USER Men opens this coming Friday. Seven to ten, September the
third at Gallery La Petitie Mort.

Invitation, front and back

The shooting I was doing last year was very much about expression and
gesture, and the exhibition will be about that process. Six of the many
men I photographed last year will be represented in the show. Each one
by 2 or 3 or 4 images showing some of the range of expression the subjects
presented to me.

I hope you can make it to the opening, you’re invited.

More info here.


If you remember, I’m starting a magazine…..STANDARD. The first, kind of
test, issue is an edit of my work: AMERICAN STATES.


After getting off to a roaring start, everything kind of ground to a halt while
the design was being tweaked and fine tuned. Each issue will be designed
by a guest art director and this issue’s A.D. got swamped by a moving dead-
line for an Annual Report she was working on and then the summer holidays
reared their ugly head.

Happy to report that things are back on track and the premier issue is on the
press as you read this.

Here’s a taste of a page spread…….


I’ll be talking a bit more about this as time goes by and other projects I’m
working on settle down to a dull roar.

But let me tell you here and now that I’m already thinking about the next
issue. I’m also thinking that I’m gonna need some help with a lot of the
peripheral aspects of getting this up and running.

Right now I’m looking for a webhead to help set up an online presence
and, as time goes by and we see how this all works out, I’ll probably be
looking for some dog’s bodies, as well.

So if you know about web architecture and coding and have ideas about
how to make this thing shine, I want to hear from you. Please either leave
a comment here or PM me: tony (at) tonyfoto (dot) com

I’ll also soon be soliciting submissions for the next issue. You see, STANDARD
started out as a promo vehicle for me but I quickly realized that it should be
more than that. It should be a way to create and support both community and

Stay tuned for more details.


That great quote is from “war” photographer Simon Norfolk. It refers to
how he dresses for the battlefield: 4×5 camera and a Hawaiian shirt.

“I can’t believe that photographers go into war
zones dressed like soldiers! Soldiers are the
people they shoot at. If I could wear a clown
suit I would…….

….. I can either scrape in there on my belly,
wearing camo, and sneak around; or I can
stand right there in front, wearing a shirt
that says, you know, Don’t shoot me. I’m
a dick.”


I thought I might start with that slightly humorous bit from a great
interview Norfolk did a few years ago on BLDGBLOG, because he also,
in the same interview, brings forward many interesting and pretty critical
ideas about war, war photography and photojournalism.

© Simon Norfolk

BLDGBLOG: So your projects are
even more political now – yet they’re
intended as landscape photography?

NORFOLK: I mean, I didn’t get fed up
with the subjects of photojournalism –
I got fed up with the clichés of photo-
journalism, with its inability to talk
about anything complicated. Photo-
journalism is a great tool for telling
very simple stories: Here’s a good
guy. Here’s a bad guy……

…..I needed to find a more comp-
licated way to draw people in. I’m
not down on photojournalism …..
but its job is to offer all its infor-
mation instantly and immediately…

…..So the content of photojournalism
interests me enormously, it’s just the
tools that I had to work with I thought
were terrible. I had to find a different
syntax to negotiate those things.

I couldn’t agree more. All too often these days we’re fed clichés and
simple answers. Complexity seems to be regarded in many media
circles (or is that: circle jerks?) as, well, too complicated.

I really recommend going here and reading and thinking about what
Norfolk has to say.

Simon Norfolk’s website is here.


Further to last week’s post about what happens with the USER pix
when I get home……

This week I took a fast look thru all the negs I’ve shot on the corner
so far this year. Now that the shape and direction of the shooting
are becoming a bit more clear to me I noticed certain images that
I had originally discounted. I’m also starting to wonder about
some of the images I initially chose, wonder if or how they might
fit in to the final thing, whatever that may be.

Case in point…..some of you may remember this image of Helena:


I was initially attracted to it because of it’s ethereal, mysterious quality.
Then, this week, I noticed this frame of her, shot the same day:


It seems much more in keeping with what I seem to be shooting there.
It kind of has the same vibe as my initial choice but the look of it seems
more me/USER.

Of course, in the end, who knows? Sometimes, when you’re shooting
for an extended sequence as opposed to just trying to get great singles,
certain “funny” shots are just what the doctor ordered, in terms of finding
images that will link passages or help move a feeling forward.

All I know now is that, when all the shooting and initial scanning is said
and done, I’ll still have to go back through all the material and agonize
over what to do, what to pick and what have I done.


The other day my friend Michael Tardioli dropped by to help me with some
printing problems. (Not technical problems, aesthetic ones.)

While he was here he mentioned that he thinks I post too many new pictures
on drool, that I should hold some back for later, on my website, or something.

