photography

event photography, non profit, photography

The Moth

If you've never heard of The Moth, allow me to introduce you to this wonderful organisation.

They are a global community dedicated to promoting the art of storytelling as a celebration of human experience and diversity. The Moth was founded in New York City in 1997, produces over 500 live events each year in 29 cities around the world, hosts workshops and education programs, publishes NYT Bestseller List collections of stories, and has its own Peabody Award winning radio show and podcast.

Each live Moth event starts with a theme, announced in advance. The Moth StorySLAMs are open-mic style events, where attendees can put their names into a hat in order to share their 5 minute, 100% true story related to the night's theme. After ten StorySLAMs in a city, winners from the StorySLAMs compete for the title of GrandSLAM Champion with a brand new story with a brand new theme. The SLAM events feel like a mixture of stand-up, theatre and documentary, and the stories told run the gamut from tragic to hilarious.

Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of photographing my second Melbourne GrandSLAM at the National Theatre in St. Kilda. The theme of the evening was 'When Worlds Collide,' hosted by comedian and TV personality Cal Wilson. I love event photography, especially when it's such a special event as this, so I really wanted to share some of my photographs from the evening.

Click to enlarge.

The storytellers on the night were (in order of appearance):

  1. Andy Cameron
  2. Matt McArthur
  3. May Jasper
  4. Lisa Carroll
  5. Wade Kelly
  6. Jacob Kaye
  7. Louise Newton-Keogh
  8. Tess Birch
  9. Janine Hilling
  10. Steven Bell

This year's GrandSLAM winner was Louise Newton-Keogh with a moving story from her childhood about her father's alcoholism and attempted suicide, and their worlds colliding 10 years later.

Special thanks to Merrilee McCoy for having me along, and for producing all of the great Moth events in Melbourne. The next Melbourne event is a StorySLAM open-mic on July 2nd at Howler. Check out the Facebook Event - the theme for this one is 'Age.' Come & tell your story!

event photography, photography, portrait photography

Awkward Portraits

What started out as a bit of a joke has become a serious interest of mine. 

Three years ago back in Canada I threw an ugly sweater party at my house and decided it would be awesome to set up a back drop and take some photos of my friends in their hideous garb. The party was fun, and the photos were hilarious and got a great response.

Two years later I threw another party, this time with the sole intent of taking bad portraits. That night, I laughed so hard that my entire midsection hurt for 2 days. (P.S. My friends are awesome.)

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I didn't realise that the execution of intentionally bad portraiture was actually marketable until I was approached by the producer of Melbourne's Darebin Music Feast, Ciel Fuller, in August 2013. In keeping with the overall theme and aesthetic of the festival, she wanted a photo booth set up at the festival, and a photographer that could help festival-goers "channel Wes Anderson." I was a perfect candidate for the job. The resulting photographs from the event garnered tons of attention on Facebook, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

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In light of the success of this little project of mine I had to ask myself: Why does my generation, a generation that is generally very picky about photos of themselves (to the point of "untagging" pictures on Facebook, for example) enjoy having BAD portraits taken so much? I've worked as a portrait photographer for over 5 years and the most common thing I hear is "I HATE having my picture taken, but I need it for this or that." In a world of social media "image crafting," Facebook, Instagram, online dating and smart phone selfies, where people share selectively and project an inflated version of their existence, why does our generation revel in the exact opposite? When you take the ego out of a portrait, what is left? 

About a month after the Darebin Music Feast I was contacted by Frankie Magazine for an interview and photo spread in their January/February issue. Turns out, it's not just me who's fascinated by this phenomenon. They had seen the photos from the Feast and wanted to ask for my take on the willingness of people to "get their geek on" and have it immortalised in photographs. I was interviewed by a writer named Nicole Thomas, who enthusiastically agreed with a lot of my reasoning behind the portrait series.

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We all have those photographs from our past that haunt us. I'm pretty sure everyone in the western world has gone through an awkward phase... or just happened to be alive in the 80s and 90s. And though they make us cringe in the present day, they also bring back fond memories of a simpler time.

Let's face it. Life is full of disappointment, uncertainty, and constant pressure to "be something," to be really good at something. Our generation has been raised to believe that we are special, that we can achieve anything, and when things don't work out exactly the way we imagined, we feel frustration and disappointment. Not only that, but our successes and failures are constantly on display on social media platforms. Our generation is social media obsessed, and it's created a monster. 

Studies have shown that because of the image curating that happens, a lot of us are dissatisfied with our lives. I believe that deep down most of us dislike the fact that we're so addicted to such a fake existence. 

When we stop trying so hard, when we stop taking ourselves so seriously, we allow ourselves to just BE, and that can be very liberating. The extreme of meticulous image crafting and projection of "cool" is momentarily swapped for the other extreme of goofy awkwardness. Somewhere in the middle, the extremes meet and present themselves as a genuine portrait that, I believe, captures a personality. And that is what this portrait series has allowed me to do. I feel like for one moment, when a person is goofing off in front of my camera, they're shedding the pressures and constraints of upholding an image and they're allowing themselves to be real. 

And let's be honest. Sometimes we just need a good laugh.

To see more Awkward Portraits, check out my portfolio or visit the Darebin Music Feast gallery on Facebook.

photography, portrait photography

DJ Sizzle

I met Jason Holmes, AKA DJ Sizzle, a few months ago through some mutual friends. He's been making the rounds in Melbourne's club scene for years now, and is the personal Australian tour DJ for the likes of Seth Sentry, Mantra and Akil the MC of Jurassic 5, among others. Let's just say the guy's done pretty well for himself.

