Friday, February 20, 2015


Clouds behind the Edgewater Hotel, Toronto, April 1990

THE NEON SIGN ON THE EDGEWATER HOTEL HAS BEEN GONE FOR YEARS. Which makes my photo of the afternoon sky behind the old fleabag a bit of history. It's a Days Inn now - has been for some time - and I don't remember when the sign disappeared, though I know that it was denuded of its neon tubing and painted over for a few years before its demise. (A quick Google search says that they took it down in 2009. So there.)

This was taken at the end of a day wandering Parkdale with my Rollei, shooting clouds and sky. I have a few contact sheets worth of these photos, the byproduct of some idle time, a bit of spare cash, and my desire to cut to the chase and just get some nice frames of the dramatic skies I was always struggling to put in the backgrounds of my portraits.

Clouds, Toronto, April 1990

Around the same time I took these shots I did an interview with my friend Chris Buck, as a way of memorializing his imminent move to New York City. We talked about portraits and portfolios, magazines and careers and gear, but at some point I went off topic and got on a bit of a ramble about skies.

We were talking about two of my favorite recent portraits by Chris, one of which was a panoramic shot of the Cowboy Junkies on a golf course. "All I do lately when I wake up in the morning, Chris, is I look at the sky," I began:
What's the sky like? If it's getting warmer and I have the opportunity to shoot outside; is it cloudy so do I put on the red/orange and get those deep blues? How much burning am I going to have to do? I wander around and look at places and try to avoid power lines and just get a beautiful earth and sky. And that's what's so great about those two shoots - it's the earth and sky. It's beautiful.

Clouds, Toronto, April 1990

Listening to myself now, I can't help but reflect on how unhappy I sound. It's not surprising - I was in a long distance relationship that was going the way those things always do, and caught on the horns of a dilemma as I wondered whether I should stay in Toronto or move south. My landlord had hired two thugs as superintendents of our building, so I never knew whether I'd come home to find threats scrawled on my door or toothpicks stuffed in the lock.

So it was no surprise that I was looking out the window at something bigger and more distant from my life. Life was providing me with an increasingly raucous background din, so I was escaping into work that didn't involve clients or publicists or, ultimately, other people. I'd dare say that, at this most agnostic period of my life, I was striving for something spiritual, even religious.

Clouds, Toronto, April 1990

The reference to red/orange in my little rambling with Chris was filter talk - I'd used some inheritance money to buy a few very expensive red and orange B&W filters for my Rollei, and got the results I was hoping to see. It was a warm, early spring, and I guess I could fool myself that, as long as the weather was nice and I was taking photos, everything would be alright.

As the '90s wore on, I definitely began using landscape shooting and still-life work as a refuge from the frustrations of my work and my (increasingly stalled) career. This is the first time anyone has seen these photos.

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