Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Spain, again

The Alhambra, Granada, Spain, 2007

I FINALLY GOT BACK TO SPAIN IN 2007, ON ASSIGNMENT FOR THE FREE DAILY. We had grown an active travel section in addition to all the other trappings of a real newspaper, and got offered a junket by Air Transat to the south of Spain. They asked me if I'd be interested in going. What a silly question.

The trip went straight through the tourist heart of spain - Seville, Granada, Jerez and the Costa del Sol, hitting almost every blue book destination on the way. It was a part of Spain I'd never seen before - all my time there had been spent in Barcelona and the mountainous north - so I was curious what I'd think about the Spain of holiday lets and package tours.

The Alhambra, Granada, Spain, 2007

I will admit to being a bit overwhelmed by The Alhambra. I took plenty of wide shots of the rooms and courtyards, but they were either not quite "there" or ruined by being peopled with other tourists. In any case I had plan B at hand, and spent a lot of time shooting details. There were a lot of details - every wall and door and window frame was loaded with ornament, not to mention the bits of monumental architecture added by later Spanish monarchs.

Leica D-Lux 3

This was my first time traveling with a digital camera, which relieved me of the stress of worrying about running out of film. I went to Spain with the paper's Canon DSLR as well as a bit of review tech - a Leica point-and-shoot (which was really just a re-badged Panasonic with some Leica software tweaks inside.) The intriguing thing about the D-Lux 3 was that it had an extra wide LCD screen at the back to accommodate its panoramic mode. It also came fully charged, but without a DC charger, so I had to be sparing with it for the whole trip, finally eking out the last bits of power till halfway through the last day.

Bull in olive grove, Gerena, Spain, 2007
Bullring, Granada, Spain, 2007

You'd think that I'd have shot a lot of panoramas with the Leica, but for some reason I ended up composing with it vertically most of the time, probably just because landscape shots seemed so ordinary. We went for a tour of a corrida bull ranch/olive orchard, which is where I saw the big fella above, silhouetted against the late afternoon sky. It seemed like a nice bookend to the shots I took on a quick visit to the bullring in Granada, which was unfortunately empty the day we were there.

The Alcazar, Granada, Spain, 2007
Estepona, Spain, 2007

Unlike my first travel junket to Spain, or my visit to Peru, I knew that my photos from this trip would land somewhere in the paper, so I did my best to shoot something like conventional travel photos. It was a lot harder than I expected, and I ended up with lots of images like these - pretty pictures of things I saw that edged a bit too close to the abstract to be regular travel shots.

Jerez, Spain, 2007
Francisco Nuñez de Prado, Baena, Spain, 2007

I got closest to that elusive goal when I could fit people into my shots, like our stop in Jerez for the Feria - the big annual summer fair and equestrian celebration - and the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre, the royal riding school. The Feria was a lot of fun - as much a celebration for locals as a tourist event, and a bit of an outing for the local gentry to show off. I was flattered when our local guide - a pretty young woman from Spanish tourism - told me that she wasn't so sure about the rest of the group, but she could see me fitting in there quite happily.

The highlight of the trip for me was in Baena, where we visited the Nunez de Prado olive oil factory and met Francisco Nunez de Prado, whose family had run the business for generations. In the lovely old whitewashed buildings with his impeccable English and tailored blazer, he looked like the sort of man I would love to be in another life, seemingly content with the lucky accident of his birth. I could think of worse things to do than make olive oil for a living.

Cordoba Mosque and Cathedral, Spain, 2007
Jerez, Spain, 2007
Seville, Spain, 2007

I was under no compunction, personal or otherwise, to avoid the picturesque during the trip, so I let myself go nuts with the sights, from the Cordoba Mosque to the plazas in Seville to the ceilings of various and sundry cathedrals. I still have to remind myself to go for the picturesque full bore when I do travel photography, in an effort to override my instinct to shoot the odd, stark and abstract. Looking over these shots I can see myself wrestling manfully with this inclination.

