Friday, January 27, 2017

Abel Ferrara

Abel Ferrara, Toronto, Sept. 1995

REPUTATION IS A USEFUL THING IN A PORTRAIT SHOOT. When a subject arrives for a sitting with a measure of fame and an established persona, a photographer can choose to either work with that or try to push against it, not quite subverting their subject's reputation as much as underscoring it with a theatrical contradiction.

Abel Ferrara's reputation definitely proceeded him when I took his photo during the 1995 film festival, where he was doing interviews to promote The Addiction, his latest film, alongside Lili Taylor, the films' star. Ferrara had started his career with low budget grindhouse films like Driller Killer, Fear City and Ms. 45. He was a New York City director, setting most of his films there in whta looked like a endless loop of the sleazy, '70s "Ford To City: Drop Dead" era, but there was always some simmering philosophical edge to his characters that finally took over with King of New York and, especially, Bad Lieutenant.

Abel Ferrara, Toronto, Sept. 1995

Ferrara didn't take off his shades for the whole shoot. He was dressed in the head-to-toe black uniform of the New York artist, punk rock brigade. None of that was surprising. If I'd had more time or an inkling that he had any inclination to shed the sunglasses at least I might have pushed for him to take them off, but my focus was on Taylor, so I decided to just document Ferrara and his persona with a full length portrait.

I have friends who have infinite patience for gritty, nasty films like Ms. 45, but I've never acquired the taste, so my interest in Ferrara began with Bad Lieutenant (which I saw after hearing a lot of good things about King of New York.) Bad Lieutenant was an angry, even ugly film, but it might be one of the most Catholic films I've ever seen, and my interest in its director isn't surprising since I have a lot of time for conflicted Catholics. (Ferrara later converted to Buddhism, but admits that he's a lapsed Buddhist as much as he's a lapsed Catholic.)

Lili Taylor & Abel Ferrara, Toronto, Sept. 1995

Ferrara is a poster boy for American independent cinema, going so far as to move from New York to Rome to be closer to funding for his films. He has also shed the black uniform for open neck shirts and summerweight suits, so much more appropriate to late middle-aged men living in Mediterranean countries.

I'll probably always be interested in whatever Ferrara does, though for my own mental health I tend to think hard before sitting down with his latest film. Along with directors like Paul Schrader, he's a survivor of a brief era when movies didn't plead for us to like them, and puts interesting actors in front of his camera. Needless to say, I'm itching for him to make another film with Christopher Walken, though some perverse part of me hopes that it will finally be the musical that I think Walken needs to make while he's still limber. That Fatboy Slim video simply wasn't enough.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Lili Taylor

Lili Taylor, Toronto, Sept.1995

WE MUST HAVE REALLY LIKED LILI TAYLOR A LOT AT NOW MAGAZINE because I seem to have photographed her for the cover twice in two years. Both shoots took place at the film festival, which was where I shot most of my really high profile portraits every year, and probably the reason why, long after I had left school, I still had the feeling that a new year really began in September and not January.

Taylor was having a good career back then. After supporting roles in Mystic Pizza and Born on the Fourth of July, she had her breakthrough in Nancy Savoca's Dogfight, co-starring with River Phoenix. My first shoot with her was probably when she was at the Festival promoting Savoca's follow-up, Household Saints, which seems to have disappeared into obscurity, as there's no DVD release and only VHS copies for sale online.

Lili Taylor, Toronto, Sept.1993

I met her at the Sutton Place Hotel and took her to a little park just north, next to St. Basil's church, and posed her in front of a stainless steel sculpture that's still there. The paper was obviously still in thrall to the "two-thirds blank space" cover template, so imagine the NOW logo at the top of the frame and type running down the right side of a cropped rectangle. It was challenging but never rewarding, and tended to suck the creative life out of a portrait shoot.

And yes, I know I'm making excuses.

Lili Taylor, Toronto, Sept.1995

The second shoot, two festivals later, was probably at the Sutton Place again, where Taylor was in a hotel room with director Abel Ferrara promoting The Addiction, a vampire story. By now the 2/3 template was history, and I could no longer be bothered trying to disguise the hotel rooms where I did so much shooting.

By the mid-'90s I was making the curtains, wallpaper and faux-antique furniture in hotels like the Sutton Place, Four Seasons and Park Plaza features in my photos; since I couldn't get all these people to come to my studio, it seemed more productive to treat the hotel rooms as studios, and turn their luxurious blandness into a feature.

