IT ALL STARTED WHEN...
My friend Lana asked me a very silly question.
"if you could send one message via a single tweet, all the way back in time, to your 14-year old self, what would you say?"
After a few minutes of really thinking about her question I replied with:
"Art Matters. Trust your heart. Go to film school."
Lana's immediate reply was "You know it's not too late." I laughed and quickly told her how impossible that would be. I was 28 at the time and there were just too many bills and responsibilities to entertain such a ridiculous idea. Impossible, no possible way. That was a fun thought experiment, but time to get back to reality.
Fast forward 6 weeks and somehow I had been accepted into one of the best film schools in the country, with a $20K scholarship and I was getting ready to move my entire life to Vancouver. This part still sounds unbelievable to me, but guess what, it really happened.
Continue reading the full story here.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT
I've known Andrew for almost 10 years, but sometimes it feels like we've always known each other.
For 5 of those years, Andrew and I lived together. Those were honestly my all-time favourite years. A week before Andrew came in for his portrait, I told him that I was going to be moving out. That was a tough conversation. Even now, I get emotional thinking about it. We were both very sad, but also knew this day was coming.
So when Andrew walked-in, the following Wednesday evening, to what was (eventually) going to be my new home, the energy was already very tender. I've seen so many colours of Andrew Peek over the years, so I really didn't know what to expect.
Andrew loves talking about big and audacious ideas and I love hearing about all of them. We have a history of jumping into conversations that soar above the clouds. But something was different that night. We both gravitated towards a different emotional altitude. Throughout I remember feeling very grounded. We spoke less than we normally would, but the whole time I felt really connected to Andrew, as if our souls were doing all the talking.
About halfway through, I spontaneously decided to experiment and asked Andrew to think about specific people in his life. I won't get into the details, as they were private, but I sat and watched, as my brother bared his soul and held nothing back. It was beautiful, it was tender and honestly it was really inspiring.
ONE LESSON FROM THIS SHOOT
Life has many colours, but so many of us choose to live in black and white. These portrait sessions are an opportunity for people to let some of those dormant colours, come out to play.
And no, the irony is not lost on me. :)
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT
My process for these write-ups is fairly simple. I finish editing the photos, then I sit in front of the computer (usually in the mornings) and close my eyes and transport back in time, to the day of the shoot. Usually its been at least a few weeks since the shoot. This is helpful because only the truly memorable moments remain in my mind. There are typically several that I reflect on, but almost always there is one memory in particular that finds me. All I do is make space for it. Then, I sort of let go.
Writing has always been very difficult for me, I later came to realize this was partially due to being dyslexic. The other, and probably larger part, was due to being terrified of what people would think - if I let them in. I've come to realize this is exactly what everyone that sits in front of my camera experiences. If they let go and let the "real" them shine through, people might judge them. When you see it in writing, you can't help but realize how stupid that sounds. But still, it can be scary. The truth is, I'm still sort of terrified every time I share one of these write-ups (and even the photos). But everyday I do, I get a little more confident, but also I care less and by care I mean overthink and over criticize less. Again, like my portraits, the more photos I shoot during a session, the less people are in their heads. They eventually stop paying attention to that voice in their head and let go.
So back to Frank and our time together. When I close my eyes and reflect on our portrait session, the memory that strikes me the most, actually didn't happen on the day of the shoot. It happened two weeks prior, when Frank texted me "Hey dude! You still need recruits for your b&w portrait series?". Nothing special about that text...unless you know Frank. He's one of the sweetest guys I know. Honest, kind and super reliable, but he can also be shy and fairly private. I've know him for almost 5 years, but it took Frank a while to open up and be really comfortable.
The other interesting part of the story is that Frank was my landlord until very recently - that's how we meet 5 years ago. You hear these horror stories about terrible landlords. Well, Frank was the exact opposite of all those stories. I have so much love for the dude. Over the years he would stop by every once and awhile and he'd ask "what are you working on these days? Anything good?". I'd invite him in and tell him about whatever project I was working on at the time. He genuinely cared. I really enjoyed our talks, especially when the wine came out. So, one day in November I ran into Frank in the stairs and he asked me that same question "what are you working on these day?". I pulled out my phone and started to show him the early pictures of the first few portraits. No reaction. I told him about what the project was about. Still no reaction. I asked him if he was "maybe... possibly... sort of interested to be a model? " Blank face. Then after a long pause he respectfully declined. Frank being Frank, he still wanted to help, but was clearly not comfortable being the one in front of the camera. So he started listing off names of friends that might be interested. I can't say I was surprised. Like I said, Frank can be a little shy. No harm in asking though.
I thought that was going to be the end of it. I would've bet money on it. But low and behold, two weeks later, on a Sunday morning, I get a text message and before I know it I've booked my dear friend Frank for a portrait. What a great surprise.
ONE LESSON FROM THIS SHOOT
The lesson was very clear to me. Everyone wants to be seen. That's my favourite part of this portrait project. If I do my job right, I get to bring people out of their shells (we all have them!) and show them how truly beautiful they are both inside and out. I can hear the haters barking about how cheesy that sounds, but fuck it's true. We are - all of us - beautiful.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT:
As soon as Steve got to my place he admitted to me that he was a little nervous. I was a bit surprised because in my eyes he's a total stud. Always full of confidence and charisma. The truth is virtually everyone I work with (even seasoned top models) are a bit nervous at first. This is normal and usually a good sign when someone is willing to admit it to me, as it means there emotions are closer to the surface and that they trust me enough to be honest about their feelings. It's my job to get the model out of their head. I find the best way to do this is to have a sincere conversation with them. With Steve, this was easy. He shared so many amazing stories and I genuinely had a blast. Two stories in particular left a real impression on me. One was about the moment Steve and his business partners realized they had a legit business. Such an epic story! The second was when Steve opened up and started talking about his new lady. It was amazing to see Steve light up when he spoke about his girlfriend Negin. I swear I could see love radiate from his eyes and his face. It was beautiful to witness.
ONE LESSON FROM THIS SHOOT:
Steve being the thoughtful guy he is, brought a bottle of wine for us to share during our shoot. I love a glass of wine every once and awhile and I was very thankful. The lesson; a glass or two of wine is one thing, but add a little whisky to the equation and it's a totally different experience. We each had 2 drinks of whisky, so nothing crazy, but still it was not the best idea. What the hard alcohol did was create a barrier between me and my senses and for portrait photography I need to be as close to my sense and emotions as I can be, otherwise something will be missed. Thankfully the whisky only came out towards the very end of the shoot. I'm going to stick to coffee and wine from now on.