One of my first photos


I was recently asked to speak at my old university about my experiences and life as a photographer. In preparation for the class I decided to look for some of my old photos and stumbled upon this one.

This was the moment I fell in love with photography.

This image showed me the power of a single image, it bears signs of the hardships she has survived, stories she has yet to tell and a life I want to learn more about. Her energy and her unforgettable eyes still captivate me to this day. I don’t know her exact age or name, but I remember the day my friend O’Bandelle brought me to her house in 1995. She lives in St Vincent with her family and to this day likely has no idea how our meeting transformed my life.

Happy Birthday Grandma Bar

My beautiful Grandma Bar is the definition of class. She is tall, elegant and quiet. Her own life hasn’t always been easy, but those hard times don’t show on her face or on her spirit. She is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. 

She is 90 years old today and some of the family is getting together to honour and celebrate with her. For those of us who can't make it across the border, we want to take a moment to honour her. She is a strong, determined woman with style, grace, class and poise. She is enthusiastic and quite funny. She loves the color blue. Anything blue. 

Truth be told, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that everyone in my family feels the same about my grandmother. Her presence in our lives is the ultimate proof that there is a higher power. We are blessed exponentially by just knowing her; we are aware of the beauty that she brings to our worlds. Not only did she raise my dad and his brothers and sisters (all 7 of them), she helped to raise several of my cousins. She simply smiles and expands her heart to include a little more space for the next one and the next one and the…Her love is limitless.

My family who live in the States and are able to see her more often have the benefit of this loving woman who feeds their dreams with sweets and kind words, who encourages their growth with her laughter and smiles. 

I LOVE MY GRANDMA and I want everyone to know that she has poured the best of herself into her children and her family. I am indebted to her for showing me that you can be a strong woman without being hard. I appreciate that she is charitable and continues to do for others. I thank the Universe for blessing us with her and I am eternally grateful for her love.

Your life has impacted not only our lives, but also the lives of those that know & love you! 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANDMA BARB!!!! 

 

 

My Dad


_MG_9755

The best way to describe my dad is to say he reminds me a lot of Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) in the National Lampoons Vacation movies. It is Clark's truly endearing qualities that are reminiscent of my dad. When my dad was in his late twenties/ early thirties he bought 10 acres of land in Sharbot Lake and built our family a log cabin. The cabin soon became a treasured yearly family retreat. A place we went every summer to reconnect and bond, to laugh, fight and get in trouble. Every year, our dogs, as if they had an affinity for pain, would attack the local porcupine (the porcupine would always win) and we would end up bringing our dogs to the vet to get the painful needles removed. How often do we do things that we know we shouldn't and that cause us pain? We laugh at the persistence and stupidity of the dogs, but don't we do the same in our lives?

I could tell story after story, our adventures in town at the local inn, the days at the beach, the campfires, the dinners, the games, the hikes. And, I can't leave out the ghost stories my cousins would make up, usually based on their adventures playing dungeons and dragons. I was young, naive and had a wild imagination so they (and my sister, whom are all older than me) thought it was hilarious to scare me with their tales, like the story of the walking tree that resided in our swamp. I have many fond memories from my childhood of our family trips and of our adventures there.

My parents taught me strong moral values. They taught me about personal responsibility, about honesty, trust, to be compassionate and to respect all life. They taught me the value and importance of education. A little disclaimer here, both my parents are way too smart for their own good! My dad taught me how to ride my bike, he got me my first Swiss army knife (hahaha - I won't disclose how old I was), how to look for long-lost treasures by the waters edge, nestled between the rocks and washed up on the shore and how to make good decisions in life. He taught me the meaning of hard work, and the meaning of unconditional love. He did and does this by being a supportive dad and husband, we always feel secure and know he has our back, by being an amazing and talented artist, an ethical business owner, a Buddhist priest, a hard and dedicated worker, and a loving parent.