Lili Taylor & Abel Ferrara, Toronto, Sept.1995

With the second Taylor shoot, I'd also decided to try something counterintuitive. Photographers are taught that one thing that separates amateurs from professionals is composition, and more specifically filling the shot with your subject instead of putting their face beneath the focusing grid in the centre of the frame. I'd diligently done this for years, but ten years into my career I thought it was time I tried to break learned habits and go against rules that were starting to seem arbitrary.

Taylor's defining role would come a year later when she played Valerie Solanis in Mary Harron's I Shot Andy Warhol. It was the sort of role that an actress more concerned about sex appeal and prolonging her ingenue status would never have taken. Taylor was a lot more interesting than that, and she's continued working regularly to this day, shifting between movies and regular TV roles in shows like Six Feet Under and American Crime.

It's probably worth noting that Taylor, a striking and photogenic person, is the sort of actor Hollywood calls on when they need to cast a character that the script might call plain or even unattractive. This is one of the reasons why I don't think the word "realistic" should ever be used to describe a movie.

Monday, January 23, 2017

David Thewlis

David Thewlis, Toronto, Dec. 1993

MY MEMORY OF THE NINETIES IS THAT IT WAS A TIME WHEN MUSIC GOT WORSE AND MOVIES GOT BETTER. Going through my archives, it's obvious that shooting musicians gave way to photographing actors and directors during the heyday of the independent film and the last gasp of the art house cinema. I was certainly spending far more time in movie theatres than clubs, but this might be entirely subjective - the memories of someone slipping out of their twenties and into the treeless flatlands of early middle age.

Looking through the files, though, I keep finding portraits of actors who seem more interesting to me than their youthful counterparts today. Most of them are still working, a testament (I like to think) to their craft and personality and, most of all, enduring personas that keep them relevant to casting directors and audiences. To paraphrase Norma Desmond, they had faces then.

David Thewlis, Toronto, Dec. 1993

David Thewlis was thirty, just a year older than me, when I took these photos in a Toronto hotel room while he was doing press for Mike Leigh's latest film, Naked. He'd been in a few films in Britain, and after Leigh cast him as Jane Horrock's mopey boyfriend in Life is Sweet, he got his breakthrough role as the sourly confrontational Johnny, on the run and spoiling for a good argument in a dreary London suburb.

The film made me a huge fan of both Leigh and Thewlis, and I took the assignment with real excitement. It's obvious now that I wanted to get as much out of this session as possible, as I shot two rolls of medium format and one of 35mm film, moving my subject around the dim hotel room to get as many options as possible - as much work as I'd normally have done for a cover shoot.

David Thewlis, Toronto, Dec. 1993

This was still a time when shoot times were luxurious - a whole fifteen minutes before or after the interview, which allowed me to take my time finding a few good spots in or outside the room, metering carefully and setting up the Rolleis on a tripod. Toronto's downtown hotel rooms became my studio, and I memorized their layouts, usually heading for the corner near the window where ductwork created a tight little spot that caught the light.

I didn't know it at the time, but these hotel shoots would comprise most of the best work I did in the '90s - a first mature period in my portrait shooting which mostly ended up on newsprint in NOW's movie section, where I would never have been able to print these photos with the rich blacks and shadows they have here, given the limitations of cheap paper stock and print technology.

David Thewlis, Toronto, Dec. 1993

Thewlis had an angular elegance in front of my camera, and was a very amenable subject - I think he knew that this was his first big role, and he was happy to cooperate. I really liked the film - I was single and lonely and a little bitter and a lifelong impatience with small talk in social situations meant that I relished a good argument and a bit of confrontation. Long nighttime walks often presented me with street dramas and random encounters with other insomniac misfits. Leigh's film might have been more violent and desperate, but the setting wasn't unfamiliar.

Making small talk while we shot, I told Thewlis how much I liked the film, and how much I identified with Johnny.

"Oh," he said, a bit of concern and surprise in his voice. "I'm sorry to hear that."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Giant steps

SOMEONE ASKED ME IF I'D WRITE A POST talking about major moments or shifts in my career. At first I was reluctant - it's the kind of thing I was saving for a summing up, near the end of this whole project of excavating my old work. Then I looked at what I have scheduled to post here and realized that I am very nearly approaching the home stretch, and decided that now is as good a time as any.