Malaga, Spain, 2007

Another highlight of the trip was in Malaga, where I saw my first full-scale Roman ruin. I had seen bits and pieces of classical Rome before, mostly in Barcelona, where the stubs of Roman walls could be seen, their stones built upon with subsequent layers, all of which were centuries older than anything I could see at home. But the full reveal of a Roman amphitheatre in the midday sun, as many times as I might have seen pictures of such a thing, really took my breath away when I finally saw it for real.

Finally there was this window in Seville, glimpsed somewhere near the Jewish ghetto, that caught my eye - the sort of thing my camera is constantly being drawn towards. I have good memories of this trip, but a lingering sense that I was still on a steep learning curve with travel photography. I would, eventually, get a bit more practice, but it would take almost a decade to get the opportunity.

Window, Seville, Spain, 2007

Saturday, July 28, 2018


Chris Buck, Toronto, Sept. 2015

NOT LONG AFTER I STARTED THIS BLOG I began a tradition of posting pictures of my friend, the photographer Chris Buck, on his birthday. I did it initially because I realized, while rooting through my files, that I'd photographed Chris more than almost anyone else in the early years of my career. (I'll admit to getting a little bit of joy from needling him by posting some shots I'm sure he'd rather stayed buried, but I'm kind of a jerk that way.)

Mostly, though, it was a fond gesture towards a friend and peer who was there when I started in this business and, quite against the odds, is still there today, even more of a friend than when we started. I have never really sought out the company of other photographers; at the beginning, it was mostly because they could all have been, in one way or another, competition for work. With time, though, it was simply my own lifelong misanthropy at work, striving to keep my circle of friends as small and discretely separated as possible.

Michael Vendruscolo in his studio, Toronto, June 1990

One exception in the early years was Michael Vendruscolo, another young photographer who Chris introduced to me, as someone who shared our taste and influences. Michael was incredibly talented, and had impeccable taste. He was also far more intellectual about the work than either Chris or I, and it was always interesting to hear him explain what he thought was going on in the work. For a brief period we formed a trio, offering each other mutual moral and creative support.

Not long after Chris moved to New York City Michael seemed to have a crisis with his career. He became more discouraged every time I saw him - he hated the business of selling himself to editors and art directors even more than I did - and then one day he just seemed to disappear altogether. We lost contact, but I would frequently wonder what happened to him, though repeated Googling never turned up any trace online other than his iMDB credits on two Bruce McDonald films.

I assumed he was completely lost until he showed up unexpectedly at Chris' father's funeral last year. Chris recognized him immediately and they spoke, but I don't think he got Michael's contact information and I still doubt that I'll ever see him again. Still, I've always had Michael in mind as part of that tiny, ideal audience I imagine out there, and wondered what he'd have thought about my work, if he saw it at all.

Edward Burtynsky, Toronto, Sept. 2006
Joel Meyerowitz, Toronto, May 2005

I haven't photographed a lot of photographers over my career. There was Bruce Weber, early on, and Vancouver photographer Alex Waterhouse-Hayward, whose own blog was a huge influence on this one. While I was at the free daily, though, I was assigned to interview and/or shoot at least a couple of big deal photographers.

I first met Ed Burtynsky at Toronto Image Works, the photo lab and rental darkroom he started to help support himself while he was developing what would become his very influential take on industrial landscape photography. I rather like this shot; without the option of shooting Burtynsky from hundreds of yards away, standing at the bottom of a quarry, this was the best I could do in the time and space I had to try to refer to at least the tonal palette of his work.

Joel Meyerowitz is a legend for anyone interested in cityscapes and street photography, and he was in town with a show of the work he'd done in Lower Manhattan in the wake of the attack on the World Trade Center. It was a somber subject but almost every frame I shot of Meyerowitz showed him smiling - a big, warm, cheerful smile that just didn't seem to work with the subject matter in the gallery. This is probably the only shot where he looked appropriately sombre.