My dad is very giving, he gives us his true self so that we may grow up to face this challenging world with courage, hope, and faith. My dad is not perfect and he does have his faults, his struggles, and his weaknesses. He taught me, however, how to face problems and challenges with a positive attitude, perseverance and a strong will. The great memories I have shared with my dad are everlasting and have positively influenced my life.

One of many significant influences my dad has had on our lives is that my sister is now a successful yoga teacher and acupuncturist, a path that came about as a direct result of our dads generosity and hard work. He bartered his talent and time in exchange for my sister and I to get yoga classes and that choice set her on her current path. Now she is a wonderful and amazing yoga practitioner.  And, through his love of the arts, I am a successful photographer and artist. But, most importantly we have become loving, compassionate, loyal and driven women.

The older I get, the better I understand my dad because I find more and more of him in me.  He teaches me to care about people, to keep learning, to have beliefs and to live by them.

It took me awhile to acknowledge all that he gives me and I am grateful that I can let him know now.

My mom, dad and sister

My mom, dad and sister

SpeakEasy + CONTACT 2012

 

To the whole Speak Easy team, thanks so much for all the effort you must have put in to this.  I am very honoured and grateful to have been selected to take part in it. The opening night was a huge success and very well attended, everyone seemed to linger and enjoy the art, the event, and personal interaction.

When walking into the gallery I was struck by the variety of the work presented, not only in style but also in presentation. Some are very large, some are tiny, some framed, some not. It is an intelligent photography exhibition which encourages you to appreciate the images and think at the same time.  It contains central threads of ideas which have influenced how the photographs have been taken, style following content. The work on display is thoughtful, sensitive, well crafted, subtle.

Works by: Brian Barrer, Mark Belvedere, Genevieve Blais, Maxime Bocken, Zoe Bridgman, Julie Castonguay, Daniel Chiu, Shirin Divanbeigui, Gillian Foster, Matthew Fung, James Helmer, Adam Johnston, Catherine Jones, Namrita Kohli, Kyungmin Lee, Bernadette Leno, Ralph Martin, Marta McKenzie, Melissa Mercier, Robert Quance, PM Rendon, Tom Ridout, Rachelle Sabourin, Annette Seip, Mafalda Silva, The Dopamine Collective, Akas Tarmaji, Natalie Viecili, Esther Vincent, Wanted Media, Wioletta Wesolowski, Nicola Woods, Aleksandra Woszczyna, Alice Zilberberg.

I owe an enormous amount of gratitude to Speak Easy for organizing and curating such a wonderful exhibit.

 

Don't give away your S%^& for free

I was having a conversation with a good friend the other night. He was talking about his frustrations with the industry and how undervalued he feels sometimes. He was disheartened about how often he is asked to do things for free or at cost. Truth is, I know many many people who are in the same position and who feel unappreciated, underpaid and undervalued by the industry and, sadly by friends as well.

In my humble opinion, it is important that there always be an equal exchange, whether it is an energy exchange, financial exchange or barter, both parties should walk away feeling good about the arrangement. And, you shouldn't feel guilty or bad about saying No.

I'm sure a lot of you can relate to these requests.

Potential Client:

1) our budget doesn’t stretch that far

2) if you do it for free, it will be great exposure for you

3) we'll make it up and pay properly next time

By agreeing, you are devaluing your art and starving your business of the income it needs to pay you and invest in your business.

Truth is, you would be better off working on personal projects where you have creative control and that you can put your heart and passion towards.

Above all, remember that as an artist you have creativity, vision, technical skill and talent which has huge commercial value.

Never give away your most valuable asset for free.

To end on a lighter note, this is a great and funny video that draws home the point:

The Vendor Client relationship - in real world situations

Toronto * Inside Out Project

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” Wilma Rudolph

I was honoured to be asked to take part in Toronto's Group Action Initiative for the Inside Out Project. This was a very proud moment for me and a beautiful experience.
 