Well, that’s just not the way I roll. I’m like a kid, I get excited. Besides, I take
a lot of fotos and what else am I gonna do with them except think about them
and show them to folks? Which is kind of what blogs are (or should be) about.

I’ve always thought that drool was a place to throw up experiments, random
thoughts and worries, confusions, opinions, also-rans, failures and successes.

So this week I’m going to talk a little bit about the USER process. Not the
shooting process, but what happens after I get home; how these images
come to be up on drool.

HOW IT WORKS (part 1)

I don’t make contact sheets or gang-scan the negs. I throw them onto my
little lightbox and look at them. I’ve been looking at negs for 30 years.

Negs on the lightbox

If I see a frame I like (I’m aided in my selection by having been at the shoot and
remembering what pictures I took, if you know what I mean) I throw it into the
scanner and do a quick preview scan. If it looks good and meets certain criteria
I do a high resolution scan and some preliminary Photoshop corrections on it.
Then I put my head down over the lightbox and look for the next good frame.


Tracey, Ottawa, 2010

During this initial edit all I’m trying to do is to identify and do a bit of post
production on any image that might be useful to the project. There are a
ton of reasons I’ll pick one frame and reject another….but I’ll save that for
another post


Alexandra, Ottawa, 2010

So the USER images you’re seeing roll out onto drool every week are only
potential final shots with only preliminary post production. These, and
a whole bunch more, all get thrown into Aperture, where I make a light
table with them and, in my spare time, when the inclination hits, I move
them around, put them in different orders and think about what I’ve done
and what still needs doing.

Then I go and do it.


HOW IT WORKS (part 2)

Regular droolers might be wondering what has happened to the good-old
magazine format that this blog has adhered to for the past bunch of years.
Bits about me, bits about the Ottawa-foto-scene, bits about what I’ve been
looking at in the wide world of fotografy (even though my foto-world isn’t
actually that wide) and the occasional rant.

These days drool is just USER, USER, USER….

But, then again, regular droolers also know I have my obsessions, and when
I’m shooting USER, or any personal project, that’s it. Obsession.

That’s how I get these personal projects done… pushing aside the regular
routines of my existence and focusing in. Some might even say: by being
selfish. Yeah, I’m that.

That’s how it works.

Rikki was in a bad way Friday, drug sick. I gave her some money to get drugs.

A little while later she came back, crying. She’d been ripped off and was still sick.


Lots and lots of photos on drool this week.

That’s because i’m showing you droolers some time lapse photography.
Not your typical time lapse, though. No.

The time that has lapsed between the frames below is one and two and
three and four years………


As droolers know, this is my 4th (and last) year shooting USER. Over
those 4 years I’ve bumped into some of the same folks over and over
again. As well, there are some addicts who I met once, photographed,
and never met again.

I can meet someone there, ask them how long they’ve been on the
corner and they’ll say: “Five years”. But that’ll be the one and only
time I meet them. Such are the vagaries of their “schedule” and mine.

But, like I say, there are also a lot of folks down on the corner who
seem to always be down on the corner. Some of these people I’ve
photographed every year for three or four years.

Laurie is one of those people.

Laurie, Ottawa, 2007

Laurie, Ottawa 2008

Laurie, Ottawa, 2009

Laurie (Polaroid), Ottawa, 2009

Laurie, Ottawa, 2010

As you can see, she hasn’t changed that much. Many of the addicts I photograph
are like that. They endure. They persevere. Like you. Like me.

Of course nothing ever stays the same, there are always changes. Being a photo-
grapher I’m pretty much stuck with surface appearance, if you know what I mean.

As R. Avedon says (and I agree, but only up to a point):

“My photographs don’t go below the surface. They
don’t go below anything. They’re readings of the
surface. I have great faith in surfaces. A good one
is full of clues.”

Here’s a couple of shots of Cheryl, who, on the surface, certainly doesn’t look like a
crack addict. But she is. The top one was shot in 2008 and the bottom one is from
this week.

Cheryl, Ottawa, 2008

Cheryl, Ottawa, 2010

And there are those situations where the surface does tell a story, shows something
that happens over time.

Bush’s parents are looking after her baby boy. Bush visits them 4 times a week.

Bush, Ottawa, 2008

Bush, Ottawa, 2009

Bush, Ottawa, 2010

Bush, Ottawa, 2010

And then there are stories only I know. A ton of stories.

One of them is about Dakota.

About a year after I’d first photographed her she was diagnosed with breast
cancer. She went into the hospital and had a double mastectomy. While she
was recovering she told me how happy she was to have that image of her, it
showed the breasts she no longer has.

Dakota, Ottawa, 2008

Dakota, Ottawa, 2010

Dakota showing me her mastectomy scar, Ottawa, 2010

Dakota and me, Ottawa, 2010


And here’s some real fast time lapse, with sound. A video.