Photography for me is not just the gathering of the content of my life. It literally is the way in which I make sense of the world around me.
Call it therapy or the way I keep breathing…
In 2013 the Streets Alive Festival in Orillia, Ontario challenged artists to submit designs that would ultimately be made into giant seven foot tall letters. A lot of my personal work explores the idea of the Goddess and the Land. This seemed like an appropriate theme for my letter and in my proposal, I chose the letter "I." Sadly my design was not deemed worthy, possibly due to the nudity but for myself, the image came out as I envisioned it, with multiple images of the goddess and green dancing and evolving in spiritual celebration. The shoot could never have happened without the brilliant support and movement of my friend and model Rebecca.
The Man With Two Voices
The path lies before me, filled in, a foot deep from last night’s snowfall.
Barely stifling an inward sigh, I guide my shovel into the first drift.
I have escaped from inside the house, where conversation was reaching the danger point.
You see I am the man of two voices.
The outer voice that is always pleasant and quick with a laugh,
Reasonable in the face of comments that strike me deeper than they show.
But I have an inner voice too.
The one with the courage to say what I should have said at the time,
That takes refuge from others anger by using unspoken profanity,
It rages at the passing of my father.
In the bad times the inner voice gets uncovered,
Rushes to escape,
It overpowers the outer voice and
Like a misunderstood tourist believing that comprehension follows volume,
Demands to be understood.
Frustration follows and I retreat
Taking the simple path back
Where unhappy and alone
I become once again
The man with two voices.
252 Images of Sunny
The very first photographic images of people to gain great popularity were Daguerreotypes, named for their inventor, Louis Daguerre. The photograph was not the reproducible paper print that we have come to know but a unique one off silver plate. In 1839, the insensitivity to light of the photographic medium meant that a portrait might take as long as twenty minutes, with the subject sitting absolutely still, possibly held in place with head and arm clamps.
Imagine the relationship that would develop between sitter and photographer. You would be locked in the moment not for 1/60th of a second but twenty minutes. It would have to impact on the results beyond the physical to the psychological.
Jump ahead to January 2004, when two robots named Opportunity and Spirit landed on Mars and began sending back images of our sister planet. How to send back such dazzling, sharp images from so far away? When a “prosumer” digital single lens reflex camera captures 12 megabyte files with ease, was it possible to send so much information such a great distance on a radio signal? No, but the solution lay in taking many photographs of tiny low resolution files, mere kilobytes, that could be sent back to Earth and stitched together to create a file of great detail. The technology used on the Mars rover is available to consumers today in the form of a robotic device that accepts a camera and executes a series of moves, firing the camera in a programmed sequence. The images may then be stitched together to make one very sharp image. It is important to understand that rather than one wide angle or panoramic single image, the photographer is creating a collection of many normal or telephoto images that then join to make a massive composite image of the same subject area. The device is called a Gigapan.
Traditionally, Gigapan images are used for landscape photography, although some sporting events have also been covered by a Gigapan. Arguably the most famous Gigapan exposure is the inauguration of Barack Obama. An imagecovering a two mile wide section may be zoomed in so that only the President’s head is in the frame and the image is sharp. It truly is astounding.
I had been looking for new avenues of self expression. As a middle aged male and a parent of teenage daughters, I have been seeking answers to age old questions. Looking to my sixteen year old, Sunny got me thinking about how complex a person she really was. Searching for her own answers, she is daily confronted by issues of self esteem, peer pressure, the tyranny of social media, the stress of looking for a job, growing pains and body image, grades and concerns about university or college placement, the environment and the world being left in her care. Is it any wonder that so many young people today suffer from such issues as depression and anxiety disorder?
I decided to explore the portrait in a somewhat Hockney like way using the Gigapan to make a portrait. Although never intended for the purpose, it seemed to me the perfect solution. The result is 252 Unique Images of Sunny. Taking over fifteen minutes to shoot, each image was stitched together with software to create a single final image. Interestingly, in the same way that not all the emulsion would stick to the silver surface on a Daguerreotype, leaving blank areas, so too with the assembled portrait do we end up with incomplete sections. Note that looking closely, it is possible to find multiple images and blurred sections, hinting at the many characteristics of the her personality, that I have yet to be given permission to know about or come to understand. The eyes are sharp however as was deemed essential to the project. Astounding is the fine grain definition one perceives when one considers that each image was shot at ISO 6400. The final assembled file is one point two gigabytes, a massive amount of information that would normally result in a six foot wide print. The goal though was to honour the original Daguerreotypes produced on silver and as such the work is printed at a more modest four feet wide on aluminum using a modern process by Extreme Imaging.
When Last I Held Your Hand
From my one man retrospective show, "Decisive Moments," held at the Orillia Museum of Art and History in 2008. This piece, "When Last I Held Your Hand," was purchased by OMAH for the permanent collection. The image was also awarded the People's Choice Award at ODAC's 2007 All Ontario Juried Show.
My First Camera
Believe it or not, my first serious camera was a Nikonos. I loved diving and wanted to record what I saw underwater. Over the years, I built the system up to the point where I had multiple flash units and lenses. My dive buddy Bruce was often my model and was very adept at assuming just the right pose. When Corel Photo CDs did a stock library on shipwrecks, over half the collection were my images. I also shot an assignment for Zellers Family Magazine underwater. Making photographs underwater opened up the joy of shooting on land and that ultimately led me on the path to Ryerson University for study and a career as a pro.