Somehow, in a funny way, I think that the 3 separate items in this week’s
drool, USER and ANGER and TROUBLE, are all somehow related.

Read on…..make up your own mind.


Sifiyya writes to ask what camera/lens I use for this project.

drool doesn’t like to get too technical, preferring to leave that to the
fanboys and geeks out in the blogosphere. But here goes:

This year I’m shooting with my punkass Hasselblad and my Mamiya 6.
Both have standard lenses attached. I love standard. I’m using available
light and shooting Kodak Portra 160 NC color negative film. I scan the
negs with a Microtek M1 Pro.

Natasha, Ottawa, 2010.
While I was shooting Natasha I told
her that I thought she was quite
beautiful. She replied: “Everyone’s

Joel writes about his concerns that the USER images might cause some
harm to the subjects.

This, of course, is a serious issue and I have no way of knowing whether
the images are causing any harm to the subjects. I can tell you that every
person I shoot gets a copy of any image of them that will be shown. And I
can tell you that I’ll only shoot lucid subjects. I’m no fly-on-the-wall down
there. The images I’m making require the consent and collaboration of the
subjects. In fact, I’ve rarely met a group of people who are as in tune with
what I’m doing, and how they fit into that, than this small society of addicts
I’ve been shooting for 4 years.

Jennifer and Stephanie looking at prints

Jennifer holding prints of her and Kelly, her boyfriend

Kelly and Jennifer, Ottawa, 2010

I know of two instances where family members of the subjects saw their
photos and reacted in a very negative way. This caused some problems
for the addicts concerned.

If I was going to rationalize this I would say that these 2 cases are just
further proof that most addicts are addicts because of the facts of their
lives, and that includes having a damaged upbringing in a dysfunctional
family. To expect all families to react in a positive way is just unrealistic.
(If you see an image of your child in this series you have a couple of
options. You could go to him/her and do what you can to help or you
could get angry and do the opposite.)

I understand that I’m down there “representing” real people and that
the images have consequences. But in the end I believe that the work
I’m doing on the corner is worthwhile.

Stephanie and Melanie, Ottawa, 2010


I’ve been thinking lately about anger and photography. I’ve been trying
to find photographers/photographs that convey anger.

And by that I don’t mean fotos that show some angry person. No, I mean
bodies of work that might make those who view them think: “Man, that
photographer is really pissed off”.


Seems to me that the medium of fotografy just might not be suited for
that, though. It seems mostly too passive (in a weird way), and too cool
(as a medium) to actually make people want to drive fast and wreck shit
like certain songs have a tendency to do…..think The Sex Pistols, N.W.A.
or Public Enemy. Of course, these examples are from way back when,
when folks seemed to, maybe, be more open to anger instead of product
placement in the media they consumed.

And why is that, anyway? Why aren’t more people angry and doing
something about it? I don’t want to come across like that guy in the
movie Network, but come on folks. Have you had a look around lately,
looked at what went on at the G20 in Toronto, looked at the infantile,
partisan way we’re being “represented” by out Members of Parliament,
and so on and on and on and on….?

Anyway, I don’t want to get too angry about people not being angry.
(And I must add here that when I’m working I NEVER get angry. I find
anger to be totally counter-productive in certain situations.) But if you
know of any photographers who’s work you think exhibits anger, I’d like
to hear about it. Please either leave a comment here or PM me at:

tony (at) tonyfoto (dot) com.

Thank you very much.


SAW Gallery, in Ottawa, has mounted an important and compelling photo show

Installation view

The brainchild of curator Stefan St-Laurent, this show brings together photo-
journalistic and foto-documentation of performance art, the link being that all
the images look at the human plight to survive and to fight for freedom.

Installation detail

It’s a welcome relief to see such a well thought out, innovative group foto show
in Ottawa. Much of the time we Ottawans interested in photography are subjected
to group shows based on the most spurious criteria, mostly (in my recollection):
What’s available, who are my friends/clients/patrons and how many images can
we squeeze into the available space.

