with me for the first time.

September 29, 2006

A Studio Pregnancy Session with Carol

With Carol's due date becoming more and more immanent, we decided to shift gears a little for this session, and actually focus on the pregnancy itself. For almost all the sessions we've had together since we began working on the project, we have been working on a series of images following the evolving pregnancy, but have actually spent almost no time photographing the pregnancy beyond those three sets of images
Digital infrared original
I set up my flash lighting and a black backdrop to work again, and we began working. As with almost all my photo sessions, we began with a series of portrait, balancing the beautiful curves of Carol's belly against her serene face. Once these were finished, we moved onto more body centric images, working our way from some standing pose to a series with Carol lying on the floor. It was important to work in this order (standing, then lying down) to ensure that Carol didn't tire out. The session was taking place at the end of the day, and while Carol was vibrant and full of energy, I didn't want to tire her our any more than necessary, regardless of how keen she was to model.
Digital infrared original, 6 frame stitch
By the end of the session, I was very pleased with what I had seen through he viewfinder. Though the room we were in was small, I'd been able to control the lighting enough to get the effect I was looking for, with smooth, luminous highlights and a deep black background.
Digital infrared original, 9 frame stitch
I am not sure if this will be our last pregnancy session or not (Carol's due date in in less than two weeks), but as I was packing equipment up to head for home, I knew that we'd made some beautiful images of the peak of the pregnancy, singular photographs to work alongside the documentary series we'd been working on for so many months!

September 25, 2006

Victoria on Maugher's beach

While R_'s arrival in Nova Scotia was unexpected, Victoria's visit at the end of September was long anticipated, and while I didn't know if we'd get the chance to work together, I was very much looking forward to seeing her for the first time in over a year.
Digital infrared original, 3 frame stitch
As it turned out, Victoria did have time to head out for an afternoon, and, while it wasn't certain we'd have the chance to make some photos, I brought my camera and tripod along just in case. It turned out to be a good decision, as once we were on McNab's Island (we'd gone out sailing for the afternoon, to enjoy the early fall day), Victoria offered to pose for a while, as much to continue building the images we've worked on to date as to make new ones.
Digital infrared original, 5 frame stitch
The only model with whom I've consistently worked with longer than Victoria is Ingrid, and that is only by a matter of an extra week. The strength of our work has only increased over the years, a combination of my evolving photographic abilities, and what both Victoria and I have learned from the results of our sessions.

For a variety of reasons, this was a very brief photo session; the day was sunny and bright, but there was a cool snap in the air which would have eventually become uncomfortable. I started the session with a series of standing portraits, setting Victoria behind a screen of high dune grass with the sun behind her. With the wind blowing the grass all over the place, the successful images were more luck and happenstance than skill, but we still made several striking images.
Digital infrared original
From here we moved onto a few bodyscapes on the beach itself, backing the composition with the dune grass and dark sky (it was actually bright blue, but rendered as almost black with the infrared camera). After these, we finished off the session with another series of portraits, this time with the sun cascading across her torso, and her sun turned towards it, eyes closed. A beautiful way to end the session.

September 22, 2006

R_ Indoors (with a Snake!)

The last session with R_ before she went back to Europe was to be spent working indoors; R_ had asked about modeling with our snake, Slytherin, and as our work has begun five years before indoors, I thought it would be a good way to close her visit to Nova Scotia.
Digital original, 7 frame stitch
I have only worked a couple of times in my new apartment, and also welcomed the chance to work again with the new space. Often it takes several sessions before I become really comfortable with the light in a space, and am really able to make the most of its potential. With this apartment facing east, it isn't the best for afternoon or evening light, but what light there is tends to be lovely and even, so that at least is in my favour.
Digital original, 9 frame stitch
Though I did work some with my infrared camera, this session was unusual in that the majority of the images I made were produced with my colour DSLR. With Slytherin playing a major part in the session, much of my focus was on colour (his orange and yellow colouring worked very well against R_'s rich skin tone), and while many of the images were eventually converted into black and white, Having the option of keeping them in colour was a definite benefit.
Digital original
Overall, the session was a great close to R_'s visit. As we both knew it would be the last session, it ended with an emphasis on portraits, something that I feel is quite important, given that I don't know when we'll next have a chance to work together again. R_ has extended an invitation to work with her in Europe, and while I don't know when I'd be able to take her up on that offer, it is certainly something I'd love to be able to avail myself of someday.

September 16, 2006

Alexandra & Liam at the Coast

Alexandra and Liam had blocked out their whole day to work with me, so after the river session in the morning, we took a break for lunch, and then drove to the coast, to spend the rest of the afternoon working along the shoreline.
Digital infrared original
An unexpected element of this session was Liam's willingness (and indeed, enthusiasm) for working in the ocean. While the Atlantic Ocean is actually at its warmest in October, by mid-September, the air temperature is low enough to make it seem quite the opposite, so when Liam first volunteered to pose in the ocean proper, I tried to discourage him. Forty minutes later, he was still in the ocean. I finally had to consider his claims that it wasn't that cold had to have some validity.
Digital infrared original
Over the four or so hours that the three of us worked along the shoreline, we made a wide variety of images, working between photographs focusing on each model individually, and images of them together as a couple. Usually when I work with two models outdoors, even if they are in a relationship, I tend to use the second model as a resource to add to an image if it looks like a second figure would add to the composition, but with Alexandra and Liam, I just as frequently would make images that were mirrors to their relationship. Time and time again, the addition of the second figure would spontaneously evolve into a change of pose and position, until it became, quite naturally, an image focusing on intimacy and tenderness, for all that is set in the great outdoors.
Digital infrared original, 24 frame stitch

The day spent with Alexandra and Liam was fabulous, with the perfect mix of a late summer day, great company, food and photos. Since this session, the two models have moved overseas for a time (six months or more), so it will be my last chance to work with them for some period of time, but it was a rich and variety filled session that led to some really striking results, perfect for my final session of the year with them.

September 15, 2006

Alexandra in the Woods

Digital infrared original, 18 frame stitch
After we had a break for lunch, Alexandra, Liam and I discussed our options. Behind the house where we had lunch were some thick woodlands, with a number of really lovely treed; Alexandra agreed it would be interesting to see what would could do with such a simple space.
Digital infrared original, 15 frame stitch
As I suspect, the silver-white wood of the old trees was beautiful in infrared, complimenting perfectly the luminous smoothness of Alexandra's skin. Towards the end of the ten minutes we spent working with the trees, I shifted to working in colour, and made a number of really pleasing portraits.
Digital original