Catherine, crack addict


Man, it’s been a craaaaazy week spent getting my brain back together.

I’d been so busy, doing so much stuff, for the past month that when things
finally sorta slooooowed down, the usual happened.

I stopped but all the crap and stress and worries and niggley little bits and
pieces that I’d been running so fast to keep in front of, well, they just kept
moving forward. Before I knew it they’d swamped me. Took just about two
whole days to scrap all that shit off me.

But, I’m happy to say, things are now back to “normal”. Though the pundits
and economists are telling us, after the big market meltdown, that we’d better
get used to a “new normal”.

Who knows what that’ll mean for the foto-industry.

I’m a big believer in survival of the fittest and competition. I think it keeps folks
on their toes and striving. Seems to me that there’s been a huge increase of photo-
graphers in the past 5 or 6 years, coinciding with the advent of half-decent digital
cameras that were pretty affordable. It’ll be interesting to see what the survival rate
is for these new shooters, and the established ones too, in this (presumably) tough
new economic climate.

I don’t wish anyone ill. It just seems only natural that every so often the tree gets a
good shake and we see who can hang on. After all…..this is a tough planet.

My advice: Keep shooting, and shooting what you love. You’ll get more respect (which
can translate to jobs which equals the fabulous moolah) by exhibiting passion rather
than lowest common denominator, sliced white bread images.

Go get ’em.

In the meantime……


Here’s a shot I took of my friend China Doll for a magazine.

The reason it’s framed sorta funny (all that space on the right hand side) is because
the art director told me she needed to run a column of copy over the shot.


I think I shot the last piece of Kodak Portra 4×5 film in Canada. That would have
been a couple of weeks ago. I phoned all the usual stores, looking to get some more.
That’d be Vistek, Henrys and so on. None of them had any Portra 4×5 anywhere in
their systems. So I called B+H in N.Y.C. Asked the dude on the line if they had any.
He said: Yeah, we got some”. Being once-bitten by the lack of film here in Canada,
I asked him: “How much you got?” He said: “337 boxes”.

I ordered me up some. Back in business.

I wanna know why the pissant camera stores up here can’t keep some film on hand
for those of us that like to shoot it.

And, below, is one of the reasons I like to shoot film. Here’s a snapshot of me
standing in front of a 42 inch tall print from a 4×5 negative, and a detail…..

I think you can see why I love the 4×5 so much. If you’re only shooting for the
web I suppose digi will do. I must say, though, that the actual shooting process
a 4×5 requires really seems to change the juju of a shoot. Plus, if you’re shooting
with prints in mind…..well, no contest. I was studying some prints from digi files
at Festival X. Sure they hold up, if you don’t make ’em too big, but they just look
kinda plastic, synthetic. Prints from film have a certain organic feel to them that
seems to really do justice to skin and textures and so on. I’m a big fan of content
so I’m not gonna go crazy here, on this film vs digital thing (I know it drives some
people mad) because content doesn’t really care what you use to shoot. All content
requires is any camera, some brains and sensitivity plus effort. But I also like craft
and being seduced by the surface of things. Film’s where it’s at for that, if you ask me.


I believe that by not exploring what different cameras and formats can bring to the table,
a lot of photographers are short changing themselves. Of course shooting film is more
expensive and, if you were raised on digi-only shooting, probably more difficult.

Those who know me know I’m a fan of difficult. That’s where you grow, in the sea of
difficulty. I recently read a kool Chuck Close quote. He said: “Far more interesting than
problem solving is problem creation”.

So I say……every once in a while, ditch the digi, shoot some film, live a little, take a walk
on the wild side.

And, speaking of film and trying stuff and just plain working….. props to:


The SPAO grad who just keeps shooting and shooting. That’s the way you move
forward. It’s called: work.

Michelle recently exhibited her Holy F**k portraits at Gallery La Petite Mort. Word
on the street is she’s gearing up to shoot the Big Halloween Party that Guy throws
down at his gallery every year. So get yer ass down there for the party and get shot
by a rising star.

Now if only she’d get her web site whipped into shape you all could see what she’s
up to……

Michelle Wilson

The Holy F**k portraits


Well, I managed to pump out a few FEST X posts.

The only problem was that the week of the festival was also one stoopid-crazy week
for me, work-wise. All my time and energy went into creating fotos, not consuming
them. So no more gossip/reviews/etc. from the festival. Photographing crack addicts
on the corner is obsessing me, fortunately the commercial part of my life that feeds
that obsession has been going full tilt too.

So…..some stories from the corner.

CRACK/ The Scene

Things are getting intense down on the corner. Not scary-intense, just intense.

The way I’m shooting this year is much more personal than last year’s approach.
As well, we’re making a documentary video about the project and the issues that
surround addiction and photographing crack addicts. This personal approach,
combined with shooting the video has led to much closer relationships with the
addicts I’m photographing.

