June 30, 2009

PJism - Staged or Real & Me

I've been following a conversation on Chase Jarvis' blog about two French students who staged a series of photos and entered them in a photojournalism competition. They won the prestigious event and instead of just accepting the award and the money, they revealed that they had setout to show that the conventions of what makes a great photojournalistic piece can be imitated and in fact rewarded.

There have been some very candid conversations on Chase's blog about these conventions. Sorta the old newsroom philosophy of "If it bleeds it leads."

An interesting observation was posted by someone named Marco Aurelio:

"....Photo-journalism is hobbled by the exoticizing of the Other, and its perpetual marriage to shock and awe obsessions with viewers where only the victimization of Others is important, and nothing else. it sells a lot more advertising space to cleave at society's morbid obsession with Others' pain. Where are the stories of life's endurance? if it doesnt have pain or blood on the shirt, it isnt photo-journalism?"

Amen brotha!

I must admit to also be captivated by the lure of photojournalism (PJism). The idea that you can travel the world, see world events first hand, while capturing and transmitting those events around the globe all for money, is very seductive, as I'm sure it is for many. A life of travel and adventure and $$ too? Yes, please! But much like a Margaret Atwood novel it's all about exploiting the pain and the gore. The sufferring and the catastrophe.

Two weeks ago, when I was out shooting with Jodi in Fort Frances, we got talking about my dreams as a photographer. I confessed that I'd love to shoot portraits and weddings from April to early November and then work as a photojournalist from November to April (coincidentally right when Canada gets blasted by piles of snow...go figure :D ) but that I didn't see myself as the traditional taking pictures in a war zone sort of pj.

Really, what I'd like to shoot and tell is exactly what Marco says in his post. The stories of endurance. The human story of everyday life. The awesome thing about it is that sort of story is everywhere. I don't have to go to Rwanda to find it. Now that I have the luxury of not being in that moment, I can see that I had a unique opportunity when I was in Fort Frances to tell the story of that border town.

Affected by the US economy and the global economy, with the main industry being the pulp and paper mill (the only one still open between Sudbury and Winnipeg I believe) there was ample opportunity to show a place that is struggling to survive and the people who are making a go at it: hotel managers, truck drivers, school teachers, nurses, hair stylists, restaurant owners, pastors, first nation's school directors... such a varied cross section of those who live and work there and whose livelihood is affected by the larger world around them.

Maybe it's something I'll return to do some day, but I'm kicking myself now for not taking the extra time to grab images of the town itself since for a week I was invited into the lives of not just one photogapher and her family, but also the lives of everyone else that I had the chance to take pictures of. Not that there really was the time for that sort of thing while I was there. Regardless, there is a story there and it's a situation that I'll be more open to looking for in the future.

I've always been a story teller and I think portrait work calls to me because of the ability to get to know other people's stories, especially when you meet them in their environment. There are many stories in my area that need to be told. Not just the mainstream ones. The maintenance of farmland, protected greenspace and the natural aquifers in my area is an important story. I've started a portion of that story (at least image wise) by shooting pictures of some of the government owned property near my house (land purchased for the creation of a second major Toronto airport). I need to pick up that story again... Food for thought. At least for me that is.

More soon...

June 29, 2009

Ten Days of Shoots

Yeah I've Been A Little Busy

I apologize. I know I haven't written, posted, shared anything here in a while and I think it's that usual "OMG THE NICE WEATHER IS HERE!" reaction that I and a lot of other people get ...especially in Canada...when the snow is gone and you can actually be outside for longer than 20 minutes without the words "Holy crap it's freezing out" or "I'm cold" popping into conversation.

Things have been busy photography wise too. Spent 10 days out in Fort Frances, Ontario (it's right on the Wisconsin, Manitoba, Ontario border area. Some interesting things happened in those ten days.

1. I grew more confident in my photo skills
2. Got over my dependence on flash to help create an amazing portrait
3. Learned that I have a decent eye for edits
4. Found that isolating a subject on a background in the natural environment is important
5. Wood tick checks are an essential part of a shoot
6. Any light, including natural sunlight, can make a killer picture
7. Found what I think is my style
8. Discovered that I really really need to invest in some expensive glass

I'm sure there are piles of other things that I learned but I think those are the main ones that jump out at me right now.

So my suggestions. If you're thinking of delving deeper into photography, want to see if it's something you want to do more seriously, need to develop your portfolio, or need an affordable way to get a better photo education, then find a working photographer you admire and ask if you can be their second shooter, hold their light stands or sling their gear around for a week, a weekend, a month...

Okay, so enough of my waxing poetic. I'll post some selected images from my time away in the next post.

June 7, 2009

Allison Loves Luke - Redux

Movie director's often release the recut versions of their movies after the original. Sat my butt down on the couch for a few hours this afternoon with my coffee and recut some pics from last night's e-session. Here's some more of Allison and Luke:

Allison loves Luke

Last night I met up with Allison and Luke at the Rogers Centre (aka SkyDome) for some engagement photos. Mother Nature decided she'd roll in some big heavy clouds, so the nicely illuminated skyline that I was hoping for was nada. But the show must go on!

I know Allison from high school days, sitting in the trumpet section of our school band, plus all the band trips to Ireland, Chicago and New York...there are many good memories with her and it's awesome to see her with such a wonderful guy. Luke, I wish I could say I've got a lot of dirt to share on Allison...I don't...but ask about her job as a plumber (sorry Allison).

Also, I must say thanks to my friend Mike for joining in on the shoot and bringing along his Hasselblad. Things would not have gone as smoothly if he wasn't there to act as my VAL (Voice Activated Lightstand) and even though most photographers wouldn't appreciate someone showing up with a big bad Hasselblad, I loved giving him the opportunity to shoot some medium format film frames of Allison and Luke. That's a truly special privilege for a wonderful couple!

Best of luck with your wedding plans Allison and Luke!!