The Inside Out Project is a large-scale global art project that turns messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work. It hopes to share the untold stories and images of regular people all over the world.
This is how it works: Participants upload their portraits, the portraits are printed out poster-size and then mailed back for the participants to post anywhere they want in their communities – an office window, the wall of an abandoned building, an overpass.
 
You can participate as an individual or as part of a group, but the Project prohibits promoting a brand, product, or organization through the posting. The focus is really on individuals and personal statements, which is refreshing and unique for such a large-scale project.
 
The Inside Out Project also asks that participants document their postings and upload those images and their accompanying stories to the website for the rest of the world to see.
Want to become part of the Inside Out Project? It’s as easy as uploading your portrait.
 
See the images in Toronto in different parts of the city including: Regent Park, Eglinton West, Kensington Market, Queen West, Shaw Street, Parkdale, Liberty Village, Eastern Avenue, Jane and Finch, Rexdale and more.

Special shout outs to Che Kothari, Ashley McKenzie-Barnes, Shaka Licorish, Celeste Palanca, Seema Jethalal and the rest of the team. Big Big thanks to Alvin and Scott who helped me wheat paste my photos. It truly meant a lot to have your help and support.
 
To learn more you can also go to:
http://themanifesto.ca/toronto-inside-out-project/
 
Photos courtesy of: Anna Keenan, Scott Clyke and Alvin Merchant.

Gone… But Never Forgotten

On my desk, beside my computer I have the memorial card that was handed out at Paula’s funeral on June 15th, 2005. There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t think about her.
 

One reality in life is death.
 
Paula was my best friend, she died from a brain aneurysm, complications that arose during a Sickle Cell crisis 6 years ago. I remember getting the phone call on June 6th. She was in the hospital on average 3-4  times a year fighting a sickle cell crisis, however, this time I knew it was different. I left work immediately, jumped on a bus and within a few hours I was at the hospital in Ottawa.
 
She was 33.
 
33 is way too young to die.
 
Too damn young!!! It still makes me mad.
 
Paula had a sharp tongue and a beautiful smile. Those that had the pleasure and blessing of knowing her can attest to that. She lived life to the fullest. She taught me many things over the course of our friendship, but the most important lesson I learned was to never take time for granted and to enjoy your family and loved ones every time there is a moment allowed.
 
She told me her fear was that she’d be forgotten. Forgotten she is not.
 
Paula was an amazing women, a wonderful mother, a great friend, one of the strongest people I know, feisty in her ways but loyal and loving. She would have done anything for me and I for her.
Paula ~ I miss you so much you have no idea, I watched the video of you a few times over today. Big Sigh!!
One of Paula's wishes was to donate her organs when she passed. Her wish was granted and she helped to extend the lives of 3 recipients by having her liver and kidneys donated. It really did help to know that in her death she helped 3 people live.
 
She was a true hero.
 
http://www.giftoflife.on.ca/en/
 
Love and miss you Miss P. xoxoxoxoxoalways
 
Most of us will never know when our time is approaching, which is all the more reason to live like we mean it now. You do NOT need permission to follow your dreams and to do what you love. Don’t wait until you feel like you have no choice, start living for today.
Poem on the memorial card above:
Do not stand at my grave and weep I am not there. I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glints on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken in the morning's hush I am the swift uplifting rush Of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I did not die.
Mary E. Frye
 
Miss P. ~ this was one of the first songs we kicked back and listened to on repeat. I love that it spun into a 2 hour conversation about love and life, first crushes and friendships. I always think of you when I hear it.

Inspired + Influenced by...

The list of photographers who have influenced me is endless. Below are just a few of the ones that have inspired and influenced me on my journey.

Annie Leibovitz ~ American.

She may seem like an obvious choice to those that know me since I have a deeply rooted and strong connection to portraiture photography. What I appreciate most is her visual sensibility, her photographs are memorable, her style is distinct, and her work ranges from very simplistic to outrageously stylish. Her imagery is captivating, beautiful, glamorous and iconic.

