Influences

I didn’t know I had any. Influences, that is, until I had been taking pictures for a long, long time. It took me many years of shooting and saving thousands of images before I was able to notice any uniformity, or, dare I say it, style, anywhere.

I guess I just didn’t think about it. In the past, taking pictures was, for the most part, just about getting things right; capturing the moment, or framing things in what I thought was the best possible light, and angle.

But somewhere along the way, I went from being the guy with the camera, to the guy who takes pictures. Like the difference between a guy who carries around brushes and pencils, and the guy who paints pictures. 

Oddly enough, even though I like a lot of photographers, there haven’t been many that I can honestly say have influenced me, but there’s one or two that to me, are worth mentioning. 

Kevin Mullins is one. Surprisingly enough, he’s a wedding photographer, but he also happens to do a lot of street/documentary photography as well. He’s got a fantastic eye for capturing the little things that make a great shot, but more than that, his processing, and exposure are the things that initially drew me in. This is a man who’s not afraid of deep shadows. I admire that.

Richard Billingham is another.  Artist with a camera. His first, and perhaps still the biggest thing he is known for, are his series of ‘family photos’ that he took back in the ’90s. Fucked up subjects photographed by a person who didn’t really know what he was doing, taken with a shitty point and shoot camera. 

James Nachtwey came to my attention as the events of 9/11 unfolded. He just happened to find himself in Lower Manhattan when it all went down, and started banging off shots. It’s one thing to have the event ‘come to you,’ but you’ve gotta know what to do when it arrives. He did, turning extreme conditions into respectful art. (Stupidly, it seems that TIME owns the rights to most of his images, so when you google his 9/11 pictures, mostly what you get is his shot of a tumbling building behind a giant cross. Fuck TIME!)

And then there’s Caravaggio. Perhaps the grandfather of shadows and light. I’ve always liked his stuff -right from the get go. The images caught my eye, and then the stories behind them drew me in deeper. Painting Christ as a peasant. Bribing authorities with gifted paintings. (The story behind this one, ‘David with the Head of Goliath,’ is that it was a gift to the local Cardinal in exchange for a holy pardon for murdering someone! Pretty fucking cheeky when you consider that he used his own likeness for David, who thrusts the head of Goliath into the foreground.) I’ve never tried -I’d be far too timid/respectful to even attempt being bold enough to try and emulate him, but I guess that enjoying his works, and doing a fair amount of studying it, it just crept into me.

There are plenty more; some with complete styles, some just for a single image that have influenced me, that are always running around somewhere in the back of my brain. Isaac Newton claimed that he was able to accomplish what he did because he was able to ‘stand on the shoulders of giants.’ Well, I certainly pose no threat at ever reaching those kinds of heights, but perhaps because of those who influenced me, I’m no longer staring at the soles of their shoes.


Relaxin’ at home

…with a little vinyl.

The Sound Of Toronto Streetcars. Mfg’d in 1962 -the year I was born!

Inside foldout!

Tracks (or ‘bands’ as they are referred to on the record label) include

THE DAY BEGINS

‘A LONG GRIND

SOUNDS OF DOWNTOWN TORONTO

THE DAY ENDS

Rear cover, which is much better looking than the front, if you ask me!


That’s colour. With a U.

As mentioned earlier, I’m only shooting black & white these days. So why am I posting a coloUr picture? Because I’m a big fat lying liar, that’s why.

Like everyone else on the planet, I’m currently locked down under house arrest, so I’ve been trying to use my time productively. ‘Do your time. Don’t let your time do you,’ as the old jailhouse wisdom goes.

Don’t ask.

Much to my long suffering wife’s chagrin, I’m constantly bringing home dirty old pieces of wood, scraps of bent and rusted metal, rocks, and anything else I find lying around while I’m out for a walk. Anything I think I can smuggle into the house, that I think looks even slightly interesting, I’ll drag back home to use as a subject in my photographic experiments.

The above tree root looked pretty good to me. It grew around, and ‘captured’ a couple of stones, it’s got some unusual curves and strange growth, it’s partly rotted, and has a bunch of different tones, and textures.

But try as I might, I couldn’t get it to look ‘right’ no matter how I lit it, or how many different angles I tried shooting. I just couldn’t get enough contrast between the stones and the root to make them as obvious as I liked.

The depth, and texture just wasn’t there.

I kept looking at the root, picking it up from time to time, and wondering what it was that made it interesting to me in the first place. 

Then the obvious dawned on me: I had removed a big part of what had initially made it interesting to me. The coloUr.

I started over, and shot a bunch of coloUr images. It worked. It’s really quite apparent where the root ends, and the rock begins. The texture, at least to my eyes, seems more defined, and grudgingly, I have to admit, it’s just a better representation of what I saw in this old piece of rot to begin with.

So there you (I) have it. Choose what works. I’m still going to continue to shoot as much as possible in b & w, but there are times when coloUr….

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