|Trees, High Park, Toronto, date unknown|
ANOTHER PRINT FROM THE 5x7 BOX, printed at leisure some time in the late '90s, I think. Rolleiflex with Ilford black and white film, printed through dry mount tissue in the darkroom. In my mind, I can imagine myself in the makeshift closet in my old Parkdale loft, huffing in the stewing developer, stop and fixer in the tiny, unventilated room before taking the prints to the rinse bath in the kitchen. I'm sure I shaved a few years off my life in that little room.
There's a real "chicken or the egg" dilemma whenever I remember this part of my career. Work as an editorial portrait photographer was starting to dry up by the second half of the '90s; a lot of my clients had gone out of business, and a few of the art directors and photo editors who I relied on for work a few years previous had moved on up or out of the business. I'd come to rely on NOW magazine for most of my income, which was becoming a tenuous proposition as my own politics started to veer away from my employer's doctrinaire leftism.
I had also gradually begun to lose interest in photographing people, which is a bit of a problem if you're a portrait photographer. My files are full of still life work and landscapes during my last years in the Parkdale studio, and the only exhibitions I took part in during the '90s were strictly still life work. I didn't know how I was going to make a living doing this sort of work, and to make up the shortfall I slowly returned to writing after a decade of just taking photos for a living.
Here's the thing - did I start favouring still-lifes and landscapes because I was getting less work doing portraits, or did my growing preference for unpeopled photographs take the creative energy from my portrait work and alienate clients? To this day, I still don't know.