Monday, March 26, 2018

Emily Perkins

Emily Perkins, Toronto, Jan. 2004

THE ERA OF DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY REALLY BEGINS FOR ME WITH THESE PHOTOS. I had only done one portrait shoot in over three years when I was assigned to photograph actress Emily Perkins for the free daily with a Canon Rebel digital camera the paper had just bought. An awful lot had changed in that time, not the least of which - for me, certainly - was becoming a father.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I had been working as the free daily's interim photo editor for at least two years, where I'd had a ringside seat for the digital revolution as it finally overwhelmed photography after several false starts. I had begun the job with a Reuters feed on my computer and a Nikon Coolpix scanner on my desk. Over the course of those two years I needed the scanner less and less, until finally someone put a truly workable digital SLR in my hands and told me to get to work.

Emily Perkins, Toronto, Jan. 2004

Perkins was a former child actress who was one of the co-stars of Ginger Snaps, a Canadian-made horror film that had done well on the festival circuit and would become a cult hit when it was released in cinemas. It has to be understood that Canadian cinema is such an underdog industry - organized and funded on the assumption that little of it will make any money - that any success creates a feeding frenzy, as the media rush to celebrate the occasion and the industry scramble to take credit.

I don't know if it was her usual look, but Perkins showed up for the interview and shoot in full Goth makeup and wardrobe. This would be both convenient and misleading for me, shooting my first digital portraits, since her unnaturally perfect skin in these shots wouldn't prepare me for the startling detail that a well-exposed jpeg - never mind a big, uncompressed RAW file - presents you when you open it up in Photoshop.

Considering that I was using a brand new camera and hadn't really shot much in over three years and would have been very rusty, I managed to cover the bases in my shoot with Emily Perkins, shooting both close-ups and some sort of dramatic scenario suitable to the genre of her film. I've brought out the horror movie still conceit in the latter shot today by processing it in black and white - I doubt if I would have bothered doing this when I handed it in to the free daily.

If my shoot with Maggie Cheung at the film festival in 2000 was the end of something, these photos of Emily Perkins are very definitely the beginning of a whole new phase in my career - one that just happened to coincide with the move from film to digital. My life had seen so many changes since the Maggie Cheung shoot that this technological shift didn't seem quite so momentous at the time as it does today.

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