I was able to pin down quite a few photos that sum up these milestones. At first they were significant points on the steep learning curve that began when I bought my first real camera in 1985. It has to be understood that photography was very much in  a mature phase when I began shooting seriously - film and camera technology were only seeing the most minor advances, and whatever big steps forward I was taking had to do with mastering basic skills and not adapting to big changes in the medium and the industry.

The changes would come much later, and they would be massive.

John Waters, Toronto, 1987

I shot John Waters for the first time when he came to Toronto for a signing at a bookstore at the end of my street. He was still an underground icon at the time, and I did the shoot without a client, strictly as a fan. I had been taking pictures of people to go with my interviews for many months, but this is really the first portrait I ever shot - an attempt to capture something about the subject's persona and not just a record of how they looked that day.

It was shot on a Mamiya C330, my first medium format camera, and a sign that I was becoming serious about this photography thing. The lighting could not have been more basic - a flash held just off to the left while I triggered the shutter with my right hand. I had spent the day thinking about what I would do if Waters agreed to sit for a picture, and ended up taking the little rubber puppet face home from the toy shop where I worked, on a whim. I remember my amazement when the photo came up in the darkroom tray - it looked like something that actually belonged in a magazine somewhere. Did I actually take that?

Anton Corbijn, Toronto, 1988

I was a big fan of Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn, and when we discovered that he would be in town, Chris Buck and I cornered him outside a Tom Waits concert and convinced him to let us interview/photograph him for Nerve magazine. We did the shoot in his room at a downtown motel, and when we we'd finished the interview and were scoping the room for a place to shoot him, he suggested that we move away from the big windows by the door and further into the room. Corbijn sat down on the edge of the bed; I picked up my Pentax Spotmatic and looked through the viewfinder and a light went on in my head.

He was showing us the sort of light he preferred to use in his own work - the sort of shadowless light you get on an overcast day, which can be made dramatic and more richly textured when you boost the contrast in printing. I had always been anxious about exposure, and inevitably placed my subjects near the strongest light source I could find; Corbijn taught us that light has a range of qualities, and that you could change the mood of a shot by choosing carefully. It's more of an homage than a portrait, really, but this photo is a record of a eureka moment in my career.

Henry Rollins, Toronto, 1988

The success of my John Waters portrait made me ambitious, and within a year I had put together a portable studio that I carried around with me - my Mamiya, a flash, umbrella and light stand, and a big white painter's tarp in a gym bag with a roll of gaffer tape to fix it to walls. I was learning about light and composition and trying to gain more control over my portraits by trying not to rely on available light sources.

That single flash bounced into an umbrella could change the look of a photo depending on simple adjustments of a few inches either up, down, near or far from the subject. Without a modeling light or a way to make Polaroid tests I was always shooting blind with this set-up, and watching the contact sheets come up in the developer was an anxious moment.

The Rollins portrait was clearly a product of my love of Irving Penn and Richard Avedon's work in the '50s and '60s - the anxiety of influence would linger for years - but it was clean and simple and captured something about its subject. Taken just a few months before Nerve magazine finally folded, it's also a record of the moment when I decided to make photography and not writing the focus of my energies.

Roses, Parkdale, 1991

By the turn of the '90s I had moved into a big loft space in Parkdale, and had bought my first serious gear, which included a Zenza Bronica SQ-a medium format camera and a kit of Profoto strobe lights. I could take Polaroids and work with modeling lights and had far more control over my images than I could have imagined with the Mamiya and the darkroom in the bathroom of my bachelorette apartment.

These roses were delivered to the space one day, and on a Sunday morning I began setting up my white backdrop and the lights. I had been playing around with still lifes but hadn't done anything really worthwhile; I'm not sure if I even knew to call this a "high key" lighting setup at the time, but I'd seen this sort of thing before, had striven to get the effect in my portraits, and decided to work all day until I got something that looked like what I had in my mind.

After countless Polaroid tests I finally hit somewhere near the mark and began shooting slide film for cross-processing, to wring as much contrast from the shot as I could. After much fumbling and failing, I'd climbed up the first rung of still-life photography, and a bit more confident about calling myself a professional.

James Tenney, Parkdale, 1991

In the days before Photoshop, making really big changes to the look of a photo began in the camera, and cross-processing colour film - slide film developed in negative chemistry or vice versa - was one way of really pulling away from a realistic, technically "correct" image. It was also a big risk that required lots of testing and careful records of darkroom enlarger settings to compensate for the wild colour shifts from this experimental process.

