Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Who are they?

Mystery trio, Toronto 1995

ANOTHER CONTACT SHEET WITHOUT ANY DETAILS. A trio of men on a stage. Early 1995, shot for NOW magazine. That's all I know.

What I do know is that I meant this to be blurred; there are several frames in a row where I toyed with the focus, pulling it further out as I shot. If you want to know what it looked like in focus, here you go:

Mystery trio, Toronto 1995.

I'm sure you'll understand why I prefer the blurred version.

I had been shooting for NOW at least twice a week for several years by the time I took this, and the challenge to do something new was overwhelming. I was handing in diptychs and triptychs and collages, shooting parts of faces and bits of bodies - feet and torsos and hands. I was assigned restaurants and would hand in shots of chairs and place settings, pots and pans and rows of wine glasses. Even when I had to shoot people, I was trying to take them out of the photo. I was trying to tell myself something, but what?

My portraits were getting more indistinct - shot with razor-thin depth of field and printed through a binder of gauze and tissue and soft-focus filters to add in the blur and grain that excellent gear, modern film technology and my own painfully acquired skill were intent on taking away. I had gotten good and it had gotten boring and I wanted to bring back the joy of discovery and happy accidents that I remembered from my first years with a camera.

Ten years into my career I realized that a camera could be used to make images that didn't look like what we saw. I don't know what took me so long. I had discovered the Pictorialists by this point, but I also had a memory of Gerhard Richter's paintings at a big show of modern European art at the AGO, way back in high school, before I owned a camera or even knew I wanted one. I was startled that an artist would go through the effort of making a huge canvas look like the sort of accident you produce when you're checking your settings or blowing off a frame at the start of a roll. I was struck by the possibilities, and in my early thirties I was desperate for possibilities.


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