In 1998 I bought a Canon AE-1 film camera, and almost immediately got together with a former student for a portrait session. She was a great model (my first model), and the pictures were pretty good. I would eventually put the film camera down, only to pick up a digital camera a few years later, but I was hooked from that first session. I was a photographer. I made pictures of people.
Don’t get me wrong. I love all photography. All of it. I often try my hand at landscapes or cityscapes, as well as street photography and images of objects. I haven’t done food photography, but I see no reason not to, some day.
But people! Portraits, events, shows, music. Other human beings are what motivate me.
Faces. Eyes. Hands. Bodies.
Emotion. Expression. Movement. Culture.
When I shoot inanimate objects, they are normally things we make.
Animals too, because they’re our kin.
I love Robert Mapplethorpe‘s flowers, and when I saw them at the Montréal Museum of Fine Art not long ago I thought they were arguably his best work. But I am drawn most to his people, particularly his men and his sometimes haunting self-portraits. (Of course, everything else he did was brilliant, including but not limited to his sometimes disturbing erotica. The man was brilliant. We lost him too early). And Mapplethorpe’s flowers seem often to be standing in for human impulses and emotions, so… .
My photographic heroes include Yousuf Karsh, my fellow Canadian, who could capture a face like no-one else. Helmut Newton‘s bold, dangerous, experimental fashion photography explored and exploded the industry tropes. W. Eugene Smith, the photojournalist whose portraits were based on getting to know his subjects over time rather than a mere few hours, represents an ideal to me.
These photographers all have in common (among other things) that they were explorers. They weren’t just making pretty pictures. Nor were they just making technically good images. It’s a kind of visual philosophy that I see going on: an exploration of ourselves. A challenging of each other.