She started out as the staff photographer at Rolling Stone and is now at Vanity Fair. She’s shot everyone and her portraits define our times. She has produced some of the most memorable and iconic images of the last 30 years.

Annie Leibovitz
Annie Leibovitz

Nick Knight ~ British.

Hugely inspiring to me, I absolutely love the style, sensibility, aesthetic that Nick Knight captures. His design, fashion and photography fuse together to create cutting edge imagery that pushes boundaries technically and creatively. I am a huge fan of his work and he definitely inspires me to want to explore photography in new ways. I love love love his use of tone and style.

The most influential fashion photographer in the world and one of the most sought-after. Knight’s openness to new forms, techniques and processes keeps on the cutting edge.

Nick Knight
Nick Knight

www.nickknight.com /www.showstudio.com

Jill Greenberg ~ Canadian Born.

I’ve been heavily influenced and inspired by the works of Jill Greenberg. She has pioneered a unique style of photography that has also encouraged me to push boundaries and continue to evolve and define my own style.

I became a bigger fan after the John McCain controversy. She reminds me that our job as an artist is to show the world through our own eyes.

Photographer and artist . Greenberg was born in Montreal, Quebec, and grew up in a suburb of Detroit. She graduated with honors in 1989 from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Photography and moved to New York City to pursue a career in photography. Greenberg moved to Los Angeles in 2000 where she met her husband Robert. She is known for her portraits, and fine art work. Stylized fashion, celebrity and advertising images.

Jill Greenberg
Jill Greenberg

© Jill Greenberg

www.manipulator.com

Nadav Kander ~ London.

I was instantly drawn to his style. He depicts an intense layer of loneliness, particularly in the colour and feelings of disconnection and displacement  within his imagery. He plays with framing that seems counter intuitive at times, he isolates his subjects in front of the camera and creates powerful moments that draw you in. He creates beautiful poetry with his photographs. His style is distinct and original, he is definitely an inspiration.

Photographer, artist and director, internationally renowned for his portraiture and landscapes. His work forms part of the public collection at the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Kander's work is also exhibited in numerous international gallerys and museums.

Nadav Kandar
Nadav Kandar

© Nadav Kandar

www.nadavkander.com

Rankin ~ British.

He doesn’t need much of an introduction, he is an obvious choice. He has influenced the fashion industry for decades with his high fashion photographs. I love how he plays with public perception and isn’t afraid to make social commentaries within his work. He has a intimate portraiture style which I love.

Controversial he may be, but with his media persona to the fore, his influence on young photographers, and public recognition, make him an inspirational leader in the field.

Rankin
Rankin

www.rankin.co.uk

Richard Avedon ~ American ~ 1923-2004.

Avedon was one of the first photographers that inspired me and captured my attention. His subjects always seemed open and comfortable in front of his lens and I am drawn towards and love his minimalistic approach.

Avedon was the epitome of the modern photographer – a charming, sophisticated man-about-town and a photographer who was able to cross photographic genres. It did not matter where he was, which format he chose to work with or who his subject was, the image would be an Avedon image.

Richard Avedon
Richard Avedon

www.richardavedon.com

Terry Richardson ~ American.

I have to admit, it took me awhile to like his style, I had a bit of a love/ hate relationship going on. I do truly respect his raw, quirky, close up and personal sensibilities. He definitely inspires me to want to get a little ‘dirtier’ in my work. No pun intended.

Richardson’s fashion and portrait images push sexual boundaries and challenge conservative taste with an American trash aesthetic.

Terry Richardson
Terry Richardson

© Terry Richardson

www.terryrichardson.com

Anton Corbijn ~ Dutch.

I've always enjoyed his work, his images epitomize the spirit of rock and roll. His subjects seem often solemn and distracted, his imagery stark and memorable. His striking images and avant garde style speak to me personally and I am truly inspired by his moody, dirty breathtaking photography

Corbijn’s images of Joy Division and U2 have influenced the approach of rock photographers for over 20 years with his cross-process colours and atmospheric black & whites.