Here are some scenes from the corner this past Sunday……..

Checking the background, figuring out where to put the subject and the camera

Joanne, Ben (shooting the video) and Alesha




And here is the portrait I shot of Jennifer 3 days earlier. She was so strong that day…..

Jennifer, crack addict

CRACK/ The Generator

I use a small Honda generator to power my light when I’m shooting on the corner.
About the size of a sewing machine, weighs 25 pounds.

Last Sunday there were the usual subjects down there, but also a whole bunch of
folks I’d never seen, coming and going. After I’d finished shooting I turned the
genny off and started talking to Jennifer (see above). About 30 seconds later I
looked over and the generator was gone, stolen. Seems like one of the “strangers”
took it.

We had a look around but couldn’t find the perp…..gone in 30 seconds. Man, I
kissed that thousand bucks goodbye.

Before we left we gave our phone numbers to a few addicts we knew, said if
they come across it to give us a call. Get home and about half an hour later
Keith calls up and tells us he’s got the generator. What are the chances of that
happening? When was the last time you heard about crack addicts returning
stolen property?

I didn’t ask Keith any questions about where he found the genny or who had
stolen it. Just thanked him and he walked away before I could give him some
reward money. I ran after him and forced it on him, I’d do the same no matter
who had helped me.

I don’t know for sure but I believe that the genny was returned to me by “my
people” down there because they know I can’t work without it and they don’t
want me to stop photographing them, they support the project. I believe they
tracked down the thief, told him (or her) not to fuck with my stuff, maybe
roughed them up a bit and gave me back my property.

Returned genny


And, lets lighten this up a little bit……here’s a thing from the society page of last
Monday’s Ottawa Citizen. A shot of Lorraine Gilbert, David Barbour and me. Shot
at the Fest X Gala Opening Party (or something). We look insane, don’t we?


Finally this week, a thank you to Heather Morton who published my 10+ list
on her great blog HeatherMortonArtBuyer. Please check it out here.

FEST X- the openings I made it to…..

Last nite was the big opening nite for almost 20 foto shows.

I saw tons of folks studying the brochure, making a mental list and planning
their itinerary. Myself, I had a long list but only managed to make it to 3.

WATERSHED, at SPAO, was first because it opened at 5. A semi-subdued affair
highlighted by a two tightly packed rows of fotos, lots of reading and Khalia’s
mom’s incredible cookies.

Khalia’s mom’s kookies, Khalia’s shoes

This is a show that will take some time to fully ingest/digest. The top row of
fotos is recent work from the exhibiting fotogs, the bottom row shows earlier
images from the same fotographers. There’s lots of writing to explain how
the early shots informed the more recent fotos.

Take your time here and you’ll start to understand a bit about the practice of

Exhibiting fotog Michael Schreier, the Red Wall

I then moved on to Gallery La Petite Mort.

(Full disclosure: I was exhibiting 14 images from BESIDE THE PASSAIC there,
along with a show, GUN CONTROL, by Steven James Brown, on the opposing
wall. Modesty prevents me from discussing my work here. I am, though, as
you know, quite immodest. So, if you want to hear my thoughts on the Passaic
images just scroll down here to about the end of June and you’ll get an earful.)

Steven James Brown was showing a series of stern images of handguns that had
been rendered inoperable by being crushed.

Steven James Brown at La Petite Mort

His approach reminds me of some of the work being done by fotographers from
The Dusseldorf School in Germany. There was a feeling of typology at work here.
As well, you could say that the seductive qualities of Brown’s C-prints, which turn
the weapons into Art, ask all kinds of questions about Weapons, Art and Society.
All in a subtle way.

GUN CONTROL on the LPM wall

As far as the actual opening went….. Because there were so many places to go,
things to see there was a healthy turnover. I was most pleased by the constant flow
of gallery-goers. The place felt full almost all of the time.

And, did I tell you, Steven James Brown and I kinda look alike. I wonder if
he resembles his father as much as I resemble mine?

SJB and me

Finally, like almost everyone else, I ened up at Patrick Gordon Framing. It’s open
late, totally licensed and quickly becoming the place to get down after a nite of
Fest X Gallery-hopping.

I didn’t get much of a chance to study the fotos on the walls. More on that later.
For now…..just a few of the bodies I bumped into there:

Our gracious hosts: Jennifer + Patrick Gordon

Ian Hopkins, Lynne Anderson, Teresa Stirling

Danny Hussey (nice hat!)

Tony Martins, Jeremie Roy, Stacey Van Buskirk, Graham Law

Lorraine Gilbert, Brandon (Manitoba) Clarida

And, because I’m a photographer, I have to include a couple of images I
shot last week…..crack addicts: