[ View menu ]


Tony | January 10, 2010


Went to shoot John Manley, ex-Deputy Prime Minister and now
president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. A busy
guy. We got 45 minutes to set up and 15 minutes to shoot him.

Now, I’m not sure what other fotografers do in tight situations like
this, but I love to shoot options. Options for expression and options
for setups. I think that my client expected one, maybe two setups,
but I like shooting three.

To do three setups in such a short time frame what you have to do
is, you have to find different backgrounds that are close together.
That minimizes the movement required from one to the next. It also
really helps to have the shots pretty much lit and blocked out before
the subject arrives.


The other thing that I think is necessary is to keep kool, not panic.
Typically I’ll have a chat with the subject before we take the first shot.
And, as weird as it might sound, I actually move more slowly when
under time constraints. That way everyone keeps calm and the work
can proceed in a much more organized fashion. (When I have all the
time in the world to do a shoot, I prefer to get a bit sideways in order
to allow for happy mistakes and the bit of improvisation that only a
slightly disorganized approach allows.)


Anyway, did 3 setups, all in the same room. Took 16 minutes. Shot 94
frames. My client ended up running all 3 shots.


Everyone’s seen Ed Burtynsky’s photos. Probably mostly on the web,
maybe in a book. I got a chance to see some of his giant prints up close
at The Carleton University Art Gallery, where a bunch of his images from
China are on view until February 7th. (Curated by Diana Nemiroff.)

E. Burtynsky’s work at CUAG

A couple of things came to my mind……

One is that, for me, I see a direct correlation between his work and the
work of Ansel Adams.

-Both are famous inside and outside photo circles.
-Both show nature in a Wagnerian way (albeit, in Burtynsky’s case, it’s
as much about human nature, as “pure” nature).
-Both take photos that are fairly obvious, in terms of how we might (be
supposed to) react to them……with awe.
-Both are master craftsman when it comes to technique.
-Both are highly influential in the artfoto world (tho, to be honest, Ansel
Adams work’s influence is well past it’s due date).

Funnily enough, whilst I pretty much despise A. Adams work, I’m totally
taken by E. Burtynsky’s. Go figger.

The other thing that struck me was how much Burtynsky’s prints looked
like photographs.

I think that the prevalent modus oparandi amongst many up and coming
recent foto skool grads (at least here in Ottawa) is the impulse to over
produce and over post-produce photos.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Burtynsky’s chromagenic prints from
scanned negatives, while absolutely beautiful to look at, contained many of
the good old optical and analogue “imperfections” that many others would
have “corrected”.

So, while his images and prints are perfect in so many ways, he still allows
the history of photography to seep through, by not embracing too closely
current technology’s ability to fix shit up.

E. Burtynsky’s work at CUAG

TINY TIMS- revisited

Like I mentioned before Xmas, I shot a bunch of child actors
who were auditioning for the role of Tiny Tim in the National
Arts Centre production of A Christmas Carol. Shot ‘em for
Guerilla magazine.

The issue came out before Xmas but I only laid my hands on
a copy yesterday. As usual Art Director Paul Cavanaugh did
a bangup job. Most respectful to the content, he is.

Cover foto by Sarah Schorlemer





Tony | January 3, 2010


There’s a saying: “Man makes plans and God laughs”. (It’s an old
saying, so you’ll have to excuse its inherent sexism.)

Well, I don’t believe in God and I do believe that making plans is
imperative if you want to move forward. I also know that making
plans is a perilous enterprise. After all, even if you make a list, the
future is really unwritten.

So I don’t really want to outline here any plans I’ve cooked up in
my noggin, just know that I’ve got some. Dreams and schemes.

There are a few things I can tell you, though. One is that I have 3
shows coming up in 2010. So I have some planning to do, just to
make sure these things get done on time. The first one will open
early March, at Exposure Gallery, and is titled AMERICAN STATES.

The exhibition is a chance to go back over the 6 projects I’ve shot
in the U.S.A. since 2002 (California twice, Mississippi/Alabama, Ohio,
New Jersey and Arkansas) and pull together a series of images that
reflect a kind of overview.

The show is called AMERICAN STATES, not because the images were
shot there, but because the edit, in a way, reflects my take on the
state of America.

I’d intended, all along, to edit and sequence the scores of images
from each of these 6 separate projects into one thing, and this show
is just the reason I needed to do that.


So, over the holidays I loaded 220 images from my American shoot-
ing into Aperture, made a light table and had a whale of a time root-
ing thru, sorting, pondering, barking up the wrong tree and then, in
the end, coming to some kind of conclusion.

Doing this is like doing a puzzle where there’s no one correct solution,
but some solutions are more correct than others.

American images loaded into Aperture

Once I fiugured out which images and what order, I went back thru my
hard drives to find the files. Some of them didn’t exist, or rather, they
existed but were done a number of years ago when I only had a shite
scanner. So I dug thru my negative files and rescanned a bunch of shots.