Franco Deleo in his studio, Toronto, June 2015

I've mellowed as I've gotten older, and I've relaxed my shunning of friendships with other photographers in recent years. I can count almost a half dozen other photographers among my circle of friends these days. (I had intended to photograph them for this post, but decided to wait and make them the subject of a portrait series when I finally move on to a new blog.)

There's Paul Till, a colleague from NOW magazine days, and my neighbour Steve Stober, who was only a photo cutline I'd read for years until we met in front of an old house up the street that was being demolished. And there's Gunar Roze, whose colour-obsessed street photography I followed online for years, after an introduction through a mutual friend on Facebook before we finally met in person. And there are new friends I've met on my travels - photographers like Mark Peavy in Birmingham, Alabama or Stuart Forster over in Newcastle, quick friendships made on the road who make me want to get back to traveling again.

Then there's Vince Lupo, who was actually a schoolmate from high school who's lived in Maryland for years - we met again through another St. Mikes alumnus, my friend the ad man Tracy Jones. And there's Franco Deleo, whose family owns Tre Mari, my local bakery up here in Earlscourt. I photographed Franco in his studio behind the bakery, where he was preparing a show of portraits of old-timers from the street's Italian heyday, most of them employees and customers at the shop.

I have another friend, not a photographer but a fellow media veteran and Catholic; he once helpfully described our get-togethers over coffee as "fellowship." Fellowship is what I get from these friendships - a sounding board and a sense of community amidst the adversity of being a photographer at a time when photos have never been easier to create and see, but have never had less marketplace value.

Jonathan Castellino in my backyard, Toronto, July 2018

Probably the closest new friend and peer I've met in the last few years is Jonathan Castellino. We met after I'd been laid off by the free daily and started doing work at blogTO. I kept noticing the work of an incredibly talented photographer being featured there - cityscapes and urbex and terrifying but exhilarating rooftop work. One day I got an e-mail from the photographer who'd done this work, pointing out that we actually knew each other already, from the offices of the monthly that had been printing my column.

It was obvious that we had a lot in common, both in our personal commitments to photography and religion, each of which overlaps in ways that I think we don't have to explain to each other. Jonathan does spectacular work, and our conversations over the years played a big part in reviving my enthusiasm for shooting. He's an intelligent photographer; in a lot of ways he reminds me of Michael Vendruscolo with his interest in what photos mean and how other arts inform a good photographer's work.

Together all of these people have made me feel far more optimistic about the work - my own and the craft in general - than I've felt in decades. I'm not sure I would have realized my great good fortune when I started this blog four years ago, and it's with this uncharacteristic optimism that I wish a happy birthday to my old friend Chris.

Chris Buck in my backyard, Toronto, July 2018

Friday, July 27, 2018

Kelly MacDonald

Kelly MacDonald, Toronto, Sept. 8, 2007

YESTERDAY I WROTE A POST ABOUT TAKING PHOTOS OF REALLY BEAUTIFUL WOMEN. As soon as I wrote the word "beauty" I was aware that the word is a subjective one, and that there is no one, definitive, empirical concept of beauty. I also wrote about how taking photos of beautiful people can be a dispiriting exercise for a photographer because the subject's apparent, intrinsic attractiveness will register with viewers almost equally in a technically great photo or a mediocre one.

I wrote about Great Beauties - those women (and men) who by some huge popular consensus set a standard for what we consider beautiful in a human being. I didn't talk about my own conception of beauty, and who I consider to be beautiful, since it's so often divergent from that consensus standard. There are women (and men) I consider to be beautiful who might not register at all with a majority of viewers, and Scottish actress Kelly MacDonald is one of them.