I'd been playing around with cross-processing privately, but when I was assigned to shoot avant-garde classical composer James Tenney for the cover of a New York music magazine, I wanted to take a big risk and see what I got in the studio with bright colour gels on my strobes. Cross-processing would turn out to be a creative dead end after many years, but the strong colours and deep contrast of portraits like this one helped me realize that photography could be a graphic art as much as anything else, and taught me that colour balance itself is mostly arbitrary.

Pure, Toronto, 1990

After the first big hurdles of my learning curve were over, it required more work to push forward and make progress - technical and artistic - in my work. I was no longer worried about poor exposure whenever I developed a roll of film, though there was always some aesthetic effect that seemed just out of my reach. By now I was working for NOW magazine and shooting a lot of live music.

Concert photography has never been a focus of my work, but I did a lot of it for many years, and it took real effort to keep it interesting. I ran into Kevin, a guitarist I'd known since the Nerve years, and he invited me to see his new band - an industrial metal outfit that put quite a bit of care into their live show, going so far as to have a regular lighting guy to deal with strobes and smoke machines. I ended up working with them quite a lot over the next couple of years - they loved to strike iconic poses onstage and, frankly, looked fantastic through my lens.

There were a lot of conventions with shooting live photography, where a long lens and a fast shutter speed were key to getting usable shots. I decided to go in the other direction, and shot the band with my medium format Rolleiflex, hand held at low shutter speeds. The smoke would fill in the shadows onstage and the strobe lights provided bursts of sharp action, often in multiple exposures. Every frame was a wild card, but it felt fantastically exciting to shoot, even if no one besides me and the band ever saw most of these shots.

Tilda Swinton, Toronto, 1992

By the early '90s I'd settled into a comfortable method for shooting portraits outside of the studio. I carried two Rolleis in a small case and a compact tripod but no flash or strobes, relying on available light and either a steady hand or a locked-off camera and shutter release. The technology I was using was decades old - my Rolleis were built in the '50s and the Sekonic light meter I relied on hadn't changed it's design since then. In the whole of the first two decades of shooting professionally, the only really new technology I used was my autofocus Canon SLR.

This portrait of actress Tilda Swinton was probably among the best examples of this first "mature" period of my portrait work. With my camera on a tripod and the shutter set to a half second or less, I had to be able to coax my subjects into a calm, quiet space to avoid movement; I had to manifest some brief authority to take control of the shoot. At some point I started wearing suits. The negatives would often look a bit plain and underwhelming, so most of the real work took place in the darkroom.

Forest Whitaker, Toronto, 2005

A decade later I was back shooting celebrities in hotel rooms, but everything had changed. "Luxurious" ten or fifteen minute shoots had been cut down to five minutes, then two minutes, then less. Film photography had given way to digital after the briefest transition, and every new generation of camera saw an improvement in chip technology and image size. My darkroom was replaced by Photoshop - the only change for which I was grateful right from the start.

Shooting for the free national daily, I would plead with the writer for as much time as I could get at the end of our interview slots, but publicists would still pull subjects out of the room after just a couple of dozen frames. (Or less. My Heath Ledger shoot lasted precisely five frames.)

The luxury of a couple of setups had vanished, and I had to find the sweet spot of light in the hotel room fast and shoot as quickly as I could. Most of the time I was back to the start of my career, taking photos of what celebrities looked like on that day instead of real portraits, but sometimes a subject like Forest Whitaker would respond to the occasion and give something like a performance for my camera.

Harbourfront, Toronto, 2011

When I started shooting digitally, I assumed that I was just using any other camera, slapped my old Canon lenses on the new bodies the paper provided for me and worked accordingly. It would take a few years before I understood that a jpeg or RAW file was different than a film negative, and that light hitting a sensor worked in subtly different ways than it did when it hit film in the back of a camera.

The hurlyburly of work at the free national daily - writing several columns a week in addition to shooting - never gave me enough time to appreciate this, but when I was laid off and forced to return to freelance work (in a very different and much harsher economic climate than before) I had time to really think about the peculiar nature of digital photography and the quality of a pixel.

Most of my work in the first year or two after I lost my job was for blogTO, a website devoted to city news and lifestyle reporting with a big visual component. Just before noon on a dim autumn day I was downtown near the lake shooting a story when I came upon this scene - a bunch of boats turned turtle under a low sun that barely burned through the thick clouds.

I had been trying to shoot cityscapes and landscapes on my own for years and falling short of an idea I had in my head, but this photo was where the strangeness I always saw in the world around me finally came into sharp focus in a picture. It was a moment of real inspiration, and without it I don't think that any of the travel work I've done in the last few years would have been possible.