I won’t get into the details of BODIES IN TROUBLE here, since Peter Simpson, of
The Ottawa Citizen, has done such a great job of illuminating this show on his
blog. Please jump to here and read up. (You’ll have to scroll up to the top. The
only way I could figure out to link directly to this particular post was to leave a
comment and then link to that.)

Here is a link to SAW Gallery. If you are in town before it closes on October 3
I highly recommend you get down there and soak this up.


USER (less confused)

Well, there was a great response to last week’s post. The one about
me being confused. I guess people can relate.

I must fess up now and tell you all that, while I was (and continue to be)
confused, that’s totally normal.

You see, it seems to be a part of my creative process, especially when I
begin a personal project. I tie myself up in knots, second guess myself
and am full of doubts and anxiety. Obsessed, in other words.

Truth is, I know that it (confusion) will happen and I’m pretty sure that
I encourage and nurture it during the early days of projects. I believe
that the confusion, doubt and anxiety, the obsession, are all mental
tools that drive the process forward. (Of course, if you give in to these
things, rather than fighting them, they end up defeating the process

I’ve been back to the corner since that last post and can report that,
as expected, there has been progress. I’m beginning to understand
that the shots from this year will be more varied, in terms of their
look and feel, than those I’ve done here before, where I used a much
more strict and rigorous approach. But I’m finding images from my
most recent shooting that are pointing the way…..

This shot of Helena was pretty much a fluke (unless you factor instinct
into the equation). I love the mysterious, ethereal, spur of the moment
feel this shot has. It kind of reminds me of the shot of Joce, from last
week’s post, that I liked.

Helena, Ottawa, 2010

The next couple of pix are the direct result of the subjects making a request.

Deidre and Richard used to be boyfriend and girlfriend and are still friends.
They asked me to take a shot of them together, so I did.

The very similar shot below that is of Jeff and his mother, Lorrie. Jeff is a crack
addict and his mom is addicted to heroin. I had shot Jeff the first time out this
year and when I met him again I gave him a copy of the shot. He studied it and
started to cry. Later on he returned with his mom and wanted me to shoot them

Deidre and Richard, Ottawa, 2010

Lorrie and Jeff (mother and son), Ottawa, 2010

I’m not too sure how I feel about how similar these 2 fotos are, but something
tells me that their vibe is different enough that their sameness might actually
be a good thing. We’ll see……

Finally, here’s a shot of Stephanie.

Stephanie, Ottawa, 2010

Some who have seen and studied this latest USER shooting have commented
on how similar these are to what I did last year: USER Men.

I get what they mean but to me they seem so different. While USER Men was
about jagged emotion and rough edges, with a nod to German Expressionism,
this year’s images are much more tender and lyrical.

I suppose the obvious similarity is the light. I’m so in love with the way the light
on that corner falls on and envelopes the people. But to my mind last year and
this year are different animals.

There’s lots more shooting to be done. I’m starting to see what I’m thinking and
how I can apply my strategies to make this year worthwhile. These past few drools
have been a way for me to think out loud, work shit out and get some initial feed-
back. I find that that, too, is an integral part of my creative process.

Thanks for bearing with me.


A few months back I won the WinInitiative 10BEST10 contest thingy.
Co-sponsored by SONY. Won a SONY camera and some other stuff.

One of the things the 10 winners around the globe had to do was a
shoot, and they had to provide SONY with some video footage of that
shoot. The powers that be then edited that footage and posted the
thing onto YouTube. Some form of social media marketing.

Here’s what they did from the raw footage we provided. I’m pleasantly
surprised that they left in one “motherfucker” and the bit about being
a part of “the SONY propaganda machine”. I’m also pleased to report
that the camera, a 550L, is quite swell.


I’m happy to tell you that the USER work being shot this year
is being supported by the City of Ottawa. I received a Senior
Arts Grant to carry on the project.

