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Tony | January 24, 2010


Mike Zavacky has quickly organized a fund raiser for Haitian
earthquake relief. Guy Berube, director of Gallery La Petite Mort
has donated his space.

The thing, called HERE FOR THERE, features over 40 artists who
are donating work, to be sold at a deep discount. All funds raised
will be given to World Vision Canada and the Canadian government
will match all money raised, so the money you spend on art will

Details here. Get yer sorry asses down there and buy something,
maybe even this…….

Star, Ottawa, 2009


There are two kinds of power.

A “leader’ is standing on a podium, talking to a crowd of people. He/
she says “JUMP” and everyone jumps. The leader has power.

You’re in that crowd, the “leader” says “JUMP” and you DON’T jump.
You have power.

Now, I pay taxes, stop at most stop signs, try not to violate folks
too, too much and so on. In other words, try to be a contributing
member of society. But the power I prefer to practice is the “not-
jumping” sort.

I’m not saying that contributing to help Haitians is wrong. On the
contrary. But I do think that the massive outpouring of help, dollars
and concern that we’re seeing should be matched by each and every
person by similar expenditures (time, money and emotion) close to
home, in our direct spheres. Less knee-jerk, more focused direct

Anyway…..that rant is my preamble to giving a BIG UP to colleague
Andrew Heatherington. He recently cleaned out his fridge. Rather
than just chuck the film he found there he decided to distribute it
to those who still use film to do stuff. This took a certain amount
of energy on his part, what with the solicitation, the packaging, the
trip to the post office and so on. This kind of thoughtfulness is
exactly what I’m talking about here. Small, local gestures go a long,
long way.

Thanks Andrew.

Film donated to me by Andrew.


Every so often drool will go on about some commercial or
editorial job shot. Straight up cock rocking.

But that’s mostly really boring. I mean, who wants to tune
in just to read about my (or anyone’s) latest industry coups?
Who wants lists of “achievements”? Geeks and fanboys, that’s

droolers aren’t geeks, are you? Nor fanboys. droolers want
the dope. droolers like to think. Oh yeah. drool on.

With that in mind, may I present you with some pix I took
last week. They are from a scouting expedition to scope
backgrounds for a series of executive portraits I’m shooting
next week for a big hi-tek corp.


When I shoot editorial jobs there’s hardly ever enough time to
pre-scout locations. Mostly I walk in an hour before the subject
is scheduled and use that time to figure shit out, block shots and
design lighting. Truth to tell….I really like that process, really like
making it up as I go along. It’s a rush.


But in the corporate and advertising world a different strategy is
often employed. There are more people in the loop and the images
have to conform to certain constraints. As well, the pictures often
need to perform more than one function. (In editorial, the main
and sometimes only function the pix must serve is to arrest the
viewer when he/she turns the page. Of course, it’s always a bit
more complicated/nuanced than that, but that’s the jist of it.)


Anyway, I managed to find a whole bunch of sparkly backgrounds
that read just about the same but each have their own appeal. If
you’re wondering why they’re out of focus, it’s because the execs
faces are going to be in the foreground, in focus.

Scouting is funny like that. You have to project future possible
scenarios and ways and means onto what’s in front of you. And,
it’s all theory until the subject walks out a day or a week later.
That’s when the real fun starts.



There’s this underpass in downtown Ottawa that used to be
a haunt for what my mother might call “ne’er-do-wells“.

The underpass in question

Well, the powers that be have taken steps. They’ve fenced off
the bit that the homeless would use as shelter (from the storm)
and, to further spruce the thing up, they’ve decided to use the
space to mount an ongoing series of art shows.

The first thing they’re showing is a series of photographs by Joel
, titled La Bourgeoisie. Images of ice fishing cabins,
along with a few portraits of ice fisherman themselves.


Installation views of La Bourgeoisie

This space lacks the “charm” of Zoe Strauss’ I-95. (Don’t forget, this
is January in Ottawa, not exactly the kind of weather that adds “charm”
to cold, urban underpasses).

Zoe Strauss’ exhibit, Under the Freeway

But at least the organizers of the space have resisted the impulse
to use it for the all-too-standard propaganda/schlock that so often
passes as “public art”. It’s a pleasant surprise to see a local up-and-
coming photographer, who is shooting engaging work, being given
this opportunity. I hope that the experiment in the underpass
continues. Just as I hope the organizers of the space will continue
to seek out fresh, local artists who are producing work that’s



Tony | January 17, 2010

In blogging, like in photography, one thing leads to another.
If you leave a stone unturned, well, you’ll never get to see what
kind of bugs would crawl out.

This week I started writing about re-editing a project I shot last
year, and that turned into thinking about objectivity vs subjectivity.