Kelly MacDonald, Toronto, Sept. 8, 2007

I was given the assignment to photography MacDonald and Monica Bellucci on the same day. I've said that I was nervous about photographing the Great Beauty, Belluci; I was just as nervous with MacDonald. I also remember that the reaction of the men waiting in the crowded hallways of the hotel was the same for both Bellucci and MacDonald. The former was glamour distilled, the latter a modestly dressed woman in sensible summer shoes, but this reminded me that the beauty standards of movies and magazines don't usually matter much to most men, whose concept of beauty is more about the impression of freshness and health and intelligence than imposing mystique.

The light I found in the room at the Intercontinental was much better for MacDonald - the sort of flat but focused light that it had taken me quite a few shoots to discover in those rooms, and a few more shoots to learn to work with from the moment I clicked the shutter to the finished digital file. She seemed a little nervous, so I remember giving a little more direction than I liked, mostly to get her to relax just enough for me to capture the very particular, approachable loveliness that I thought was at the heart of her appeal onscreen in roles from Trainspotting to No Country for Old Men to Boardwalk Empire.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Monica Bellucci

Monica Bellucci, Toronto, Sept. 8, 2007

THERE IS A BASIC - AND CONSIDERABLE - PROBLEM WITH SHOOTING REALLY BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE. This can be summed up with the maxim that the quality of the photo you take and the skill you've acquired on the way to taking it is largely immaterial, since most people will react to even a mediocre photo of a really beautiful person by saying "Oh, that's lovely."

They're responding more to the subject than the photo, basically, and it might bother other photographers less than it bothers me, but it's perfectly embodied in this shoot I did with actress Monica Bellucci at the film festival in 2007.

It has to be understood that Bellucci isn't merely an attractive actress - there are plenty of those - but one of cinema's Great Beauties: An actress whose beauty has often been the defining characteristic of roles she has played, much as it would have been with previous Great Beauties like Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe and others. And as soon as I was given the assignment to photograph Bellucci I felt a wave of panic wash over me.

Monica Bellucci, Toronto, Sept. 8, 2007

I've written about this shoot before but it's worth describing one more time. I showed up at the suite at the Intercontinental for the shoot to discover it was one of the rooms without much in the way of window light, but that a television crew had set up in the space. I politely asked one of the techs if it was possible to use their lights for my shoot as the room's ambient light was far from sufficient (or attractive.) He said yes, and I set up a couple of quartz heads in a crossfire next to a light wall; it wasn't the loveliest light ever, but it was bright and directional and just soft enough and I hoped that I could make it work.

Bellucci showed up with hair and makeup people in tow, and while they had no doubt done their job well, the light I chose was just harsh enough that I have done some considerable Photoshop work to smooth out the original photos. I was desperate to keep my subject looking as neutral as possible - I wanted something at least a little glamorous but I didn't want to encourage her to adopt any of the poses she might have learned over hundreds of previous photo shoots, so I gave her even less direction than I would normally. (Which is to say almost none at all besides "look at me" and "look away.")

The results are stark - I've tried to make them starker with considerable retouching - but still not quite where I'd have got them with a bit more time and preparation. Nonetheless, the shots I posted to this blog nearly three years ago have been shared around online with the expected reaction - look at these beautiful photos of a beautiful woman. Which just confirms my suspicion that a really beautiful subject requires a photographer concerned about their style over just taking glamour photos to work much harder. Mind you, it's a challenge I'm more than happy to accept.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Sam Riley

Sam Riley, Toronto, Sept. 7, 2007

SAM RILEY WAS THE CLOSEST I EVER GOT TO PHOTOGRAPHING IAN CURTIS. I was a huge Joy Division fan, so it goes without saying that a biopic about the man and his band - directed by Anton Corbijn, the photographer whose work with the band I idolized - was a very major deal for me at the 2007 film festival.

So is it fair to say that I went about photographing Sam Riley, the actor who made his debut in Control playing Curtis, much the way I might have imagined shooting Curtis, had I ever got the chance? Judging by these pictures, I don't think there's much doubt about that.