SEAN PENN, San Anselmo, 1999
SEAN PENN, San Anselmo, 1999

© ANTON CORBIJN

www.corbijn.co.uk/

Helmut Newton ~ German 1920-2004.

I love the provocative nature of his work. He has revolutionized photography with his erotic, dramatic and beautiful imagery.

Newton created erotically charged and powerful images of women, and developed the use of ring flash in fashion images.

Helmut Newton
Helmut Newton

© Helmut Newton >> https://www.artsy.net/artist/helmut-newton

www.helmutnewton.com 

Peter Lindbergh ~ German.

It seems he invented the word “beauty”. The models are gorgeous in every photo. It’s a mixture of vulnerability and melancholic you can observe in every single work.

Lindbergh has helped create the concept of the supermodel with his fashion images for Harper’s Bazaar and Italian Vogue.

Peter Lindbergh
Peter Lindbergh

© Peter Lindbergh

www.peterlindbergh.com

Gordon Parks ~ American 1912-2006.

Inspired by both his photo-documentary style and by his spirit and determination. He was an activist and his weapon of choice was the media. Amazing and inspiring photo journalist.  There is an honesty and purity to his photos that speak to my soul.

Photographer, filmmaker, writer and composer who used his prodigious, largely self-taught talents to chronicle the African-American experience and to retell his own personal history, died in 2006 at his home in Manhattan.

© Gordon Parks

David Lachapelle ~ American.

I love how quirky and imaginative his photographs are. Full of creativity and wonder, definitely engaging and unique.

Surrealist and photographer, LaChapelle attended North Carolina School of the Arts and School of Visual Arts in New York City. Andy Warhol offered him his first professional job as a photographer for an Interview after meeting him at Studio 54.

David Lachapelle
David Lachapelle

www.davidlachapelle.com

Kwaku Alston ~ American.

You can see in his photographs that he has a love and passion for his craft. He creates beautiful imagery and captures fresh and honest moments in his portraiture. His style is clean, crisp and you can't help but be drawn in. His work ranges from personal documentary to celebrity. He has definitely been hugely influential and inspiring to me.

His editorial work has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Time, Men’s Health, Essence, and Men’s Journal, among many others. He has photographed ads for a wide range of clients, including Coca-Cola, BlackBerry,Target, and Verizon. He has also photographed President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on several occasions, including for Essence. Alston is based in Venice, California, and is represented by Stockland Martel.

Kwaku Alston
Kwaku Alston

www.kwakualston.com

In Toronto, many wonderful and talented Photographers have helped me along my way, as mentors, friends, influences and sources of inspiration. I owe them all a great deal of thanks and respect.

Alan Marsh ~ www.alanmarsh.com

Patrick Nichols ~ www.patricknichols.ca

Lorella Zanetti ~ www.zanettiphotography.com

Garth Grosjean ~ www.garthgrosjean.com

Per Kristiansen ~ www.perkristiansen.com

Matthew Barnes ~ www.matthewbarnesphotography.com

Michael Chambers ~ www.michaelchambers.ca

Nathaniel Anderson ~ www.nathanielinc.com

and this list will continue to grow...

Raise it Up // J Dilla + Ma Dukes

This one is truly for the community. Something to honor this ridiculously dope woman (Ma Dukes), to pay tribute to the wonderful things her son (J Dilla) has contributed to the world of music and to celebrate the amazing energy we share in Toronto as a result of our musical connection.

This is a moment, one moment captured across multiple cameras by some amazing artists I truly admire and respect.

I was most privileged to photograph the events surrounding the screening of 'The Suite for Ma Dukes' here in Toronto this past February. I love the world of photography because photographs enable you to relive otherwise forgotten moments in time and inspire you to live a thousand more just like it.

Thank you to everyone who came out to join us in celebrating a legend!! Your support and energy made it a wonderful atmosphere.