Then, way down at the bottom of this post I talk a bit about Terry
Richardson’s new Tumblr thing, TerrysDiary. I wonder about why
such, really, stupid fotos would interest me. Then, BAM!!!, out of
the blue, it struck me…….how taking pix and looking at them are
related. Now, this might be old news for you droolers, maybe you’ve
already thought about what just occurred to me. I say: read on and
find out………


I was recently asked by NPAC (News Photographers Association of
Canada) if I would submit a photo essay for their web site.

Now, I’m no photojournalist, but I do shoot projects. I suppose the
big difference is that photojournalists aren’t supposed to set up shots
and, well…..I do. Set up shots.

Of course this opens a whole can of worms about objectivity in photo-
graphy (and in life, I suppose). I’ve never believed in objectivity. In fact,
I believe that image producers are actually being more honest if they are
obviously producing subjective work. I’ve always liked my fotos to kind
of look like documents but have enough clues to point out that, yes, there’s
a person behind the camera who has been making decisions.


What I decided to do for NPAC was to go back and re-edit the project
I shot last year: BESIDE THE PASSAIC.

This time I edited it in geographic/chronological order, whereas before
I had edited it (for lack of a better word) for feeling. Or maybe juju.

Doing the re-edit was pretty interesting, in that I bumped into a bunch
of landscapes I’d shot down in New Jersey that never made the final cut
when I initially edited the project last year.

The whole (25 shot) re-edit, featuring a bunch of never-before-seen
images from the project, will be appearing on the NPAC site later this
month. I thought I might pull 3 of those landscapes and run them
here first.

Bridge over the Passaic River, near Morristown, New Jersey

Highway 80 in the distance, outside West Paterson, New Jersey

View of the Passaic River, Passaic, New Jersey

And, speaking of objectivity……even landscapes are subject
to the eye and the whim of the photographer. These shots,
all done using a 4×5 camera and film, are (obviously) the result
of me deciding which tiny part of the whole wide world I was
going to frame. Move the camera a foot to the right or a foot
to the left and you get some other foto.

So, remember kids, when you’re looking at (or reading or
watching on TV) any representation of the world, what you’re
seeing is just the opinion of one person who was standing
somewhere, pointing a recording device or making notes.
There is no objective truth.


As well as a whole bunch of 16×16 inch prints, my upcoming
show at EXPOSURE features a bunch of 22×27.5 inchers. Really
only biggish, I suppose, after seeing E. Burtynsky’s mammoth
prints at CUAG. Did them on an Epson 7800 and, I’m pleased to
say, when I plugged in the files they printed exactly the same as
the test prints I’d done at home, using my Epson 3800. I’m also
now using Epson Exhibition Fiber and, of all the premium papers
I’ve used, I like this the best. No metamerism and the prints look
just about the same in all levels of light, too.


Took 5 hours to print 10 of these big ‘uns. Back in the olden days,
using an enlarger and Kreonite, I figure it would have taken about
3 days. And, even then, try reprinting them different sizes and

I sure like the look of film and scanned negs but I’m sold on digital


I had the opportunity this week to meet and photograph Winnipeg
photographer Diana Thorneycroft.

Man, I wish all the artists I met were as down to earth as her. She
kind of sparkles with humanity and good humor. Which is funny,
because her work can be sort of dark. Check it out here.

Diana Thorneycroft


Fotografer Terry Richardson has started posting a few shots a day
to a Tumblr account. The thing is called TerrysDiary.

© Terry Richardson

This brings to mind a couple of thoughts………

The first being what a great and free and easy product Tumblr is.
For those of you who don’t know about it, I suggest you go here,
find out about it and get yer thinking cap on to see how you can
use it. It’s swell for side projects, getting yer ya-yas out and just
generally throwing stuff up.

The other thing about TerrysDiary is, it makes you (well, at least
it makes me) wonder about what makes fotos interesting.

You see, TerrysDiary is a compendium of snapshots. Terry with
famous people; Terry with beautiful people; beautiful people,
usually over or under exposed, all by themselves; Terry at the
dentist and the psychiatrist. Pictures of his shirts and his couch
and so on.

© Terry Richardson

If you ran across these pix, and no name was attached, you’d probably
look down yer nose, sniff and think: “Boorrring! I see this shit on Face-
book all the time. Some egomaniac showing us bits of his life. Who
cares?” And, mostly, I agree. Except, in this case I have to admit I’m
pretty taken.

First of all….there are all those famous and beautiful people he snaps.
Then there’s the whole “Terry Richardson” mystique and legend and hype
that we all know. Plus, a lot of TerrysDiary is actually pretty funny.

So, I guess sometimes it’s impossible to separate “good” fotos from “bad”
when you know the personality (and fame) of the person behind them.

And, in a way, I think that this all relates back to my post at the top, about
objectivity and subjectivity. The viewer of each and every picture also
brings all their baggage and prejudice to that which they are viewing.

So, if you ask me, objectivity is impossible when you’re taking fotos,
just as it is when you’re looking at them.

You can see TerrysDiary here.


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.