Patti Smith, Toronto, 1995

Photoshop was seven years old when I took this portrait of Patti Smith in a hotel room in the mid-'90s, but almost no photographer I knew used it. Intrigued by what I'd heard about digital image manipulation, I priced out a basic Mac system around this time; it would have cost about as much as a used BMW in really good condition. I wouldn't switch from darkrooms to computers till the end of 2001, when I took a job as the photo editor at the free national daily.

I was never satisfied with these Patti Smith portraits back in the days of film. When Patti asked me what I was trying to do, I mentioned Nadar and the pictorialists working a century earlier, but shooting with a Rollei and modern film, I was never able to achieve the look or feel I was imagining at that time. I probably could have come close with a view camera, but even with a whole fifteen minutes worth of shooting time, I probably wouldn't have provided my editor with more than a handful of frames to choose from, and that would have been irresponsible.

The 75mm/3.5 lens on the Rollei was simply too sharp and the depth of field too deep to get the look I wanted, and it wasn't until I learned to unlock layers and selective focus in Photoshop with my portraits of Spalding Gray and Bjork that I was able to revisit my Patti Smith shoot and complete the job the way I imagined it in my head, twenty years earlier.

Kinky Friedman, Toronto, 2015

I don't know that there's any money to be made doing it any more, but my first love will always be portraits. After years of exploring the peculiarities of digital photography with cityscapes and news photography, I made a tentative return to portrait work with this portrait of Texas country singer and writer Kinky Friedman.

The setup was simple - diffused window light coming from behind me on the landing of a set of stairs in a club, with a collapsible white reflector for a backdrop - and the camera was my new Fujifilm X30, the first digital camera I'd enjoyed using as much as my beloved Rolleis. I was boiling down the setup from the Henry Rollins shoot nearly thirty years earlier to its essence, in the hope that I would be able to reconnect with the photographer I used to be, eager once again to make decent portraits.

I haven't a clue about where photography is going, or if what I'm doing is still a career. I know that my last fifteen years of serious shooting have seen more changes to the technology and market than the first fifteen. The way people take and consume photos is still transforming convulsively, and camera technology like this could prove to be a major game-changer. I don't feel in control of my role as a photographer - I probably never was, but there's no illusions any more, at least. At least I still feel like I'm moving forward, but where this is all going, as either art or business, is anyone's guess.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Gordon Lightfoot

Gordon Lightfoot, Toronto, July 1992

ONE MORNING IN THE SPRING OF 1992 I WAS LYING IN BED in my Parkdale loft thinking about how lonely and broke I was. The phone rang. It was a man who said his name was Barry Harvey; he was Gordon Lightfoot's manager and he wondered if I was available to do some album cover shots. For almost a minute I treated the whole thing as a joke, and tried to figure out which one of my friends was pulling a prank on me.

It soon became obvious, however, that Mr. Harvey was serious, and that I had come recommended by a publicist at WEA Canada. We briefly discussed fees (still imagining the whole thing might be a joke I quoted my full day rate, which almost no one had ever paid up till that point) and availability (I was very available, at any time.) By the time the call ended, my head was swimming. Did this really happen?

I'm not sure how long it was until Barry called me back with a day and a time. I was to show up precisely at 10am at Gord's house in Rosedale with my cameras. There would be a contract giving Gord and Early Morning Productions exclusive rights to the photos, in exchange for my full day rate plus expenses. I arrived at the house early, walked up and down the block a few times to kill time, then rang the doorbell. Gordon Lightfoot answered, shook my hand, then told me to wait in the big sun room, which was filled with guitars and cases.

Gordon Lightfoot, Toronto, July 1992

I looked around for a good spot to shoot, but when Gord came back I asked if there was somewhere outside he found comfortable. He mentioned a spot down in the ravine behind the house, and after he made coffee, I found myself walking a path through the woods behind a guitar-carrying Gordon Lightfoot. It was the most utterly Canadian moment of my life thus far.

If you didn't grow up in Canada in the '70s it's hard to describe the importance of Gordon Lightfoot. His music was literally everywhere, a string of hits ("Early Morning Rain," "Bitter Green," "If You Could Read My Mind," "Summer Side of Life," "Sundown," "Carefree Highway," "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald") that were constantly on the radio, soundtracking the decade with a subtle but persistent melancholy and a peculiarly northern romanticism that was tentative but intense and fully anticipatory of regret and heartbreak.