Sam Riley, Toronto, Sept. 7, 2007

To be fair, Riley was virtually unknown when he arrived in town with Corbijn and Control. (Fun fact: Riley played Mark E. Smith, lead singer of the Fall, in Michael Winterbottom's 2002 masterpiece 24 Hour Party People, but was left on the cutting room floor.) Curtis was the only material I had to work with trying to pre-visualize his portrait (and I did spend some time trying to imagine how to pull this off.)

In the end, I did just what Corbijn himself had told me to do twenty years previous, when Chris Buck and I interviewed and photographed him: I found the spot in the hotel room where the light from the window dropped off to something low but flat and took photos that I knew I'd process with as much contrast as they could bear. You could say that it took me that long to fully digest that lesson, and that - like many of my influences - I was finally free to move beyond their circumscribed orbit.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Peter Sarsgaard

Peter Sarsgaard, Toronto, Sept. 7, 2007

PETER SARSGAARD WOULD BE ONE OF THE ACTORS I'D NAME TO PROVE MY POINT that character actors are far more interesting than leading actors today. It's worth noting that Sarsgaard had been listed among the 26 Sexiest Men Living by Salon magazine the year I took this photo, which probably says something about Salon magazine or the times or both. (Also on the list - Ira Glass, Jon Hamm and Strong Bad.)

Sarsgaard had made his reputation mostly playing villains, fuck-ups, oddballs and the occasional Decent Man Overwhelmed by Things. His stock in trade is a sort of uncomfortable intensity that he attributes to his Catholic upbringing. "In Catholicism, you're supposed to love your enemy," he told the New York Times. "That really impressed me as a kid, and it has helped me as an actor...The way that I view the characters I play is part of my religious upbringing. To abandon curiosity in all personalities, good or bad, is to give up hope in humanity."

Peter Sarsgaard, Toronto, Sept. 7, 2007

Someone like Sarsgaard is the perfect subject for how my portrait style evolved during the height of my one-minute-hotel-room shooting period. Hardly a cipher, it was easy to sit down in front of him in a dim room like the ones at the Intercontinental and command just enough of his attention for a minute or less to get a glimpse of the strange intensity he used in his performances.

The "dim room" probably works better for this portrait than, say, the "bright rooms" at the Four Seasons; it certainly lends just enough of a hint of unease or even menace, appropriate to the subject. Before I started looking at these shots again, I remembered this period as a terrible compromise - serviceable work being done under severe constraints - but it's only at the remove of time that I've come to appreciate the creative decisions those dark rooms at the Intercontinental forced me to make, whether I knew it or not.

Peter Sarsgaard, Toronto, Sept. 7, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2018

Tang Wei

Tang Wei, Toronto, Sept. 7, 2007

I DIDN'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT TANG WEI WHEN I PHOTOGRAPHED HER at the 2007 film festival. She was having a fairy tale screen debut - a leading role opposite movie star Tony Leung in a film directed by Ang Lee. Tiny and very pretty, with a very intelligent face, she seemed like she had lucked out big time, whether her career was going to be in China or Hollywood.

What happened next, however, was a very Chinese story. Her sex scenes with Tony Leung in Lust, Caution had a fervor that has made people speculate to this day about whether they were acting or not. It was too much for the Chinese government and the film was banned by the State Administration of Radio Film and Television. Tang was dropped from subsequent roles and didn't appear in another film in China for three years.

She was rumoured to be taking classes at university in England, and went to Korea to make her next film, Late Autumn. Her presumed rehabilitation with a role in a film about the founding of the Chinese communist party ended up in the cutting room floor when she was apparently edited out at the request of Mao Tse-Tung's grandson. By 2014, however, she was starring alongside Chris Hemsworth and Viola Davis in Blackhat, her first major Hollywood film.