We started hanging out a lot back in July, and one day after we had gone for lunch I asked if I could take some photos of him, because I had my camera with me. We were standing on Napier Street, and when he mentioned that it's his favourite street in Fitzroy I decided it was the perfect location.

I was so happy with the results straight out of my camera. I was carrying only one lens with me that day, my beautifully soft 50mm f/1.4 lens, and the overcast day made for some great, even lighting. However, I'm a big fan of utilizing black and white for portraits of men, and when I showed him the two versions he decided he liked the black and white version better.

Here are two different versions of our favourite shot from the day. You can check DJ Sizzle out on Facebook, or catch him on the Vacation Tour with Seth Sentry all across Australia now through September 29th.

 

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photography, travel photography

Bolivia Solidarity Tour #01 - Lima & Pinife

I've been back from South America for a week now, so naturally people are bugging me to see photos. I don't even want to tell you how many photographs I took, and narrowing it down to a succinct representation of the adventure is a pretty huge endeavor.

We left Canada on February 17, 2012. I had to fly to Toronto first to meet my mom and some others from Halifax based organization Chalice, and from there we flew the 8 or so hours directly to Lima, Peru. Chalice sponsors over 45,000 children and elderly in 15 developing countries with 92.5% of spending going directly to programs, and in fact were rated the #1 International Aid Agency by MoneySense magazine 2 years in a row.

We got in late on Friday night/Saturday morning and stayed overnight at a hostel in Lima's Miraflores district. The next morning we got up and had breakfast on the beautiful rooftop terrace and made our plan for the day. (Click on the images in this blog post to enlarge them)

 

We had tons of luggage to take on to the several sponsor sites we were to visit (Note the bus filled to the windows with luggage - everyone was allowed to bring one extra suitcase full of clothing, school supplies, games and sports equipment to leave behind. Thanks Air Canada!) so we stopped at the Sisters of the Good Shepherd's beautiful retreat in the heart of Lima to store some of our things. We soon headed to a sponsor site called PINIFE, a sort of hillside slum village built into Cero el Pino - Pine Mountain. The Sisters run the sponsor site and focus on education, hygeine and nutrition, as well as providing them a venue for workshops, music and dance.

 

We hiked up the concrete steps in Cero el Pino to the PINIFE site where we were to spend the day. (I was the only one allowed to take pictures, the Peruvians were a little worried about us getting robbed in the slum.) On the way up we met a family whose sole source of income comes from picking through the garbage and finding useful or valuable items. It is a common occupation in Cero el Pino. Most people build their own houses from brick, concrete and things they find, and roofs and floors are often a luxury in this area.

 

Once we reached the top, we were acquainted with some of the sponsored families and children (and a confetti cannon). We had the pleasure of sitting in on a small church service, and then had lunch complete with a fancy pudding made by one of the PINIFE youth leaders who is studying to be a chef. Some members of our group even got to meet and dine with the children they sponsor.

 

After lunch everyone in our group participated in some kind of workshop. I had brought a bunch of acrylic & tempera paints that I don't use anymore to donate, so I was put in charge of a rock painting art activity. I had so much fun with the children despite the language barrier, even learned a lot of Spanish from the kids (well, mostly color names... rojo, amarillo, verde, azul...)

 

Later that afternoon we were treated to a smorgasbord of traditional foods to sample, and some songs and traditional Peruvian dances from the children. It was hard to leave, but we had to get back to the airport to leave for our flight into Bolivia that evening.

 

We got into Santa Cruz late in the evening in the midst of Carnivale. Exhausted, we collapsed at Casa Kolping which was a REALLY cool hotel. I snapped some photos in the morning before we left.

(Obligatory cat photo.)

 

From Santa Cruz we still had to drive the several hours to Yapacani, the next sponsor site and the bulk of our journey. I will be writing about our experiences in Yapacani and posting some photographs as soon as I can!

Until then...

local business, photography, portrait photography

So Pretty Jewelry

When something you love becomes something you do for a living, it can be hard to continue to love it.

I remember when I first got a digital SLR, all I wanted to do was take photos. I was planning photo shoots with friends and fellow photographers as something to do in the evenings after work. I had all these crazy ideas and couldn't wait to make them happen; not for fame or money, just for creativity's sake. Since I've started working full time as a photographer and designer, I find that the piles of photos waiting for edits in Lightroom, the houses I have to shoot and the realtors I have to meet, the weekly ads I have to produce, and the stresses of deadlines, book keeping and invoicing have sapped the creativity I used to have an abundance of.

To solve this problem, I've decided that I need to plan and execute at least one "just-for-me" creative shoot per month. I need to get inspired. I need to continue to take photos for the same reason I started taking photos.

My latest inspiration came from the Flickr Blog. Someone had done a bunch of scary looking self portraits caked in flour, and I thought to myself, "I can do better than that. I can do something elegant and beautiful and... way less scary." The flour could be functional, used to highlight something shiny or colourful; I immediately thought of jewelry! My friend Rosslyn and I had talked several times about doing a photo shoot, and I really wanted to use her for this idea. Cara Cotter of So Pretty Jewelry came on board and graciously allowed us to use some of her beautiful turquoise, gold and silver.

Below is a lovely diptych from the shoot, probably my favourite of the series. You can click on the phto and see a few more from the set on Flickr.

Cara's jewelry is available at Coup Boutique in downtown Edmonton or from her Etsy store.