You describe photography as being your life's passion. How did you come into the practice to begin with?
I didn’t even consider taking up photography until I dropped out of art school. I had spent 10 years planning to have drawing or animation in my life until a teacher told me I’d have no chance at a career. Horrible words to tell a student but without that I never would have picked up my father’s Canon AE-1 and began experimenting with another artistic outlet.
That was over 10 years ago but it wasn’t until 4 years ago that I purchased my first DSLR, wanting to take the photography more seriously. At the time there was never any goal to become a photographer; I just wanted more control over my camera and its manual settings than any point and shoot I had been using in the mean time.
3 years back, Ben Folds gave me my first break in shooting a concert for him in New York. Having been a fan of his music for years, I couldn’t say no despite having no idea what I was doing, and never having shot a concert before in a large stadium. Coming back to Toronto and knowing all the musician friends I knew and concerts I’d attend, I wondered why I had never thought of combining the two earlier.
Outside of film and photography, what other artists inspire you?
Possibly my biggest source of inspiration comes from music. It’s what started my relationship with the camera and got me into photography. Because I never studied photography, I don’t have a large reference to draw upon when it comes to ‘the greats’. Music has always been very important in my life. I’ve never been great with words, music has always been an easier way to better represent how I feel or what I wanted to say. Some of my favourites range from Tom Waits, Ludovico Einaudi, Cut Copy, Explosions in the Sky and the Black Keys.
Within an urban context, your work eschews an intuitive familiarity with the elements of city living that will resonate with the viewer. Do you find your shooting approach changes when in a rural setting or in nature?
I don’t really change my style when I’m out shooting. My work is candid which means looking for that special moment no matter what my surrounding looks like. I guess there’s a bit more planning involved when I’m shooting nature because I’m taking my time getting to that location while living downtown. In the city you’re moving around at a much faster pace so it’s nice to be able to slow down once in a while.
Toronto and its unique points of cultural reference figure heavily in your work. Aside from it being your place of residence, how does shooting in Toronto differ for you as compared to other urban centres?
That’s a tough one to answer because my style doesn’t change between cities I shoot in. Sometimes it’s a challenge finding interesting things in places you pass by every day. You get used to your routine and you miss those little things that make the city special. It’s frustrating when that occurs because I know I photographed only a fraction of this beautiful city. Taking a break, finding a new route or observing how others see the city is usually enough to bring the excitement back.
Your concert photography spans the range from Alice in Chains to Zeus at venues of a coinciding span of scale. How much does the music, performance and venue impact your photography at a show?
The greatest part about concert photography is you never know what to expect. Having shot over 250 bands and close to 30 venues makes for a diverse portfolio. The challenge for some has become what I find it quite comfortable. Not being able to direct the light or bands means I can actually slow down my shooting now (the standards with concert shooting is first three songs, no flash then you must leave). Waiting for those moments that will keep my portfolio fresh and hopefully portray the energy I felt from that night - whether it was from the band, audience or both.
In your "Mobile" series you use preset filters and lens effects unabashedly. How do you feel about the "Retro Filter Phenomenon" and its impact on the casual viewer from your perspective as a professional photographer?
I enjoy playing with all the different apps that are available for the mobile phones. When using my DSLR, I keep the editing minimal and prefer to have my photographs remind me of what I actually saw rather than create a new reality. The mobile photography allows me to be more creative and playful with my work and it’s a great way to see subjects differently outside of my editing suite I use once home.
What is that one piece of your kit that you absolutely could not do without, and what makes it stand out for you?
I have a new love for lighting. Having shot candid photography for years made me quite comfortable working with whatever lights were supplied - usually natural. A few months ago I purchased the Rotolight Interview Kit and have thoroughly enjoyed incorporating their lights into my photography. They can create the perfect catch light while also allowing me to be more creative with their gels.
With an ever-changing technological landscape, do you feel like the craft of photography is under any threat from the increasing saturation of the so-called "pro-sumer" market?
With high end cameras becoming affordable for the hobbyists out there, it can be a challenge to break that financial threshold of actually getting paid properly for high quality work. Photographers that are starting out will too often undercharge in order to get that client or build their portfolio. It’s difficult to charge what you’re worth when there’s always someone willing to do it cheaper.
It’s sad but I believe this challenge exists in all the artistic fields. Having a name that’s known obviously helps. Being active on social networks has helped me a great deal and truthfully, I love communicating, sharing and helping others that are starting out or have questions. Skill and ability will always trump gear and equipment. At the end of the day I focus on producing a quality of work that will keep people interested and have them coming back for more.
Which resonates more for you and why: "Get it right the first time" or "We can fix it in post."?
I’m a big believer in getting it right the first time. I’d rather master a camera’s settings than be skilled in a program like Photoshop. Working with the challenges of camera settings, inconsistent lighting or the environment make me better prepared each and every time I want to return to that style of shooting. Using Lightroom doesn’t make me a better photographer, it allows me fine tune those adjustments.