Tang Wei, Toronto, Sept. 7, 2007

I was pretty sure I took these shots within an hour of the portraits I'd taken of Tony Leung and Ang Lee, and a glance at the exif files proves my hunch right. It was the middle of the afternoon, so there was just enough light coming through the windows of the Intercontinental to illuminate Tang but keep the room in darkness. Much as the bright, flat light and off-white walls of the Four Seasons around the corner set the style for my earlier work at the free daily, the dark, earth-tone walls and scant light of the Intercontinental changed the way my last two or three years worth of portraits looked.

It would have been better, of course, if I'd known a little bit more about Tang Wei when I photographed her, but I would have had to understand Mandarin and watch a lot of Chinese television (or have been clairvoyant) to manage that. In hindsight, though, her subsequent career travails in her homeland might give these shots a hint of editorial context that I obviously didn't plan.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Tony Leung

Tony Leung, Toronto, Sept. 7, 2007

DOING PORTRAITS AT THE FILM FESTIVAL WAS ALWAYS A REMINDER that there is more than one Hollywood. Decades ago, when I started shooting actors and directors there, I was aware of Bollywood, but I quickly learned about the massive film industry in Hong Kong and China, with stars and box office numbers as impressive as any studio summer blockbuster.

In this other Hollywood someone like Maggie Cheung or Tony Leung are as big as Nicole Kidman or George Clooney, and anywhere else but Toronto it's unlikely that I'd get access to them. It made shoots like this feel like a bit of a privilege, and by the time I did this shoot with Tony Leung I was as fully aware of his persona and intent on working with it in the scant minute or so I had with him.

Tony Leung, Toronto, Sept. 7, 2007

As I noted when I wrote about my shoot with Maggie Cheung, much of the allure of In The Mood For Love, Wong Kar-Wai's enigmatic romantic featuring Cheung and Leung as frustrated lovers, came from how good-looking they were onscreen. I approached Leung like a matinee idol, and tried to capture some impression of his cool intensity.

As with much of the 2007 festival, I was working in the dim rooms at the Intercontinental, where the right spot of light had to be discovered somewhere in the room, and rarely in the same place. I found it in a corner, and decided to ask Leung to do a little bit of acting for the horizontal shot above, playing at the hint of a scene from a film noir that could have been set in just such a dim room.

This is probably one of my favorite shoots from this festival, and I liked to imagine it printed in a Hong Kong cinema magazine. (Considering the blase attitude toward intellectual property in that part of the world, there's every reason to believe that one of these shots could still end up there, now that I've put them back into circulation.)

Tony Leung, Toronto, Sept. 7, 2007

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Four Years

Self-portrait in an elevator, Art Gallery of Ontario, 2017

THIS BLOG IS FOUR YEARS OLD TODAY. If everything goes according to plan in the next few weeks, there won't be a fifth anniversary. I am running out of old photos to post and, if I'm perfectly honest, getting tired of talking about old work instead of making new work. But it's all good, and I find myself in a much better place than I was when I put up my first post here, four years ago.

On the first anniversary of the blog, I decided to feature some of the by-products the blog had produced, which ended up involving reprinted work that appeared in books and on CDs, and even in The New Yorker magazine. After a while, I started to hope that more new work would get out there than just reprints of old shoots, and with the end of this blog in sight, this has become my goal.

I wanted to talk about this in my last anniversary post but it was still in the works at the time. It turns out that my shoot with Fela Kuti when he came to town for a concert in 1989 - done on my own, without any client and unpublished until I started this blog - had some value after all, and getting my "lost" shoots out into the world had been a big reason to start the blog in the first place.

The blog post found its way to Rikki Stein, Fela's manager, and we began talks about featuring them in the fourth volume of a box set edition of Fela's LPs. Previous volumes had been curated by Brian Eno, Questlove and Ginger Baker; this one would be curated by Erykah Badu. As a huge Fela fan, this was a privilege I couldn't have imagined for all the years I basically sat on the shoot.

