I’m (mostly) a portrait photographer. The images from USER are portraits.
That’s what I’m shooting down on the corner. Portraits.
But I know that they also fall into some weird space between portraiture
and sociology, anthropology and document. Maybe a bit of art.
Rikki and Crystal, Ottawa, 2010
The photos are so quiet, so contained. What you don’t see in them is the
chaos, all the drama, that goes down on the corner. I’ll be setting up a
shot and my subject is doing a hit while s/he’s waiting. A fight will break
out, punches thrown. The other day Star threw her bicycle at someone.
Of course, it’s not always like that. There are also long stretches of the
calm and boredom that are typical of both photographing and addiction.
How can I show all that in portraits? What do portraits do? How do they
Melanie, Ottawa, 2010
When I’m down there shooting, blocking shots, working with the subjects,
I try to think a little bit about what’s going into my head. I try to be open
to the juju, the vibe, the feeling of the people and the place and how that’s
affecting me. I also try to trust my instincts and to not think too, too much.
I shoot first and ask questions later.
It’s later, when I’m editing, choosing frames, that the hard choices are
made. That’s when my biases move forward. I’ll only choose an image
if it suits that bias, if it fits with how I feel about that place, those people.
It’s not objective.
For me, that’s what portraiture is all about. That’s how portraits can begin
to describe how I feel.
Dave, Ottawa, 2010
WORLD PRESS PHOTO
Went to the opening of the World Press Photo exhibit which, once again,
was mounted at The War Museum in Ottawa.
The invitation said dress was “smart casual”. Laurence (my assistant, who came
to the opening with me) sent me a Wikipedia link to a definition of what, exactly,
“smart casual” is. Seems like it’s actually pretty dressy.
Laurence and me, smart casual (and gumby)
At any rate, we got to the opening late, well after the speeches. The smart
casual crowd, having eaten all the “light refreshments”, had already headed
for the turnstiles. That left the 2 piece jazz band playing to an empty house
with the grand-prize-winning foto as a backdrop.
Most incongruous. Would have been much more apropos, given the nature of so
many of the images included, if they had got Rage Against The Machine to play.
But I digress.
Now, I’m not that interested in news photography and photo-journalism, so there
was much on display at the World Press Photo exhibit that didn’t really move me.
So I won’t talk about that aspect of the show.
It does, however, include many photos that were right up my alley…..
Denis Rouvre had some stunning images of Senegalise “ultimate fighters”. Seems
that brutal, hand to hand combat isn’t just popular here in N. America. Here.
African photographer Malick Sidibé had a shot from a fashion spread he’d done for
the New York Times Magazine. I remember hearing about this shoot just after it
appeared in print. Seems like he’d set up the models, nonchalantly shoot 4 or 5
or 6 frames, Hasselblad, B+W film, and then tell the A.D. that he was done, let’s
have the next models. I think, in this day and age of digital over-shooting, it blew
the minds of the powers that be. Here.
Simon Roberts was represented by a couple of prints from his great project:
We English. Even with the dodgy reproduction of the images in this show
(designed to be easily transportable and fingerprint proof) you could see
the quality of his large format images, not to mention their content. Here.
Anie van Gemert’s series of children who are androgynous was also a
standout. Here. (A shame about the watermarks on her web images.)
This is a show that will travel to venues all over the place. (It’s in Ottawa until
August 29th.) There’s enough range and interesting images here to make a
trip to see it more than worthwhile if it shows up in a venue near you. Here.
HOW TO NOT PACK WORK
Sent some prints off to Abnormals Gallery, in Poznan, Poland, the other day.
For the group show I’m included in there. Packed them in a sturdy cardboard
Got an email from Maria, at the gallery. Seems like the tube was left out in
the rain by some post office or other. Soaked right thru. Destroyed.
So, from now on, I’m gonna be shipping prints wrapped in plastic and in
a plastic shipping tube. And I’ll still be keeping my fingers crossed.