Binder 1 (of 2), negatives from 2002

Sheet of negs from 2002

Same sheet of negs, inverted in Photoshop

Then I made a bunch of 7×7 inch work prints. Couple of reasons to do
this. 1/ I use these small prints to get the post production of the scans
dialed in, and, 2/ I use these prints to finalize the final sequence. There’s
almost nothing more fun that having a bunch of prints to move around,
look at and think about. This step in the foto-process is probably the one
I enjoy the most.

7×7 inch work prints in my studio

Finally, I started making the big, final prints for the show. They will be
16×16 inches, 22×22 inches and there are some rectangular shots that
will be 22×27 inches.

Final print laying on studio table


While it’s not usually in drool’s domain to feature music, I feel I must
mention Vic Chesnutt’s suicide, December 24th. Confined to a wheel-
chair since he was 18 years old, his songs are dark and/or funny with
great, moody, poetic insights. Just the way I like ‘em.

Here’s a video of Vic singing Sponge. “All my gravy must have soaked
into something, and the world, it is a sponge”.

Genius. RIP.

Take Away Show #74.1: Vic Chesnutt from vincent moon / temporary areas on Vimeo.


Tony | December 20, 2009


Outside Panther Burn, Mississippi, Christmastime, 2008


Early September the National Arts Centre held open auditions
for the role of Tiny Tim. Candidates had to be between the
ages of 7 and 10, and had to be shorter that four foot ten.

I shot a few of the young hopefuls for Guerilla Magazine.



Christmas Day, Memphis, Tennessee, 2008


drool will be closed for the holidays.

Come back Sunday, January third for more drool.

drool’s holiday message: KEEP KOOL.


Tony | December 13, 2009


I knew it all along.

Photography is about control.

But only up to a point.


I saw alannah performing at La Petite Mort Gallery about a year
ago. She’s a gal who, in certain situations, likes to cede control.
In fact, the first time I saw her she was tied up naked, hanging
from an armature at the gallery. I was attracted to her calm
demeanor and very interested in meeting a person who seemed
to like the idea of, in a way, being a vessel. I wondered what it
might be like to shoot her.


So I contacted her and explained that I wanted to explore the idea
of control in photography by shooting her, a person I could tie up.
(Plus, if I’m going to be perfectly honest, I was also interested in
taking these fotos for other, slightly prurient, reasons. Guilty as


Anyway, in the few days before I set out to shoot alannah, I thought
a bit about this whole control in photography thing and I knew, right
from the start, that it wouldn’t make a bit of difference whether the
subject is trussed into a pose or not. There’s just too much other
stuff, magic, involved in taking pictures (at least the pictures I like
to take) to be able to rely solely on locking the subject into some
sort of form. In fact, I discovered that the opposite is true. Allowing
the person you’re shooting freedom and flexibility is where it’s at,
for me.


Annie Leibovitz once said: “Photography is about lighting and
moving furniture”, that’s control. Of course, she was being glib,
but there’s a certain amount of truth in that statement. These
photos here are lit, and we did have to move the bed in the
motel room. But portraiture is mostly about give and take,
about the fluidity of (controlled) situations, about directing
and allowing the directed (subject) to move and be awkward
and human.

In photography, control is the science, or engineering, if you like;
ceding that control, allowing stuff to happen, is the magic.



In my years as an editorial/commercial shooter, I’ve discovered that
photographers and art directors tend to use Photoshop in different
ways. Jut like they, often, look at photographs in different ways.

Now, what I’m about to go into here is not a diss of how end users
treat pics. I understand that, especially in the case of commercial
work, a photo is only one piece of the puzzle for designers. They
have a strategy, going in, as to how the photos will contribute to
the whole. And, anyway, I’m a big fan of copy over images and of
graphic treatments of photos. I love the way graphic treatments
can change a photograph into something else.

Here’s a case in point…….


A while ago I shot a series of images for some DND posters.
The poster’s job was to inform cadets about harassment and
what to do about it. I knew going in that the images were going
to be heavily manipulated.

Jean Brunet, the creative director at Innovacom, and his team of art
directors and production people did a great job of Photoshopping
and assembling my images in ways that give the posters the impact
they need to make them work for their intended audience, teenage
cadets. Photoshopping them, I might add, in ways that are WAY
beyond my abilities.

It’s a pleasure to see my contribution to projects used in fresh




Brilliant and simple, what’s better?

I bumped into a series of fotos by Mark Laita, called: CREATED EQUAL.
A series of portraits in diptych form. Each portrait, by itself is beautiful,
but his combinations change the way you look at the subjects.

I like this series of images so much I had a difficult time choosing (stealing)
just a few to use as examples.

Go here to see them all.

Office Worker / Carney. © Mark Laita

Tornado Victims / Lottery Winners. © Mark Laita

Lingerie Model / Woman in Girdle. © Mark Laita