Did I want to try and capture all of that with my photos in that ravine on a pleasant weekday morning? I'd like to hope that I was that ambitious, somewhere beneath my nervousness. Mostly I wanted to get a really flattering cover shot for a man who'd made seventeen records already and had sat for countless photo shoots. It all felt quite momentous - a few years earlier I was a punk kid shooting hardcore bands in dingy shithole clubs, and now I was doing album photos for a Canadian musical icon.

Gordon Lightfoot, Toronto, July 1992

I mostly shot with my Rolleiflex, trying to frame potential album covers with each shot in the square viewfinder as I worked. Gord seemed relaxed enough, and sang Ramblin' Jack Elliott songs while I snapped. After a while his wife Elizabeth and young son Miles came down and joined us, and Gord started playing and joking around for them.

I'd brought my Canon SLR with me, and took another quick roll near the end of the shoot for insurance. Typically, it was one of these frames that ended up on the cover of the record, Waiting For You, when it came out a year later, while one of the Rollei shots ended up on the back of the CD package.

When we were packing up, just before Gord gave me a ride to the subway station in one of his big '70s Cadillacs, he asked if I thought I had everything I needed. I told him that I might have, but if he was willing, I wanted to do another shoot in my studio to get something different, a bit more formal, for variety. To my surprise he agreed, and a week or two later he showed up with guitar and suit bag at my Parkdale loft, commenting on the colourful street life outside.

I'd stripped the furniture away from by the windows of my studio/bedroom and set up two lights, one bounced into the ceiling for ambient fill, another in a big softbox just to Gord's left. I wanted to bring the daylight outside down to a cool twilight blue, and shot with cross-processed slide film to increase the saturation. I don't know if I played anything on the stereo while I shot, but Gord happily sat and picked while I worked. One of the shots ended up inside the booklet of the record, so I felt like I'd given Gord value for his money.

Gordon Lightfoot, Parkdale, July 1992

A footnote: When Gord arrived, I asked him if he wanted to hear an interesting cover of one of his songs. I pulled out the first album by Clawhammer, a California group I quite liked, and cued up their version of "Sundown." He was visibly amused by the album cover, and listened to their raucous take on his song all the way through. When it was over, he handed the record back to me and said, grinning wryly, "Not bad, not bad. Some tough changes in there."

It would be another four years before I heard from Gord or Barry Harvey again. Once again the phone rang, and Barry asked if I was available to shoot some live photos at Gord's annual concerts at Massey Hall. They were thinking of doing a songbook and needed some fresh live shots.

Of course I agreed, but made one request: I could skulk around at the lip of the stage and get the same sorts of pictures any newspaper photographer on assignment might get, but if they'd let me wander the wings and edge of the stage, I might get some shots with a different perspective. I'd dress in black and try to be as inconspicuous as possible, of course. To my surprise, Barry agreed.

Gordon Lightfoot, Massey Hall, Toronto, Nov. 1996

I began by showing up for the soundcheck, where I tried to get candid shots of Gord and his longtime band - Terry Clements, Rick Haynes, Barry Keane and Mike Heffernan. I was given free access to the stage and the backstage area, and shot roll after roll of mostly black and white before the show, my mind focused on getting something like the work of Columbia Records staff photographer Don Hunstein back in the '60s.

I switched to colour negative film for the show, and did most of my shooting around and behind the band, occasionally darting forward to get shots of Gord as he knelt and shuffled through the fan gifts and song requests that had been left by his mike stand during the show.

Gordon Lightfoot, Massey Hall, Toronto, Nov. 1996

I was quite pleased with what I got, and handed in the contact sheets to Barry, but I don't know if the songbook ever happened and ultimately I was never asked to print up any of the shots. That would have been the last I ever heard from Barry or Gord, in any case. Barry Harvey died suddenly before Christmas almost ten years ago, just after Gord had a couple of serious health scares.

Since recovering, Gord has spent long months of every year on the road with his band, playing what amounts to the sort of endless tour that his friend and peer, Bob Dylan, has been doing for over a decade. I would love to get another chance to photograph Gord again, but while asking for permission from his management to post these photos, my request for a quick shoot was turned down. No matter - I had my chance to contribute to the image of a musical icon, and had an altogether happy experience doing it, making for a highlight in the heyday of my professional career.

(Photos reproduced by permission of Early Morning Productions.)