Michael Snow's Lion

This past September 2017, I had the privilege of traveling to Toronto and take a portrait of the visionary Canadian artist Michael Snow.  When you get an opportunity like this a hundred ideas and many "what if's" go through your head, trying to prepare for all the possible scenarios so that you will be ready for whatever happens. Understandably, you only get one shot at a chance like this, but primarily when you respect someone, you want to capture there likeness in a way that has something representative of their stature....yes of course that is what I wanted - transcendence, photographic wetplate transcendence.

It's OK, you can laugh - I know it is a tall order.

We arrived early morning loaded with all my wetplate gear knocked on Michaels door and after some simple chit chat, he directed us to his backyard, where I was to set-up and do the portrait. Heather, my partner & assistant went to check it out and I went back to the car to get the gear.  As I was filling my arms Heather returns and says, "Ummm, have you seen the backyard?"   Suggesting perhaps, if Michael had sent me a picture, during our email conversations.  I say, "No why?"....Ok, I am getting nervous.

It is your typical Toronto postage stamp backyard, not unusual and kind of what I was expecting - the real problem though - maple tree saplings had grown up to a level and density to block out most of the light, but more importantly the blue light, critical to wetplate, I swallowed hard. There was however a shaft of light passing between the two adjacent buildings that for about twenty minutes might offer some illumination - but I hadn't set up yet!

This was sort of the flavour of how the whole day went - basically chasing the light and a very patient Michael Snow around his house, to somehow just miss the image and light I was looking for in my minds eye.  It is only when looking back over the images many weeks later that allowed me the space and time to see what was captured.  The fourth image below is the only result from that backyard shaft of light glory moment, for by the time I had got set-up and poured the plate, posed & and composed the portrait, my ray of light was gone and Michael was getting cold.  The image I captured at a 45 second exposure is more of an expression of the moment then the tack sharp mirror representation we expect from formal portraiture.

I did manage to get that sharp image though, on his front step along side the fu-dog with demonic eyes. The sun was shinning straight on and into his eyes so it gives him a badass grimace, not at all the kind, accommodating, and patient man I had the pleasure of passing a day with. As for the images, - not quite the image(s) I had in my mind, but as always - far more interesting than anything I had imagined.

Sheesham & Lotus & Son Album Cover Shoot

Well it has been waaaaaay to long since I wrote something here not that I haven't been busy, just busy enough not to get here to post something, i have oodles of things to share but let us start with something new and exciting.  This past March I had the pleasure of having Sheesham & Lotus & Son out to my place for a photo shoot and now that the album is finally out I can talk about it.  I managed to get several exceptional shots in, in-between them running off to record the tracks for the album.  The best one is presented here for your viewing pleasure.  Also check them out when they are in your town!!  They are fantastic performers and authentic to the core.

Having a Lynne Cohen Moment.

On one of my adventures through the vast entrails of the concrete jungle looking for the mens room, i turned right, walked through generic double glass doors and fell into a Lynne Cohen photograph.  Oddly enough though, the photo i captured with my phone camera was something more sci-fi than Cohen.  You will just have to take my word for it.  Although the weird sense of water as opposed to floor is deliciously off-putting.

Lynne Cohen's Swimming pool?

Lynne Cohen's Swimming pool?

No?  Perhaps it is more effective horizontal?

No?  Perhaps it is more effective horizontal?

Happy Birthday Abe

Thanks to wetplate collodion this (cropped) image of Abraham Lincoln still sharp and penetrating.  Photographed by Alexander Gardner, and taken on February 21, 1885.  The interesting detail to this image is, in the course of removing the plate from the camera, Alexander Gardner cracked it, so it was in two pieces, but still printable, you can see the crack in the albumen prints made from it still smiling at us after 123 years.  

Happy 204th birthday Abe!

Abe cropped,    National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Abe cropped, 

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Abraham Lincoln  -  Alexander Gardner, 1865/Albumen silver print/National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Abraham Lincoln  -  Alexander Gardner, 1865/Albumen silver print/National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Don McCullin gives a tour @ National Gallery of Canada

Recently I had the great pleasure of being part of a tour given by the veteran photojournalist Don McCullin of the new National Gallery of Canada retrospective exhibition of his work.  

For more than an hour we walked through the galleries as he spoke intimately of his life, his work and the many dangerous and heart wrenching encounters encompassing the several decades he traveled the world.

The small gallery spaces were packed with people in a breathless silence as Mr. McCullin spoke in a humble, and at times shockingly frank manner of the horrors and injustices he personally witnessed and sometimes captured with his camera. 

I say “sometimes” because, as he explained, often he could not bring himself to capture the brutality and other worldliness of what he was witnessing and in some cases he was told in no uncertain terms, “you take any pictures we will kill you”.  The images he captured on film represent only a small portion of his actual life experiences.  

That could be said of us all, but very occasionally in life we meet people that seem to have lived many more lives within this short lifespan we all experience - their bodies and minds, vessels of a million stories witnessed. Don McCullin is this sort of rare person.  And, as he admitted himself, it is even more rare to have come through it all with your sanity intact, “I am not sure why or how I am not like one of those insane street people in my photographs.”

He often spoke in an off-handed manner about stumbling about in the dark and how anger was a motivating force in his work. His humility seemed to attribute credit for his images to “luck” of some sort.  One look at the evidence, his photographic legacy and you can easily recognize there is much more at work here. 

Don McCullin intuitively understands light, has mastery over composition and visual language - he can in an instant capture fleeting moments so powerful that they sum up human emotion, frailty and injustice.  Perhaps, he was in the right place at the right time, but I am thankful it was his finger on the trigger of the Nikon F.

Do not miss this exhibition, now on at the National Gallery of Canada.

Don McCullin speaking to a full house at the National Gallery of Canada

Don McCullin speaking to a full house at the National Gallery of Canada