My photos ended up all over the big 12" booklet that comes with the box. The cover shot of Fela glaring at me past his cigarette (or was it a joint?) was one I'd never printed before, and I think it has a lot of impact. The rest of the book features live photos and sequences from the portrait shoot contact sheets, all displayed as big and beautiful as I'd always imagined seeing my work, and thanks to the "vinyl revival" my work is featured on a scale I never saw in the age of the CD.

Another big market for reprints of my old work has been documentaries, and the past year saw two or three films feature my photos. There was a documentary about a Canadian music industry figure (which I've never seen) and a French TV documentary about Depeche Mode that bought the rights to use one of my portraits of photographer Anton Corbijn, who had a big hand in creating the band's visual image. (I've also never seen that.)

Most exciting of all, though, was Right Here, a documentary about the Go-Betweens, made for Australian television. This was another shoot I did without a client, and which had never been seen until I posted the photos on this blog. It turns out I captured the band at a crucial time in their very fractious history; I'm a fan of the group, so it feels good to play at least a tiny part in telling their story.

I've frequently gotten requests from people and organizations to use my work for free. I tend to say no, but mostly because people go about asking the wrong way. The truth is that I'm happy to let someone use an image without payment, provided they promise that they'll use it respectfully, that they'll credit me prominently and try to link back to my website or this blog - and that they ask nicely.

In the first year of this blog, an artist did a very nice drawing based on one of my photos of guitarist Rowland S. Howard. I was flattered, and posted her artwork on the first anniversary of the blog. Earlier this year, California designer and teacher Edgar Garcia reached out to me to ask about using my portrait of rapper Ice Cube as part of a series of illustrations he was doing on old school rappers. He asked nicely, I liked what he was doing, and here's the result.

Richard McGrath is a designer, and the proprietor of the Terminal Press, who has been trying for several years to get permission to use my J.G. Ballard photos, which until I posted them here hadn't been seen by anyone since (I think) they were printed by Nerve magazine back in the '80s.

McGrath is a huge Ballard fan who has been putting together and publishing Deep Ends, a hardcover compilation of Ballard material for several years. It took a while, but my photos - and the text of my blog post - ended up in the latest volume of Deep Ends. It all looks pretty great, and it's nice to get these shots out in front of people who want to see them - using the sort of digital custom printing technology that I couldn't have dreamed about back when I took the shots.

Around two years ago Joel Wasson - an old friend of my wife and I from the city's music scene - contacted me about doing photos of his new band. Joel had gone through a rough divorce and had done something amazing to help move forward by forming a punk rock band with two of his sons. I shot promo photos that ended up on their first LP, and not long after Joel came back and asked if I'd do the next record.

He described his concept - "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil," basically - and I worked out a way to execute it with a small, improvised studio set-up in my living room, a composite of separate photos and a lot of digital editing. It turned out to be one of my favorite album covers of all the ones I've done, made more special by being one of the few realized on a full-sized 12" LP jacket.

Just as exciting was seeing the LP design on a t-shirt, only the second time (that I know of) where my photos have ended up on a t-shirt. Mostly, though, it's been nice to have the support of people I've known for years from the local music scene, like Joel and Ian Blurton. I've quietly put it out that I'm offering a special "friends and family" discount for old scene friends like Joel and Ian - a low, low price for a shoot, with the proviso that I can mostly do what I want, though any kind of collaboration is appreciated.

Long Branch, Toronto, Jan. 2018

This offer got out to some more old friends in another local band, Long Branch. My connection is mostly with the rhythm section - bassist Sally Lee is my old roommate from the Parkdale loft, and drummer Don Pyle was our upstairs neighbour (and is now my barber.) They needed promo shots for their next record, so one wintry January day we met at Don's house and did a couple of setups inside before heading out into the snow.

I'm particularly fond of the shot above, which has the simplicity I always wanted in band photos. But even more, I was flattered that they asked, and grateful to be doing new work. Which is the point I'm at now, running out of old photos and eager to make new ones - an outcome I would have considered far too optimistic when I put up my first post here four years ago.