One of my obligations is to publicize that fact and to include
the City of Ottawa logo in published materials.

Thank you.



Most of the time
My head is on straight
Most of the time
I’m strong enough not to hate
I don’t build up illusion ’til it makes me sick
I ain’t afraid of confusion no matter how thick
I can smile in the face of mankind
Most of the time

Bob Dylan

Editing some new USER shooting

For me, photography is still about discovery.

And I don’t mean discovering how light strikes an object, or how
“cool” some shape might look in a foto.

No, I’m talking about discovering how I can go out in the world,
shoot, bring it back and make it (my passage through that time
and space) make sense.

And, by “make sense” I mean a few things.

First of all, how can I interact with what’s in front of me, how can
I shape the people I meet and their environment into interesting
photographs? For me photography is a combination of my aesthetic
and social predilections. This process is kind of like mining. I have
to make sure I extract enough raw material to give me options at a
later date.

Then, when I bring all those fotos, this raw material, home, the
refining process begins. I want to sift and shake and shape the
fragments that are fotos into a sequence that will somehow define
that thing.

And, by “thing” I’m not referring to an actual thing. I’m referring
to my passage through the time and the space that gave rise to
the images in the first place.

It’s kind of like a puzzle with no one correct solution, but some
solutions are more correct than others.

Does that make any sense to you?

Time and space. Every foto from USER, for 4 years, has been shot within the red area on this map

If you’ve been following along you know I’ve started shooting USER
again, and you know I don’t know what I’m doing down on the corner.
You also know that I’m committed to figuring it out. And the only way,
for me at least, to figure it out is to go and shoot, look at what I’ve
done, scratch my head, ask myself a whole bunch of questions and
remind myself that it’s all process, baby.

Each year I’ve shot USER I’ve shot it differently. To add interest (for me)
and to show that there various ways one small society can me represented.
The overarching plan is to combine all 4 years shooting into one fairly
complex sequence that will mash up the various takes from the years.

This being the last year I plan to shoot there, the idea is to “flesh out”
my options for this final sequence.

Here are four fotos I shot for USER a couple of days ago. Pictures of
Joce and Alex:

Alex, Ottawa, 2010

Joce and Alex 1, Ottawa, 2010

Joce and Alex 2, Ottawa, 2010

Joce, Ottawa, 2010

Okay, I’m confused.

There seems to me to be something right and something wrong with all
of these images (except the last one, which seems all right to me).

I look at them and try to picture how they could possibly fit in with the
work that’s come before. I feel the pressure of knowing that this is my
last chance to gather enough different images there to round out the

Of course, these are early days (this year). I tell myself to just keep
shooting, to not worry too, too much, that my job is to trust my

Add to this creative confusion the fact that I know most of the people
I photograph on the corner. Some I know quite well, others I only met
once or twice before they drifted away. Got straight, went to jail or took
their addiction to some other corner in some other city.

Some of them die.

James, dead

Candace, dead

Bo, dead

Jonathan, dead

How’s that supposed to make me feel?

I’m as confused about this, personal, aspect of the project as I am about
the creative side of it. Probably more confused. I often wonder just what
the hell I’m doing down there, inserting myself into these peoples lives.

But then I get an email like this one:

I was one of the people that you took a photo
of for your exhibit USER. My name is Dawn and
I was in a picture with Kevin. I am no longer using
drugs, it has been 2 years this past June and I was
wondering if possibly you would still have a copy
of the picture that you took. Me and Kevin were
leaning back to back around a pole. I have tried
to find it on my own and couldn’t and may I say
I am quite happy about it. I would like the picture
so I can remind myself that I do not want to look
that horrible or be that desperate again. I really
do appreciate your work and all that you do. I
have followed your work since I got clean. Please
let me know if you have a copy of the picture.
Thanks again.

Dawn :o)

And, while words like this don’t really alleviate my confusion, they do
go a long way towards giving me heart.

So, Okay, I’m confused. Okay. But my heart is strong.

Dawn and Kevin